5 St. Louis Blues Players That Must Step Up During 2013-14 Season
Which St. Louis Blues Players Need to Step it Up?
The St. Louis Blues were favored by many to win the Stanley Cup in the 2012-13 season, but they ended up having a rather disappointing season and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Kings. It's very possible that the season was dampened by the lockout; goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott were both out of shape when training camp started, and several skaters, namely David Backes, were not nearly as effective as they had been in years past.
This year, if the Blues are to reach the expectations that have been put on this group of players, they are going to need someone to step up big time. The Blues finished just 17th in the league in goals per game with 2.58, and the prevailing belief is that the team has serious offensive issues. The Blues signed forward Derek Roy over the offseason in hopes that he could help them fix this problem, but it's most important that they see improvement from forwards Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, who will each be entering their second season in the league.
Of course, offensive proficiency means nothing if the team has poor goaltending. The Blues must improve between the pipes this year, after splitting duties fairly evenly among three different goaltenders last season. Halak, Elliott, and Jake Allen each had high and low points during 2012-13, and it's still somewhat of a mystery as to which one will take the lead this year. Halak has a firm grip on the job for now, but it remains to be seen if he can stay healthy and play well.
Here are five Blues that need to step up during the 2013-14 season.
5. Jay Bouwmeester
Bouwmeester, whom the Blues acquired at the trade deadline last season, was pretty effective over his first 14 games in a Blues uniform, tallying seven points and recording a plus-minus of positive five. It's important that the 29-year-old Bouwmeester keeps up the good work during 2013-14. He'll undoubtedly provide a great impact to the offensive attack, and it would be nice if he was at least decent as a defender. Though many consider it an overrated stat, it's worth noting that he hasn't had a positive plus-minus since 2006-07.
4. Jaden Schwartz
After arriving late in the 2011-12 season, Schwartz made his full-season debut last year, and he had a decent showing. Schwartz finished strong, scoring three goals in the season's final four games. This year, though, he'll need to be consistently good and will have plenty of talented players breathing down his back if he doesn't produce.
3. Brian Elliott
Elliott will go into the season as Jarsolav Halak's backup, but no one who has watched the Blues over the past two seasons should expect him to stay in that position for very long. Elliott has taken away Halak's job in each of the past two years, and for the most part he has performed very well. The 28-year-old went 23-10 with a 1.56 GAA while making his first All-Star appearance in 2011-12. Last year, he struggled initially, but ended up finishing strong with a 14-8 record. While everyone is hoping for a bounce-back season from Halak, it really is more important to make sure that Elliott is on his game when Halak inevitably goes down or has a cold streak. His major issues have come when he has gone a long time without playing, so expect the Blues to consistently mix him in and keep him fresh during 2013-14.
2. Derek Roy
Roy was the Blues' most high-profile acquisition during the offseason, and there will be high, if not unrealistic, expectations thrown onto him this year. The 30-year-old had 28 points in a 2012-13 season split between the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks, and he's proven before that he can be an effective scoring option. His numbers have dropped off in recent years, though, so he needs to bounce back this year.
1. Vladimir Tarasenko
Tarasenko ended up being perhaps the Blues' biggest disappointment of 2012-13. He started off on fire, but then slumped and missed a large chunk of the season with a concussion. It culminated in him being a healthy scratch for several postseason games, and he was a non-factor in the games which he took part in. This year, Tarasenko needs to live up to his billing as an elite goal scorer, and a big part of the team's offensive fortune may lay on his back.