10 Bold Predictions for St. Louis Blues’ 2013-14 Season
10 Bold Predictions for the St. Louis Blues 2013-14 Season
Everything seems to finally be in place for the St. Louis Blues to have success this year, and they've certainly created excitement in St. Louis. After struggling to adjust to returning from the lockout in January last season, the Blues were underwhelming and went 29-17-2 in 2012-13 before being knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings. Now that the Blues have had a full offseason to regroup and assess things, there is a much greater expectation of success in 2013-14.
With those expectations, though, there is also a high degree of uncertainty. The Blues had major offensive issues last year and don't really know who their main scorers will be this year. Chris Stewart led the team in goals last year, but has been extremely inconsistent throughout his career and can't really be relied on. 21-year-olds Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz were expected to give the scoring attack a big boost last year, but each of them slumped at times and didn't really add too much overall.
In addition, the Blues don't have anything set in stone between the pipes. Jaroslav Halak will begin the season as the team's no. 1 goaltender, but Brian Elliott is also on the roster and will probably replace him at the first sign of any struggles. In addition, the Blues have Jake Allen waiting in the AHL, and they may end up giving him a chance to build on his impressive rookie showing from last year if Elliott and Halak can't get it done.
There are plenty of exciting storylines surrounding the Blues this year. Here are 10 bold predictions about how their season will pan out.
10. Chris Porter Will Lose His Roster Spot
The 29-year-old Porter failed to make the Blues team last season, but was recalled as an injury replacement later on and was very solid, registering eight points with a plus-minus of five over 29 games. He impressed the Blues enough to earn a one-way deal for 2013-14, but with the team having gone outside the organization to add veteran Brenden Morrow, they have to get rid of a forward. Porter seems to be the most likely guy to be let go, and the team will probably have to make alternative arrangements with him so that his salary doesn't impact the team's ability to recall injury replacements from the minors.
9. Dmitrij Jaskin Will Make An Impact
Due to the Blues' roster crunch, they weren't able to make room for 20-year-old forward Dmitrij Jaskin, but that doesn't mean he won't emerge at some point this year. The 2011 second-rounder got his feet wet in the NHL by playing two games at the tail end of last season, and he impressed as a scorer during the preseason this year. By the time the end of the season rolls around, expect Jaskin to be a regular on one of the team's top lines.
8. The Brenden Morrow Signing Won't Be Worth It
The Blues made the decision halfway through training camp to try to boost their offense by signing the 34-year-old Morrow. While the 13-year veteran was pretty effective last year, notching 12 goals and 13 assists while splitting the season between the Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins, his play seems to have dropped off a bit in recent years. It's a bit of a puzzle as to where the former 32-goal scorer will fit into the Blues' plans, and he may not be a full-timer. In the end, unless he can be a difference-making goal scorer, Morrow's $1.5 million-dollar may just end up taking up salary cap room and costing a quicker role player like Chris Porter or Adam Cracknell a roster spot.
7. Magnus Paajarvi Won't Get Much Game Action
Paajarvi, the former 10th overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers, was acquired by the Blues this offseason in exchange for forward David Perron and a second-rounder. The Blues got him with the hope that they could get more than the Oilers got out of him, but judging by his poor preseason performance, that's probably not going to happen just yet. The 22-year-old may have more talent than some of his fellow forwards, but if he can't tap into it, it doesn't make sense to have him in the lineup while more aggressive role players like Adam Cracknell and Ryan Reaves sit. Even if Paajarvi opens the season as one of the Blues' top 12 forwards, don't expect him to stay in the lineup very long unless he turns things around.
6. Vladimir Tarasenko Will Have at Least 20 Goals
21-year-old Vladimir Tarasenko has the ability to be a prolific goal scorer, and the Blues saw that when they drafted him with the 16th pick of the 2010 draft. Early last season, he looked like he was going to take advantage of that ability and immediately become a great scorer, but then he began to slump and eventually suffered a concussion that seemed to derail the rest of his season. Look for Tarasenko to become one of the Blues' top scorers in 2013-14 and finish with at least 20 goals.
5. Barret Jackman's Role Will Change
Over the course of his 11-year career with the Blues, Barret Jackman has been in the lineup whenever he's been healthy. As the veteran begins to age, however, look for his workload to begin to decrease. The Blues had the opportunity to give up on former first-rounder Ian Cole this offseason, but instead they decided to re-sign him to a two-year, one-way contract that will pay him about $825,000 per year. This doesn't seem like a move that signifies that the Blues plan on stashing Cole in the press box all season, so Jackman will probably have to yield some playing time to Cole as a result. In most situations, the Blues will likely just take out whoever hasn't been performing, but as they try to get Cole into the mix early on, look for Jackman to be the guy who gets taken out.
4. Jaroslav Halak Will Manage to Fail Once Again
In each of the past two seasons, Jaroslav Halak has lost his starting job to Brian Elliott, and he's also struggled with injuries in both of those years. While he was very effective in 2011-12, Halak was spotty last year, and it was somewhat surprising that the Blues stuck with him for this season after Elliott and Jake Allen outperformed him last year. Halak went through an intense training regimen in St. Louis this offseason to get back in shape, but it still seems unrealistic that he'll stay free of injury or ineffectiveness over a full year, seeing as he's only played more than 50 games once during his seven-year career.
3. Jake Allen Will Become the Starting Goalie
Last year, 23-year-old goalie Jake Allen saw his first regular season NHL action and he was extremely impressive, going 9-4 with a .905 save percentage and 2.46 GAA. Unfortunately, the Blues seemed uncomfortable with handing Allen the job after Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott had been so effective in 2011-12. Elliott ended up having a very strong run to end the season, but was once again was inconsistent in the postseason.
This year, the leash will not be nearly as long for Elliott and Halak, and coach Ken Hitchcock acknowledged that it was a very tough call just to send Allen to the AHL to begin the season. If Allen continues to display the form that he has over the past year, he will probably end up as the Blues' starter by the end of the season.
2. Jaden Schwartz Will Lead the Team in Points
Jaden Schwartz struggled initially in 2012-13 but finished out on fire, notching three goals in the team's final regular season games. Ken Hitchock was recently very effusive in his praise of Schwartz, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch “He's been our best player. I can put him anywhere he wants. Whoever he plays with, he makes better.” The 21-year-old former first-rounder is definitely still improving, and with his ability to both score and distribute the puck, it wouldn't be a shock if he led the team in points this year.
1. The Blues Will Make their Deepest Playoff Run in Recent Memory
Over the past few years, many purported NHL experts have projected the Blues to go to the Stanley Cup, yet they have failed each year to make any kind of significant playoff run. However, this could very well be the year where the club finally has the right mix of good coaching and quality depth that could take them deep into the postseason. If everything goes as planned, expect the Blues to at the very least win a first-round series, and perhaps get past the conference semifinals for the first time since 2000-01.