The St. Louis Blues head into the 2013-14 season as one of the favorites to at least appear in the Stanley Cup Finals out of the Western Conference, a spot that isn’t entirely unfamiliar to them. They were in the same spot last year, when several members of the media actually predicted they’d take the Cup home in 2013.
That didn’t happen. For a variety of reasons, the Blues failed to get out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and were sent packing by the defending champions. They’ll head into the new year with some new faces, but a roster and a system that looks largely the same. Which is good news and bad.
Where it could be bad is between the pipes. Part of the reason the Blues were so successful in 2011-12, and so unsuccessful in 2013, was because of their situation in goal. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot each took a major step back. With Halak, he had some health issues, while Brian Elliot simply returned to what has become the career norm for him.
Each goaltender is heading into a make-or-break season. Halak is playing for his job, and was the subject of trade speculation for much of the summer. If he can’t stay healthy or he struggles for any extended stretch, his time as starting goaltender in St. Louis is all but finished.
In the case of Brian Elliot, he’s not a long term answer. Everyone who has watched him play goaltender for more than five minutes is pretty clear on that one. He’s a solid option as a no. 2, but he’s not exactly a guy you want to ride out as your starter, especially if you’re a contender.
Then there’s the matter of Jake Allen. If Halak or Elliot falter, there’s no reason to think that the Blues won’t throw Allen in there. He’s ready. It’s just a matter of them wanting to ride out the veterans first. If Halak goes down, or melts down, the Blues won’t hesitate to get him in there.
Which is exactly why Jake Allen will end the year as the starting goaltender for the St. Louis Blues. He projects as a starter in the long term. He’s the type of goaltender that moves well down in the crease and is rarely caught out of position. For many teams, he’d already be a no. 1, it’s just a matter of not having room for him at this point. If the Blues don’t see what they want out of Halak, though, it may not take long for him to get his crack at the gig.