To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.
Today’s team: St. Louis Blues
2014-15 record: 51-24-7, 1st in the Central
How they finished: Lost in 6 games to Minnesota in the Western Conference Quarterfinals
Coach: Ken Hitchcock (5th season)
Notable additions: RW Troy Brouwer, C Kyle Brodziak
Notable subtractions: RW T.J. Oshie, D Barret Jackman, D Zbynek Michalek
Schedule against the Capitals: Sat. Mar. 26 at Washington, Sat. Apr. 9 at St. Louis
Outlook: The St. Louis Blues are a hard team to figure out. They were in the top five for both offense and defense last season, they have a fantastic offense and a very good coach in Ken Hitchcock, but they cannot get over the playoff hump. Caps' fans can commiserate with Blues' fans after the Blues have made the playoffs in each of the past four seasons and advanced to the second round only once.
St. Louis look like they have it all on offense. They finished with the fifth most goals last season and their top six looks fantastic. Their best offensive player, Vladimir Tarasenko, is only 23 and made a 30 point jump over the past two seasons. Clearly he's ready to be on the top line, hence the team's trade of T.J. Oshie.
When you look at an offense that consists of players like Tarasenko, Jori Lehtera, Alex Steen, David Backes and Paul Statsny, that's a pretty formidable group.
The Blues decided to focus their offseason on improving their third and fourth lines and added Troy Brouwer and Kyle Brodziak. The addition of these two players alone certainly does not make this team look like more of a contender, but the Blues don't need any help on their top two lines and you've got to do something to help this team gel in the playoffs.
Brouwer has not had a dominant postseason since 2010 with the Blackhawks while Brodziak had one good playoff year in 2014 but had zero points last season in 10 games with the Wild. Not exactly the playoff performers perhaps St. Louis was hoping for.
Then again, that wasn't really the problem last year, was it?
While Jake Allen and Brian Elliot make for a good goalie tandem, they did not get it done in the playoffs. Allen appeared in all six of the team's playoff games last season and came away with a paltry .904 save percentage. If the Blues are going to stick with Allen as their top man, and there's no reason to think they won't, he has got to be better than that when it counts.
Expectations: Hitchcock is squarely on the hot seat after signing a one-year deal in the offseason. When coaches get one-year deals, that's never a good sign. As good as the Blues look, if they get off to a slow start, Hitchcock could be an early season casualty. You never know how a team will respond to a coaching change during the season--it could inspire them as it did when Bruce Boudreau replaced Glen Hanlon or they could collapse completely as Toronto did last season after Randy Carlyle was fired.
Barring that, the Blues should cruise through the regular season. They have a roster that can challenge for the Stanley Cup if Jake Allen can be more consistent in the postseason, but we've said that before. Are they as good as Anaheim and Nashville? They should be, but you can excuse me for not thinking that will happen.
There's no reason to think St. Louis can't challenge for the Cup, but there's no reason to think that they will either.
MORE CAPS: Projecting the Caps' lineup: Offensive lines
See more team previews:
Boston Bruins 8/15
Buffalo Sabres 8/16
Detroit Red Wings 8/17
Florida Panthers 8/18
Montreal Canadiens 8/19
Ottawa Senators 8/20
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24
New Jersey Devils 8/25
New York Islanders 8/26
New York Rangers 8/27
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29
Washington Capitals 8/30