The St. Louis Blues addressed a glaring issue when they signed both Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera. The team’s offense looks the best its looked in years and the Blues finally have depth down the middle of the ice. While there will probably be some additional tinkering with the forwards (Berglund trade, anyone?), fans should be confident with the names on the roster.
The Blues also changed out some of their coaches which will hopefully lead to a power-play which actually looks halfway threatening.
However, there are still a couple of big question marks heading into the new season. Is the team’s defense physical enough? What happens if the Brian Elliott – Jake Allen experiment fails?
Depending on who you ask, the Elliott-Allen combo is either an awesome duo or perhaps one that makes you a little nervous. Personally, I fall into the nervous category and I consider myself a big advocate of both goaltenders. Elliott can be simply outstanding. Allen has a very high ceiling. The problem lies in the fact Elliott can look a bit nervy when he’s the focal point in net and Allen still only has 15 NHL games under his belt. My biggest concern surrounds an injury. Should one goaltender go down, the pressure is on the other to step up and carry the team. The Blues really don’t have a third option that they’d be comfortable calling on should things turn ugly.
There’s a chance the Blues may bring in another goaltender as a “just in case” precaution. That person would need a two-way contract and would to need to understand that they’re probably not going to see time unless the experiment fails, but it’d be good to have some sort of Option C.
Things may work out extremely well between Elliott and Allen, but the team’s goaltending is probably the biggest question mark when you examine the whole roster.
The other looming question is on defense. The Blues found a left-handed defenseman to play with Kevin Shattenkirk in Carl Gunnarsson, but there’s one issue with the defensive group – physicality. I’ve talked about it before and borrowed the term “people-moving defensemen” in the past, but it’s a bit worrisome that all these men rely so heavily on their work with the stick. As we’ve seen in the playoffs, sometimes a bit of size and strength goes a long way behind your own net. At times, the Blues couldn’t cope with the larger forwards in the NHL and were pushed around in their own zone.
Will another trade be made defensively? It wouldn’t be surprising. Jordan Leopold and Ian Cole were rumored to be on the block prior to the Polak trade and it’s not too much of a stretch to think they still might be now. I still think the Blues need a bigger, more physical presence on defense and that this current group relies a bit too heavily on knocking the puck away as opposed to knocking the opposing player over.
All in all, the Blues are in great shape. There are some big wildcards (especially goaltending), but they aren’t enough to prevent the Blues from being a strong team in an extremely difficult division.