They haven’t made the playoffs since before the lockout and currently dwindle in 12th place in the West, albeit only 4 points out of the playoffs but 4 points that are likely insurmountable in the competitive Western conference. It wouldn’t take nerves of steel for a pundit to claim that the Blues aren’t going to win the cup this year, but a closer look at the current Blues organization suggests that this team could be the talk of the town in only a couple years.
Goaltending has been a stumbling block in the past for the Blues. 36 year old netminder Manny Legace was abandoned after posting an inglorious 3.18 GAA and .885 save percentage in 29 games with the Blues with season. Chris Mason has proved his worth in Legace’s absence. Don’t let the losing record fool you, his .919 save percentage ranks in the top third of NHL goaltenders. Every indication suggests that as the Blues in front of him improve, the losses will turn very quickly into wins.
The Blues are a very young team, averaging just over 26 years of age (an average that was boosted considerably by aging veterans Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk). 20 year-old players David Perron and Patrik Berglund are tied for second on the team in scoring with 38 points while 22 year-old T.J. Oshie has put up a respectable 23 points on the season. On a losing team with nearly all players on the wrong side of the plus-minus stat, what is most remarkable about these three players is that they are all considerably into the plus, receiving 8, 15 and 9 respectively. A young generation of two-way players is nothing to sneeze at in the NHL.
The Blues have one of the deepest prospect systems in the league, boasting of such names at Alex Pietrangelo, Lars Eller and Ian Cole as well as a pretty good young goaltender in Jake Allen. Top prospect and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was drafted 4th overall in 2008 by the Blues and won a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships a year later with Team Canada. With fantastic speed, shot power and creativity on the puck, it won’t be long before Pietrangelo breaks into the roster.
And then there are the ones I didn’t even have time to mention: Erik Johnson, Roman Polak, BJ Crombeen, Ben Bishop…the list goes on.
So discount this year’s Blues from playoff contention with a wry wave of the hand if you will, but don’t forget them entirely just yet.