The St. Louis Blues will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2018. After the 2017-18 season, they improved their roster via free agency and won the Stanley Cup a year later in 2019. Their situation is different this offseason. They are further away from Cup contention than five years ago, but that’s not what we’re discussing here.
If Blues fans are planning on watching the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they will need teams to root for. There are obvious ones that Blues fans will not cheer on, but here’s a look at the ones they should.
5. Vegas Golden Knights
While the Vegas Golden Knights aren’t well-liked by fans throughout the NHL, they have a couple of connections to the Blues. I think it’s been long enough since former Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo departed for Vegas, and he’s worth cheering for. The Golden Knights also have Ivan Barbashev, who the Blues traded to Vegas in February.
Barbashev has six goals and 10 assists in 23 games with the Golden Knights. He’s a perfect fit for playoff-style hockey; he throws his body around and scores timely goals. The Western Conference is wide open, so I could see the Golden Knights making their second run to the Stanley Cup Final. – they lost to the Washington Capitals in 2018.
Both Barbashev and Pietrangelo contributed a lot to the Blues franchise. They were both key pieces in the 2019 Cup run, and there’s no real reason for Blues fans to root against them. The Blues and Golden Knights don’t have any bad blood between them – they’ve never met in the playoffs and aren’t in the same division. It makes plenty of sense for Blues fans to want Barbashev and Pietrangelo to have success this postseason.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
This is a no-brainer. The Blues traded captain Ryan O’Reilly to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a blockbuster deal. The Maple Leafs have a knack for not getting out of the first round and haven’t won a playoff series since 2004. However, they have made the right moves to put them in a position to win a series this season. O’Reilly is a proven playoff performer.
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They also got forward Noel Acciari from the Blues in the trade, and his style also works well in the playoffs. Blues fans should definitely root for O’Reilly, although I have a feeling that a Blues reunion with O’Reilly this offseason will become less likely if the Maple Leafs make a deep run. Despite that, with every Maple Leafs’ playoff series loss, they get more interesting, a deep run would be fun to watch.
3. New York Rangers
I had mixed feelings about this pick, but I think it’s the right call. Not only are the Rangers a fun team to watch, but they also have Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola. The Blues traded them both to New York in February. I understand that Blues fans feel a certain way toward Patrick Kane, who is also a member of the Rangers, but this team is exciting.
Tarasenko is one of the best goal-scorers in Blues history. He was also a big contributor in 2019. Mikkola was also a quality contributor in his time with the Blues and played well in the 2022 Playoffs. The Rangers also have likable stars such as Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, and Igor Shesterkin. I had to choose between the Rangers and New Jersey Devils, and I chose the Rangers because of Tarasenko. He’s fifth all-time in goals for the Blues with 262. He’s also 11th all-time in Blues history with 644 games played. It would be hard to convince me not to root for Tarasenko.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes are another likable team with connections to the Blues. They have forward Paul Stastny, who played three and a half seasons with the Blues. In 267 games with the Blues, he had 175 points. Stastny’s father (Peter) and brother (Yan) also had a short stint in St. Louis. Outside of that, the Hurricanes are one of the few Eastern Conference teams with five straight playoff appearances and not enough to show for it. They are due for a run to the Cup Final.
Also, Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour was drafted by the Blues and traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in one of the worst trades in franchise history. He is a likable personality and one of the best coaches in the league. He represents a lot of what is so great about the sport. The Hurricanes are an easy team for anybody to root for.
1. Seattle Kraken
I have a feeling that fans whose teams didn’t make the playoffs will be rooting for the Seattle Kraken. They are a fun story. It’s their second season in franchise history, and they have been fantastic. They had 60 points last season. They finished this season with 100 points and a record of 46-28-8. They’ve been one of the most surprising stories of the season and boast a strong connection to the Blues.
The Kraken have two former Blues – defenseman Vince Dunn and forward Jaden Schwartz – who were key performers in the 2019 Cup run. The Kraken selected Dunn in the expansion draft and signed Schwartz in free agency before last season. It’s been a breakout campaign for Dunn, who tallied 64 points in 81 games after never reaching 40 points in his five seasons prior. He was always a fan favorite on the blue line in St. Louis, so it should be easy to cheer him on.
As for Schwartz, he was a first-round pick by the Blues in the 2010 Draft and played 10 seasons in St. Louis. He had a solid bounce-back season for Seattle, with 21 goals in 71 games. He also had 54 career playoff points with the Blues in 88 games. The Kraken will be a playoff favorite, and both players will be worth watching.
It’s unfortunate that the Blues aren’t in the playoffs, but there is plenty to cheer for regardless, with many former Blues still playing. The NHL Playoffs are always exciting, regardless of your rooting interests. The league is in a terrific spot right now.