The St. Louis Blues Might Have the Strongest Goaltending Depth in the NHL
Although the St. Louis Blues are a team known for being relatively unsatisfied with their goaltending situation, they have done quite well in cultivating a relative embarrassment of riches regarding their netminders. Even when they bring in a veteran or established NHL-caliber keeper, in large part they do so in an effort to keep their prospects incubating a comfortable rate. While other franchises like the Vancouver Canucks have an issue figuring out which quality guy they’ll jettison first, the Blues are in the enviable position of being able to trade a goalie like Jaroslav Halak, experiment with Ryan Miller and keep on moving if it doesn’t work out.
The 2014 Draft is a time for the franchise to focus on scoring
It’s always tough for a franchise when it’s forced to draft a goalie with a high pick. This usually is a sign that the team is floundering, looking for a young stud to help stop the bleeding while the team finds its identity. Goalies not only take longer to develop, they’re less easy to peg as sure things coming out of the draft. Although there are outliers like Marc-Andre Fleury, Carey Price and Roberto Luongo, most are bonafide dice-rolls that sometimes work out — but mostly don’t. The St. Louis Blues are in a spot through wise draft and depth management to focus on building a pipeline of talent for the future, rather than needing to find an instant quasi-fix. Right now, most fans agree that one or two impact scorers are all that’s needed to plug the obvious gaps exposed in the 2013 playoffs — an inability to pot important overtime goals and dictate pace. Goaltenders more often than not are wasted picks, especially if a team is tasked with the need to grab one in the first round. Notable examples of the random nature of this action include Pekka Rinne (258th overall, 2004); or Henrik Lundqvist (205th overall, 2000). Clearly, the idea that a top prospect like Thatcher Demko who’s projected to go in the first round is guaranteed to be better than a guy in the eighth is a stretch at best — especially when compared to a projected impact forward occupying similar draft positions. Through intelligent scouting in years’ past, the Blues have strong prospects like Ty Rattie and Dimitij Jaskin — two players that might very well allow the team to dispose of costly contracts to players such as Brendan Morrow, Derek Roy and potentially Steve Ott.
Goaltending depth offers potential trade assets during 2014 Draft
As the unmitigated success of Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop proves, the Blues organization understands how to develop goaltending talent. This has not gone unnoticed in the NHL, with many franchises looking to build from the net out. Whenever a team possesses the depth at a given position the Blues do, certain players might be deemed more valuable to move for immediate help rather than as a potential starter in a few years. Moving a player like Jordan Binnington, for example might be an enticing prospect for a franchise like the Calgary Flames or Minnesota Wild, two teams struggling to find a combination they’re happy with after losing their starters to retirement or injury. The Blues might find interest in an energy center like Corban Knight from Calgary, or Adam Gilmour from the Wild. Although neither would make an immediate impact with the big club, it’s likely one or the other would make a larger dent in the overall success of the team rather than a goalie probably slated for backup duty for the foreseeable future.
Moving in a new direction
The Blues have had repeated promising seasons over the decades, all of which fell apart come playoff time. Recently, it’s become more acceptable to follow the King/Hawk model of scoring four and giving up two if necessary — rather than focusing on putting up zeroes. This forces a team to keep the pressure up, relieving the inclination of many players and coaches of playing to not lose by falling into a defensive posture. With the Blues relatively secure in net, they can focus on getting those impact forwards that allow the team to finish what they start and move deeper into the poseseason.
Freelance writer and public relations practitioner. 20+ years in goal and long-time Blues fan.