With the 2015-16 season in the rear view, the St. Louis Blues are left evaluating the successes and downfalls of their team and its overall performance.
While there’s always room for improvement and each year poses new challenges, the Blues have to take a serious look at their current make-up before thinking about the draft and free agency.
Scoring has consistently been an issue for the Blues, seeing that they don’t score all that much. They ended the 2015-16 regular season in 15th place, scoring 219 goals in 82 games.
While that isn’t a bad place to be come season’s end, especially when going into the playoffs as the second seed in the competitive Central Division, average isn’t what the Blues strive for.
They’ll aim to get more balanced scoring throughout the line-up as opposed to focusing on players like Vladimir Tarasenko to put the puck in the net.
Depth scoring makes a big difference in the NHL, especially in close games, and the Blues could stand to take advantage of that.
On the other hand, they ended the season sixth in power play scoring, converting on 21.5% of every man advantage. That signifies that St. Louis’ power play is working at a consistent level that rivals the best in the league, which is something they can certainly hope to continue.
St. Louis Blues forwards are also much more defensively responsible when compared to others around the league. Their back check is representative of a group of hard-working skaters that put in the effort to help out defensively and is something they can strive to only improve moving forward.
St. Louis is a team that plays defense-first, to say the least. That’s how Ken Hitchcock likes to coach and that’s how the system for the Blues has been since he took over as head coach in 2011.
It’s one of the Blues’ greatest strengths. They’re able to clog up the neutral zone and prevent offensive attacks against their net, which in turn leads to low scoring games. The Blues are then able to convert on special teams and make it that much more difficult for their opposition to get back momentum.
This particular style of play isn’t always the most exciting to watch, but it gets the job done and allows for the Blues to be a consistent team in the regular season.
Their defensive efforts on the penalty are also among the best in the league. They ended the 2015-16 season having killed 85.1% of the odd man chances against, making them the third best penalty kill in the league.
The ability to kill a penalty not only boosts the confidence of the Blues, but makes it so their competition doesn’t gain confidence from a successful power play. In a league that has so much riding on the success of special teams, being able to stop an opposition’s best players is one of the greatest strengths.
Without a doubt one of the most skilled positions the Blues have in their locker room is goaltending. Brian Elliott and Jake Allen teamed up for a goaltending tandem that was highly successful during the regular season and Elliott took the playoffs by storm.
Elliott ended the regular season second in save percentage, posting .930 in 42 games and only ranking behind Montreal’s Carey Price who played in a dozen games before sustaining an injury. Allen wasn’t far behind ending the season nineteenth with a .920 save percentage.
Elliott also ended the season in the top five with a goals against average of 2.07, while Allen posted a 2.35 in 47 games played.
Brain Elliott was also a major reason the Blues made it past the always dangerous Dallas Stars with a key win in Game 7.
Overall St. Louis is set at the goaltending position for the next few seasons. While after that is uncertain, and should hopefully be more clear after the draft next weekend, the Blues know who will be in net in the near future.
There will always be something the Blues can improve upon and while it seems to be scoring, depth scoring in particular, they’re never going to be a perfect hockey team.
St. Louis is full of hardworking players that want to win and that dedication to the game and the team itself will surely payoff in the future.
What do you think is the St. Louis Blues’ greatest strength? Greatest weakness? Leave your thoughts in the comments.