It’s no secret that the St. LouisBlues have had their fair share of problems over the last few seasons, but that doesn’t mean their fate is sealed. The 2015-2016 season begins in a few weeks and here are the top five reasons the Blues will start this year on a high note.
Although nothing in the world of professional sports is guaranteed, the Blues have their main players under contract for at least the next season or two and that allows them to build a home around the organization. With contracts, extensions, and signings out of the way, Blues players can focus on the game and how they can personally improve instead of worrying about money and contract lengths.
Long term deals especially make players feel relaxed about their ability to be a true part of the team, while also giving them comfort in their personal lives as they can settle down and build a home. That feeling of security will help the team feel more confident on the ice and, therefore, more likely to succeed.
#4: Chicago Rivalry
Without a doubt the Chicago Blackhawks are the St. Louis Blues’ greatest rivalry and for good reason. Since 1970 the Blues and Hawks have been in the same division, making it the perfect breeding ground for a rivalry. Throughout the years they’ve had epic battles that often get extremely physical, including a brawl that broke out on March 17th, 1991 which later became known as the “St. Patrick Day Massacre” in the hockey world.
In recent years the battles between these two teams have become even more heated, especially since the Detroit Red Wings were moved to the Eastern Conference at the start of the 2013-2014 season.
The rivalry will intensify even more this season now that the Hawks are the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. What could be more motivating for the Blues than wanting to beat the defending champs?
Speaking of the Hawks, having the most recent champions in your conference is hard enough, but having them in your division takes it to a whole other level. The Central Division is now considered the division to beat, if it didn’t have that title already, and that means the Blues will have to put their best skate forward on a nightly basis.
Captain David Backes will be expected to maintain or improve upon his 58 point season last year to set the best example for the team, while Vladimir Tarasenko will feel the pressure of his new eight-year, $60 million contract that he signed this past July. Paul Stastny is entering his second year with the Blues and should be more productive because of his adjustment to the team and their system.
On the defensive end Alex Pietrangelo had a solid performance last season ending the year with 46 points (7G, 39A) in 81 games and a plus-minus of minus-2. He’ll be relied upon to follow suit this season, especially in his offensive production.
Not to mention that if Jake Allen earns the starting goalie position he’ll feel the pressure that comes along with being the go-to guy in net and that will only make the Blues a tougher team to play against.
Although the Blues didn’t trade away half of their roster like some NHL organizations, they managed to gain some new players during the offseason and they’re guys that will help improve the team.
Among the new faces are forwards Kyle Brodziak, Jordan Caron, and Justin Hodgman. The new signings on the defensive end include Chris Butler, Konrad Abeltshauser, Peter Harrold, and Andre Benoit. In the net St. Louis acquired Pheonix Copley and signed 2015 draft pick Luke Opilka.
In addition to the signings, Scott Gomez, Scottie Upshall, Spencer Asuchak, Eriah Hayes, Evan Trupp, and Zach O’Brien were all invited to the Blues’ training camp that is happening this week.
The biggest trade made this offseason for St. Louis sent TJ Oshie to the Washington Capitals for Troy Brouwer and goaltending prospect Pheonix Copley. Brouwer will begin his time with the Blues at the start of this season and will hopefully build upon his production from last year. With the Washington Capitals last season Brouwer totaled 43 points (21G, 22A) in 82 games with an impressive plus-minus of plus-11. He should fit nicely into the line-up regardless of which line he’s a part of and he certainly has the potential to be a productive forward.
Teams don’t work hard all offseason, preseason, and regular season long to be eliminated in the playoffs. That’s not the goal. The goal is to win the Stanley Cup in early June and then spend the next few months preparing to do it all again the next season. As we all know that hasn’t been the reality for St. Louis, which has to be immensely frustrating.
So frustrating, in fact, that it’s the number-one reason they’ll be successful this season. Why is that? Professional athletes don’t do everything for their sport to lose. They want to win and that’s the motivator and reasoning behind everything they put into their game. The Blues know that frustration all too well and can only eliminate the feeling of disappointment with wins.
Leadership within the locker room, namely guys like Backes, Alexander Steen, Tarasenko and Pietrangelo, will have the burden of harnessing the team’s frustration into work ethic. As the leaders of the team they’ll be looked to as examples and they’ll have to redirect frustration, whether it be with losing or lack of personal production, to something productive so that it benefits the team.
With all that the Blues went through last year and offseason, they’ll be forced to find a way to overcome obstacles and succeed in 2015-2016 campaign. If not, there will be a whole new set of changes to come.
What do you think is the number-one reason the Blues will be successful this season? Leave your thoughts in the comments.