Winnipeg Jets 2022-23 Opponent Preview: St. Louis Blues

In 2022-23, the Winnipeg Jets have 26 tilts against fellow Central Division teams — four games apiece against the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and three games apiece against the Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars. In anticipation of the campaign to come, our THW Jets team’s “Opponents Preview” Series takes a look at each Central Division foe.

St. Louis versus Winnipeg 2021-22 game log
Nov. 9, 2021 @ Winnipeg: St. Louis 3, Winnipeg 2 (SO)
Dec. 19, 2021 @ Winnipeg: Winnipeg 4, St. Louis 2
Jan. 29, 2022 @ St. Louis: Winnipeg 4, St. Louis 1
March 13, 2022 @ St. Louis: Winnipeg 4, St. Louis 3 (OT)

Will the Jets find success against St. Louis, or will they be singing the Blues?

Last season, despite finishing well below the Blues in the Central Division standings, the Jets went 3-0-1 against them. Two games went beyond 60 minutes.

The Jets and the Blues will tangle four times again in 2022-23, with the contests well-spread-out over the season.

The balanced and high-scoring Blues will be a tough opponent for the Jets and newly-minted head coach Rick Bowness to deal with as the talented-but-flawed group tries to return to relevance the playoffs.

Blues Locked Up Key Players As New Outlook Emerges

Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Craig Berube have gotten key players to buy what they’re selling.

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Armstrong’s “offseason of extensions” — which came after the team finished 49-22-11 and made the second round of the playoffs — has the team well positioned. First, he signed budding superstar RFA centre Robert Thomas to a massive eight-year contract worth $65 million. The 23-year-old blew his old career highs out of the water last season, scoring 20 goals and adding 57 assists for 77 points and will be a thorn in the Jets’ and the Central Division’s sides for years to come.

Robert Thomas St. Louis Blues
Robert Thomas signed an eight-year deal to stay with the Blues. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Next, Armstrong made a sizeable signing to keep the back end strong, inking veteran Nick Leddy to a four-year extension after acquiring him from the Detroit Red Wings at the Trade Deadline. Finally, he extended breakout star Jordan Kyrou — who exploded with 75 points last season — on the exact same deal as Thomas. The Thomas and Kyrou extensions represent a change in the franchise’s direction.

“There’s a changing of the guard going on within the locker room,” THW’s Marcus Ashpaugh wrote recently. “Not so quietly, the Blues are shifting from the size, power, and gritty play style that lead to their first Stanley Cup win to the faster, agile, and more skilled play style that is being adopted by many teams throughout the NHL.”

The Jets have preached team speed as a key to success for years and have a strong offence that can wheel and deal. They scored 250 goals last season, middle of the pack, and were easily bested in that category by the Blues, who scored the third-most goals in the NHL with 309.

Blues Have Established Core, Questions in Net

Captain Ryan O’Reilly and electric winger Vladimir Tarasenko — both longtime Blues and familiar to the Jets — are still in the fold but will be UFAs at the end of the season. Based on the Blues’ salary cap situation, Armstrong may have to choose one or the other next summer.

Brayden Schenn and Brandon Saad — who had 58 and 49 points a season ago, respectively — remain with the club, as does most of the experienced defensive core in Robert Bortuzzo, Justin Faulk, Torey Krug, Leddy, and Marco Scandella. That defense allowed 329 goals last season, 11th-best league-wide.

Vladimir Tarasenko St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko is a UFA next season. He’s spent his entire 10-season career with the Blues and has recorded 524 points in 606 games. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the crease, there are questions as to whether Jordan Binnington is “the guy” again. Former backup Ville Husso stole Binnington’s job in the back half of last season, but was dealt to the aggressively-rebuilding Detroit Red Wings. Binnington rose to fame in his rookie season by standing on his head in 2018-19 when the Blues went from worst to Stanley Cup Champions, but had poor numbers last season — a 3.13 GAA and .901 SV%.

It will be interesting to see if the sometimes-volatile 29-year-old can rebound with the pressure that comes with being the number-one guy back on, and if he can recapture his erstwhile status as one of the NHL’s elite goalies.

St. Louis versus Winnipeg 2022-23 game log
Oct. 24, 2022 @ Winnipeg — 7 p.m. Central
Dec. 8, 2022 @ St. Louis — 7 p.m. Central
Jan. 30, 2023 @ Winnipeg — 7 p.m. Central
March 19, 2023 @ St. Louis — 6 p.m. Central

Blues In Good Position to Be Powerhouse

Armstrong also tinkered in free agency, bringing in depth forwards Noel Acciari, Martin Frk, and Josh Leivo.

Related: Blues’ 3 Burning Questions Heading Into 2022-23 Season

Meanwhile, three older forwards departed: Tyler Bozak, James Neal, and David Perron. Perron, who signed with the Red Wings. is the biggest loss of the three by far, as he played 673 games and recorded 465 points with the franchise over two different stints.

Perron’s departure aside, the Blues are a well-rounded team and you could say “the band’s all together.” They should be a Cup Contender — in fact, this season may be their best chance in their current window — and their firepower up front will give the Jets all they can handle.

St. Louis Blues' Brayden Schenn Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele
Brayden Schenn passes around Mark Scheifele in 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Jets better hope their defense, which gave up way too many high-danger chances last season, is a lot better with new systems Bowness and company will put in place.

Check out more of THW’s Jets’ 2022-23 season preview content below.