If it weren't for those pesky playoffs, this would be the team of the decade so far. They have been very good in the regular season for the last four years. In the playoffs, though, they have just one series win over that time and have found unique ways to disappoint each year. Now they have no excuses, and they sit at the crossroads. Will they cross the threshold and become the serious contender they should be, or are they just going to be the like the San Jose Sharks and content themselves with being very good until it matters?
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One storyline that won't go away until they succeed is the fate of head coach Ken Hitchcock. The guy obviously knows how to coach - very well - but management and ownership are losing patience with the playoff fumbles. It was uncertain whether he was going to make it back for this year - and he is only on a one-year deal. An early playoff exit would absolutely be the end of his career in St. Louis. If the team were to slump significantly at any point during the season it would also quite possibly be the end of the line. Teams can rally around threatened coaches or use them as an excuse. This will be very worth keeping an eye on here.
St. Louis Blues Offseason Moves
There weren't many changes, but they are intriguing. The biggest splash was the trade of T.J. Oshie, who had long been at the center of speculation, to Washington for Troy Brouwer. Brouwer can match most of the offensive output that Oshie offered, and he is much tougher. It's a good deal even if you sacrifice some finesse and puck possession, and it certainly doesn't hurt to shuffle up the chemistry just al little. The other move of note was that they let Barret Jackman, the veteran defenseman who had played more than 800 games for the team, depart. They'll look to replace him with younger talent.
St. Louis Blues NHL Outlook
You can't deny the talent this team has. Vladimir Tarasenko had a massive year last year, and he has a massive new contract to show for it. Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Jaden Schwartz - this is a strong offensive unit. Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are strong offensive defensemen on the top pairing, Jay Bouwmeester should be better than he was last year, and Carl Gunnarsson just keeps getting better. This is a deep and solid team - and a pretty young one, which bodes well because the West will yet again be physical and very tough. If there is a concern it's in net. Both Jake Allen and Brian Elliott are more-than-capable goalies, but neither is the clear No. 1. It would be easier to have faith in the team if the role of brick wall was better defined.
One guy to watch will be David Backes. Last year we saw Tarasenko have a massive season with the potential for a big new deal looming. Now linemate Backes is playing for his next contract. He's not the player that Tarasenko is, but he is still very strong. He could really take a step forward given the prospect of a payday, or he could struggle under the immense pressure. I would bet on him personally.
St. Louis Blues Schedule
The schedule-makers did not do the team any favors early on. After opening against what should be a very enthusiastic Edmonton team, they head out for a six-game road trip that sees them travel all the way from Vancouver to Montreal. Having your longest trip of the year that early is probably not ideal.
St. Louis Blues NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Blues are tied with the Penguins as the sixth choice to win the Stanley Cup at +1400. They are the fourth choice in the Western Conference at +750 and the third choice behind the Blackhawks and Wild to win the Central Division at +300.
2015-16 St. Louis Blues Predictions
This is definitely a playoff team. No question about that - barring a total disaster. The challenge, though, will remain getting out of their division. Chicago is always tough, and there isn't a really bad team in the whole group. No matter what, then, this team has two very tough playoff series looming just to get out of their division - and it doesn't get easier from there. Are they capable of winning it all? Absolutely - there isn't a major hole. Until they have success, though, it seems like a bad idea to bet that this will be the year when several already haven't been.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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