Training camp for the St. Louis Blues begins on Friday. You know what that means? Training camp stories.
As a sports writer, you have a job to do. During training camp and the preseason, you have to provide copy. Fans have just spent a long offseason getting sporadic updates about the team they love, and the thirst for information is crazy high. The Blues' beat writers are going to spend the next few weeks not writing about games, but rather telling stories.
If you've paid attention to the stories that come out every preseason, you'll notice a trend. Journos have ideas for stories — templates if you will — that can be filled with new guys every single season. It's really quite something.
So without further ado, and with a hat tip to Mr. Up Baby, I present you my predictions for the Blues' training camp stories.
The Player in Best Shape of His Life
Eric Brewer. For the last two seasons, Captain Roboto has been battling the injury bug. He hurt his back so badly that the baby-lifting scale was created. If he could lift his young child, he was progressing nicely. If not, he was experience a setback.
At the end of the last season, Brewer was healthy. No back issues, no neck issues, no knee — nothing. And, to top it all off, he was playing quite well last year near the end of the season. He has had a whole offseason to work out and get in shape.
Plus, he's entering the last year of his contract. It makes sense for him to come to camp a new man.
Other choices: Brad Winchester, Cam Janssen and Erik Johnson.
The Comeback Kid
Brad Boyes. In 2007-08, Boyes scored 43 goals. The next season, he potted 33. A 10-goal dropoff, sure, but he was still a 30-goal man. Last season? Not so much.
Brad Boyes scored 14 goals last season. Fourteen. One. Four. There were 177 players in the NHL whoscored more goals than Boyes. In his 43-goal season, Boyes was sixth in the NHL. To say he fell off would be an understatement.
Already the stories are coming out that Boyes got married in the offseason. That's a juicy lede for a changed player story. Of all the disappointing guys on the team, Boyes stands out. He has to be better for the Blues. He's got to try and be the Comeback Kid.
Other choices: David Backes, Andy McDonald and Brad Winchester.
The New Guy
Jaroslav Halak. Never mind that Halak is pretty much the only newcomer the Blues have for the 2010-11 season—he'd be the New Guy no matter who else was new.
The Blues' search for a No. 1 goalie has been ongoing since the Bill Clinton administration. After Grant Fuhr left in 1999, the Blues have tried everything to find a replacement in net. Halak is the newest to inherit the Blues No. 1 goalie title.
He's young, a playoff hero and comes in with gobs of hype. He plays hockey's version of the quarterback. His every move will be documented during camp. How he fits in will be a huge story.
Other choices: Vladimir Sobotka and ... uhhh, T.J. Hensick?
The Big Change
Davis Payne as head coach. Every team undergoes some form of change from one season to the next — a new d-man, a new captain, etc. This year, the biggest change will be behind the bench.
The start of the season will be the start of Payne's first year as head coach. He was the interim for the second half last season, but now he's the man. We'll be treated to stories about how much differently he runs practices, what changes he's going to make to fix problems (like the power play) and just how well he fits in with the young team.
Other choices: New boards at Scottrade and Doug Armstrong as GM.
The Break-out Player
David Perron. Perron has played three seasons in the NHL and improved his goal total in each season. He's likely to be on one of the top-two lines and will be expected to contribute. With a new contract signed in the offseason, Perron is my choice to be the the breakout player.
He's got all the makings of a great story — he works hard, he's got skill and he had problems with the old coach. New coach plus new deal equals a guy ready to break out.
Other choices: T.J. Oshie, Erik Johnson or Patrik Berglund.
The Out-Of-Nowhere Guy Who Turns Heads
Vladimir Sobotka. He's young, he hits hard and he's an unknown around these parts. When the Blues made the deal with Boston fro Vladi, a lot of Bruins' fans were upset. Right now he's penciled in a fourth-line guy, but he seems like a guy who could potentially be a lot more than that. A few early-fall goals and I think some ink will be spilled about Sobotka.
Other choices: Phillip McRae, Tyson Strachan or T.J. Hensick.
Agree with my choices? Disagree? Share yours in the comments. Or if you have other potential story lines, share those, too.