The other day I was chatting with my friend Nate about the upcoming hockey season. With camp having started and the preseason well underway, we both mentioned how excited we were for the St. Louis Blues to start playing some real games.
Of course, as the conversation progressed, we both played the role of prognosticator. Nate, being his usual optimistic self, said the Blues would return to the playoffs. I, being my usual pessimistic self, said the Blues would come up short (again) this season.
Yes, it's true—as excited as I am about hockey to return, I just don't think the Blues will make the playoffs this year. After finishing ninth and just missing out last year. Here are three reasons why the Blues will fall just short.
1. No offense.
Last season, the Blues scored 218 goals, 17th in the league. In the offseason, the Blues added nobody to score any more. In fact, all the Blues have done is lose goals. Paul Kariya scored 18 goals last season. Keith Tkachuk added 13. Combined, that's 31 goals lost, which drops the Blues total to 187 goals. That, my friends, would have made the Blues dead last in the NHL.
So right now, the Blues have to score 31 goals just to get out of the cellar. If every player produces like he did last season, the Blues will be the worst offensive team in the NHL. That's scary to think about.
Of course, with a young roster, some development is to be expected. David Perron could jump five goals to 25, T.J. Oshie could maybe add seven more goals to get to 25. Hey, maybe Brad Boyes wakes up and doubles his 14 goal output last season and nets 28. If those three things happen, that's... only 26 goals — the team still hasn't replaced Kariya and Tkachuk.
Every single player needs to be more productive. It's a great thought, but how often does it happen? Just last season, Boyes, Patrik Berglund and others took huge steps back. You're trying to tell me the Blues will see every player take a step forward and maybe get into the 230 goals range? Come on. As presently built, the team lacks firepower.
2. Jaroslav Halak is not the savior.
In 61 games last season for the Blues, Chris Mason posted a 2.53 goals against average and had a .913 save percentage. In 45 games for Montreal last season, Jaroslav Halak had a 2.40 GAA and a .924 save percentage.
Look, I'll be the first to say Halak is an upgrade over Mason. Halak is younger by almost a decade (25 to 34) and has way more upside. He is not, however, the greatest goalie of all time.
Halak is going to give up goals. That's a fact. Is he better than Mason? Sure. But the numbers last season are so similar that basically, the Blues are going to have pretty much the same dude in goal this season. Last season, the Blues allowed 218 goals (the same number they scored). That was tenth-best in the league.
Goaltending was not the problem last year, Mason was just on the decline. So the Blues needed an upgrade, and Halak is that goalie. But he's not light-years better. He will help out, but he won't make the Blues the best in the league.
3. The Western Conference is stacked.
To get into the playoffs, the Blues would have to pass one of the eight teams that made the playoffs last year and survive one of the seven teams out of the race.
Chicago got worse, but not out-of-the-playoffs worse. San Jose is going to be in. Detroit is old, but not that bad... yet. Vancouver is in.
Of the 15 teams in the West, only Edmonton is a sure-fire bad team. The other 14 teams are legitimately good. Did the Blues really get better than the eight teams that were already in the playoffs? What about the teams like the Flames and Ducks, who are on the outside looking in but not bad teams?
The Blues simply didn't make enough improvements to leap into the top eight.