If you’ve been paying attention to Gone Puck Wild lately, and shame on you if you haven’t, then you know school has begun as Wild fans brush up on their knowledge of the new teams within Minnesota’s division. This week, that new team just so happens to be the St. Louis Blues. Going through Sunday, we’ll break down the Blues’ major additions and subtractions, strengths and weaknesses, prospect pool, 2013 draft class and team outlook.
We’ve officially hit September, meaning we’re slowly getting down to the wire. A week from Wednesday starts training camp, and the preseason starts the week after that. But until our “Meet the Minnesota Wild” segment hits the first week of preseason, we still have two new Central Division teams to cover, including this week’s St. Louis Blues.
Aside from Chicago, St. Louis is very likely the next immediate threat to Minnesota from within the Central. The Blues aren’t a team that are going to blow you away offensively, but they have a good forward corps, even better defensive corps and a goaltending tandem that, when on their game, is without question the best in the league. You might describe them as a more offensive Nashville Predators squad. Oh, yeah–they also have one of the greatest coaching minds in the game in Ken Hitchcock as their bench boss.
After falling to the (at the time) defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings in Round One of the playoffs, St. Louis decided to add some depth, grit and talent to the forward corps. With that in mind, the Blues signed centers Derek Roy, Keith Aucoin, Alexandre Bolduc and Maxim Lapierre, and traded David Perron to the Oilers for Swedish left wing Magnus Paajarvi.
Paajarvi, the 10th pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, was touted as a future offensive stud, but failed to live up to that potential in three tumultuous seasons in Edmonton. He’s in serious need of a fresh start, and the Blues are more than happy to give him that on the left side of whoever’s pivoting the second forward line.
That pivot could very well be Roy, who will likely be St. Louis’ second or third line center. In six seasons with the Sabres, Roy had no issues putting up around 60 points annually. However, he struggled in Dallas and Vancouver last season, and St. Louis is hoping he can get back to his Buffalo era numbers after signing him to a low-risk one-year deal.
As for the others–Aucoin, Bolduc and Lapierre–their signings help shore up the bottom two lines and add to the overall depth of the organization. For the first time in a long time, there will very likely be no room for entry level prospects to jump in and claim a spot this season. There will be room for returning youngsters like Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko–who’s practically the new face of the franchise–but little else.
On the back end, St. Louis will get a full season of defense featuring Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold all in the top-4. Then there’s the goaltending tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot, and franchise goalie in waiting, Jake Allen.
St. Louis’ additions round out a team that looks to make a serious impact in the rebranded Central Division this season. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at who the team lost this offseason.