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Season Preview

Wes Goldstein's Take

The youth movement will be in full view this season in St. Louis, by necessity as much as by design. The Blues management team makes no bones about the fact it is in rebuilding/development mode, which is why it stayed relatively quiet for the summer. Still there was an interesting episode the Blues were involved with after the Canucks made an offer sheet to restricted free agent David Backes. St. Louis matched and then returned the favor by trying the same method to poach Steve Bernier, to no avail. The biggest move was trading for goalie Chris Mason, who will likely play a backup role and drafting a highly-rated defenseman named Alex Pietrangelo, who shold crack the lineup now that Erik Johnson is gone for the season. But for the most part, the St. Louis brain trust has been preaching patience, which is a good thing because fans will need a lot of it this season watching this team play.

The goaltending tandem of Mason and starter Manny Legace is solid, and even without Johnsnon, the Blues have a pretty good back end with Eric Brewer, Barrett Jackman and Jay McKee. Barring injuries, this group should help the Blues improve on its 21s ranking in overall defense last season. Center Andy McDonald, who came in a mid-season trade, gives St. Louis speed and a solid play maker for Brad Boyes who had a breakthrough season with 43 goals, and veteran Keith Tkachuk's 27 markers showed he still has some life in him.

The overall offense was atrocious and the power play even worse, finishing with the worst success rate in the league. And what is troubling for the Blues, who had one of the best penalty killers is the fact that they'll be missing two of the best members of the unit with Jamal Mayers now in Toronto and Johnson gone for the year. St. Louis isn't really sure what to expect from Paul Kariya either, despite giving him a big free agent deal last summer. He started off strong, but disappeared in the second half, about the same time the rest of the team did.

Obvious questions marks about how several recent high draft picks like T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and Pietrangelo, who should find places in the lineup will adapt to the NHL.

Burning Question

Are they moving in the right direction? Ownership is trying to sell patience to the long-suffering fans in St. Louis, which is about the only thing it can do with a team that is young and nowhere near ready to compete. The Blues finished 27th overall and near the bottom in all key statistical categories, which might not be necessarily surprising from a team that is trying to develop players at the NHL level, but disappointing nevertheless since St. Louis had a very good start to the season.

On the Hot Seat
Paul Kariya, LW
Kariya didn't earn his keep and in a budget conscious environment like St. Louis, that doesn't work.
Save the Date
Jan. 9 at Vancouver
Bad blood between these two organizations could spark more press box fireworks between GMs than Brian Burke and Kevin Lowe.
View From the Stands
Charge says:
"Let's face it, the biggest weakness of the Blues has been the defense, especially moving the puck across the blue line and generating offense. EJ and Pietrangelo and hopefully a healthy Brewer upgrade this unit more than any free agent pick up could do and getting back the veteran King and a healthy Jackman makes this unit move from a weakness to a strength."
Join the discussion!
Erik Johnson returns to the Blues lineup after missing all of 2008-09 due to a freak knee injury. (Getty Images)
2008-09 in Review
Record: 41-31-10 for 92 points
Finish: 6th in West, 3rd in Central; Lost Conf. Quarterfinals
Goals/Game: 2.77 (19th) Goals Against/Game: 2.77 (12th)
Power Play: 20.5% (8th) Penalty Kill: 83.8% (3rd)
Fantasy Projections
LWPaul Kariya82204363-654
CBrad Boyes82313061230
CAndy McDonald82213657-1060
CKeith Tkachuk73253055488
RWLee Stempniak80202343244
34Manny Legace292122.43.9075
50Chris Mason9612.53.9152
Complete Fantasy Projections
Generation Next
Alex Pietrangelo, D, 19
Pietrangelo had the skills and maturity to start the season with the Blues last year. He suffered a head injury in mid-October and St. Louis ultimately decided against rushing the 18-year-old. The physical puck mover split his season among Niagara, Team Canada and Peoria. Expect Pietrangelo to stick in St. Louis this time around. Niagara (OHL) - 36GP-8G-21A-29PTS
In the System
No. Player, Pos., Age 2008-09 Team, Stats
1 Lars Eller, C, 20 Frolunda (SWE); 48GP-12G-17A-29PTS
2 Ian Cole, D, 20 Notre Dame (CCHA); 38GP-6G-20A-26PTS
3 Ben Bishop, G, 22 Peoria (AHL); 2.81GAA-.897SV%
Expert Picks
No. Goldstein Brown Devonport Hurcomb Cercel
Complete expert picks
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