By Ben Greenberger
The St. Louis Blues are coming off one of the most storied seasons in recent memory, not just in hockey, but sports as a whole. Going from last place in the league to Stanley Cup Champions in a matter of months is nothing short of incredible. Blues fans will remember last season forever, and the euphoria will carry over for years to come. The team could miss the playoffs for the next three years and fans would still have this season to look back on and feel accomplished. The fact remains, however, that the Blues still have the talent to make another deep run, and this team’s window of success is still very wide open.
Last offseason, the Blues made arguably the most impactful moves in the entire league. In just one day, they made a blockbuster trade, signed a top level center, signed a former Blue to another stint and inked a backup goalie to a one-year deal. The message was clear: the Blues were buying in to win, and they did just that. This offseason, they essentially did the opposite. They made no big moves, made no significant trades and kept the front office and coaching staff constant. The message this time around was that this group of players has proven that they can win at the highest level, and there is no reason to alter what worked.
The success or failure of this season will be determined by a group effort by the team, but there is no doubt that certain players will play a major role. The three that stand out are Colton Parayko, Vladimir Tarasenko and, of course, Jordan Binnington. These men encompass the three aspects of hockey: offense, defense and goaltending. All three aspects clicked down the stretch for St. Louis, and with the same core players, there is no reason they can’t agin.
Parayko solidified himself as a top-level NHL defensemen last season. He recorded a +20 plus/minus, had a career high in goals and stepped up in the playoffs to consistently shut down the opposition’s top line. He has shown improvement every year he’s been in the league, and there’s no reason to believe that can’t continue. The Blues rely heavily on defense to win games and Parayko, when he is on his game, will contribute to that in a big way.
On the offensive side, the Blues often live and die with Vlad Tarasenko. The “Russian Sniper” possesses one of the most lethal wrist shots in the league and has been the Blues’ leading goal-scorer for the past five seasons. The ability has always been there, it just comes down to consistency. Vlad has proven to be a very streaky scorer. It isn’t out of the ordinary for him to go on a five-game tear, netting five or six goals and several assists, just to turn around and go scoreless for four games. If Vlad can put it all together and maintain his scoring prowess, this offense looks to be dangerous.
Lastly, and most importantly, is Jordan Binnington. He is the reason the Blues were able to turn their season around, the reason then even found themselves contending and the reason they are defending Stanley Cup Champions. Binnington brought a level of consistency and reliability to the goaltender position that St. Louis had been greatly lacking for years. It became incredible how well St. Louis played when they had a steady goaltender between the pipes. If Binnington can return to his high level of play, the Blues will find themselves as not only a playoff team, but contenders for another Cup.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org