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30 Teams in 30 Days: St. Louis Blues

Jamie Bell, TSN.ca Staff

9/21/2010 11:42:19 AM

Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the St. Louis Blues are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Blues!

St. Louis Blues
2009-10: 40-32-10 (9th in West, missed the playoffs)
General Manager: Doug Armstrong (1st Season)
Head Coach: Davis Payne (2nd Season)

What they did in the off-season:

The team appeared to be on the right track after Davis Payne replaced Andy Murray behind the bench on an interim basis in January, so Blues management decided to remove the interim tag from Payne's title giving the team the advantage of continuity going into the season.
After 18 seasons, Keith Tkachuk decided the time was right to hang up the blades.  The next stop for the veteran warrior is likely the Hall of Fame.
General manager Doug Armstrong got down to business quickly, first by acquiring TJ Hensick from the Avalanche, then shocking the hockey world by snatching playoff hero Jaroslav Halak from the Montreal Canadiens for a pair of prospects.
The deals continued at the NHL Entry Draft as defensive prospect David Runblad was exchanged for a first round pick that the Blues used to select Russian sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.  They also drafted Jaden Schwartz with their own first round selection.  Not done there, Armstrong sent David Warsofsky to Boston for Vladimir Sobotka and then took care of some housekeeping by re-signing Alex Steen, Carlo Colaiacovo, David Perron, Cam Janssen and perhaps most importantly Erik Johnson.  The Blues finished off their rebuild by shipping little used tough-guy DJ King to Washington for Canadian Junior hero Stefan Della Rovere.  The Blues summer ended on a bit of a sour note when Paul Kariya announced that he would not be playing this season as he continues to deal with post-concussion syndrome.  If this is in fact the end of the road for Kariya it is an unfortunate way to end such an illustrious career.

Biggest issue facing the team:

After a successful season two years ago, the Blue regressed in a big way last season as many of their young forwards who they were counting on for offense struggled.  David Backes went from 31 goals in 2008-09 to just 17 in 09-10 while one time 43 goal scorer Brad Boyes saw his goal totals fall for the second straight season to a meager 14 goal output last year despite playing in all 82 games.  The question now is this: was last year's output an aberration, or was the success achieved in the past by these players just a blip on the radar and last year's totals are more indicative of what to expect in the future?
A full year of Payne at the helm should help, as will the increased maturity of Steen, TJ Oshie, Patrik Berglund and a young defense corps that seems prepared to come into their own this season.  Pair that with the calming influence of the newly acquired Halak between the pipes and a return to playoff hockey in the 'Gateway City' is a distinct possibility.

Player to watch:

There may not be a player more under the microscope this season than Jaroslav Halak.  After a phenomenal playoff run with the Canadiens, Halak became a sensation in La Belle Province with comparisons to the likes of Dryden and Roy being thrown around in some circles.  When he was shockingly dealt to St. Louis in June it caused outrage amongst many Canadiens fans who wondered how management could deal away a player who almost singlehandedly carried them to the Conference Finals.  Canadiens brass obviously felt like Carey Price was the pony to bet on in the Habs goaltending race, allowing the Blues to happily snap up the 25-year old netminder.
Although goaltending was far from the Blues biggest problem last season, the team feels that Halak gives them a legitimate number one option in net that will allow them to compete every single night and an upgrade over the steady but unspectacular Chris Mason.  While some believe Halak may well be a one-hit wonder, the Blues are banking on the fact that Halak's impressive runs at both the Olympics and the NHL post-season are legitimate.  They put their money where their mouths were by signing the Slovak to a four-year deal.  He will be under immense pressure this season to justify both his paycheck, and his status as one of the league's elite netminders.  Halak has made it a habit of proving naysayers wrong; so don't be against him doing it yet again.