Alex Ferrario, KMOX Sports
Now that the disappointing loss has started to loosen its grip on Blues fans, we now look ahead to the 2016-17 season. We already know that Ken Hitchcock will be back behind the bench, we know some of the significant core players will be returning (ie. Tarasenko, Pietrangelo, Fabbri, Parayko, Allen). What we don’t know is what makes this off season so interesting for this team. Can they respond the right way? Here are my top needs for this Blues team to take the next step.
1.) BRING BACK BROUWER
The reason you see Brouwer’s name on this list and not Backes’ is not because Troy is better, it’s the business that goes into the game. Backes had a HUGE playoff run for this team and proved that he is worth a raise from what the Blues were paying him. Backes was an extraordinary captain for this team and if he could be brought back, the team should jump at that. The only way that will happen though is a financial readjustment. Backes will command a lot more money on the free agent market and the younger Troy Brouwer would be a bit cheaper. Brouwer looked strong for the Blues in the playoffs and was a significant voice in the locker room. Brouwer will benefit this leadership group and continue to add that spark offensively as well.
2.) BRING IN POSITIVE ASSISTANT COACHES
I think one of the biggest losses this offseason wasn’t a player, it was Kirk Muller. Kirk was no doubt one of the favorites in the locker room among the players. He was able to ease the mood among the players in stressful scenarios, explain things clearer than Hitchcock, and was a key point to the successful powerplay. Muller also was instrumental in Robby Fabbri’s growth this season. It will be hard for the Blues to find someone that was that favored in the locker room and by the coaching staff. Don’t overlook the loss of Brad Shaw who has a huge key to Parayko’s growth and the penalty kill. Armstrong will have to work his magic to find someone who will be a player favorite, a strong coach, and a possible successor for Hitch.
3.) LOCK SCHWARTZ UP
This isn’t higher up b/c the Blues have him under control as a RFA (Restricted Free Agent). You do need to lock Schwartz up long-term this season so you can have an idea of what your salary cap looks like, but if you don’t get him another bridge deal could be on the horizon and then have to go through this again next year. Remember, Schwartz held out two years ago for a contract raise and he got it. Could we see that again? I’ll repeat, you NEED to lock him up this off season long-term.
4.) MOVE SALARY CAP
I’m not sure where this is going to come from. Many are hoping Bouwmeester played his last game for the team in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. That contract is tough to move on top of his NTC (No Trade Clause). The other options that have been rumored are Shattenkirk (don’t like it) and Brian Elliott (Stock is Extremely High). Whoever you decide to move, you need to bring back something beneficial and move significant money. Moving that money can assist not only in locking up the young talent but also bringing in some secondary offense.
5.) BUILD THE YOUTH
The young players on this roster NEED to contribute this season. Players like Rattie, Lindbohm, Jaskin are doing nothing for the minor league system and it’s doing nothing for their career. These guys either need to find a spot on the roster or move on and bring in help. Depth is the key to going deep in the playoffs and if you don’t’ feel comfortable bringing these guys up when needed, then why have them? Rattie should have been an option in the playoffs but I’m not sure the Blues were confident in his ability. This shows that the youth in the minors needs to grow and become a player for the Blues this season