ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – On October 4 (two months from today) the St. Louis Blues will open the NHL 2017-18 regular season against the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
St. Louis has a new coaching staff, new top center, freshly paid defenseman and has made some other – hopefully key – offseason trades and acquisitions. KMOX’s Alex Ferrario put together the top fives moves the Blues have made this offseason:
1.) Trade for Brayden Schenn
Trading for a player who has never passed 30 goals may not seem like the best move a team could do in the offseason, but for the Blues it definitely was.
The fan base was begging to get a No. 1 center and Schenn may not look like a Sidney Crosby but he creates a dynamic the Blues have that many teams do not, a solid threat down the middle. Schenn, along with Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund, and Kyle Brodziak, provides strength, skill, and size down the middle of the lineup for the Blues. And when matched up with other team’s, the Blues come out looking pretty sweet.
Ridding themselves the impatience of waiting for Jori Lehtera to live up to his contract is a huge burden off the coaches’ shoulders. And Schenn, a power play specialist and former No. 5 overall pick, provides the Blues with a 1A Center that could up his 59 & 55 points from the last two season to more ice time and a look into the 70s point range.
Something the Blues have been dying to have since Pierre Turgeon.
2.) Extending Colton Parayko
It’s easy to understand why this is such a big move for the Blues this offseason. Locking up one of their best young defenseman, who still hasn’t hit his prime, for five more seasons creates a core piece for the team moving forward.
Doug Armstrong mentioned Alex Pietrangelo & Parayko as “pillars” to the Blues defensive group and that’s exactly what Colton is. The 24-year-old has the size, speed, reach, and a booming shot that all but spells All-Star.
He is only going to get better as he continues to grow. Also, avoiding a bridge contract or free agency, where teams would throw ridiculous amounts of money at him, benefits the organization moving forward.
3.) New Coaching Staff
This is something that many are excited about for the upcoming season. Not only do you have a full year of head coach Mike Yeo (full offseason and training camp). But you have a staff that he handpicked for the upcoming season and a staff that compliments his game and this team quite well.
First, there’s Craig Berube, the former NHL player, head coach and the man who flourished last year with the Blues prospects in Chicago, dominating the AHL regular season.
Darryl Sydor, the former NHL D-man & Stanley Cup Champion. He worked with Yeo in Minnesota and is familiar with the Blues players and prospects from Chicago last year as well.
Everyone’s favorite smack-talker, Steve Ott, one of the most liked guys in the locker room during his playing days in St. Louis. Compare his presence in the locker room to when Kirk Muller was in St. Louis. Goalie coach David Alexander, who has worked personally with Jake Allen in the past. And Barrett Jackman, who is working with the prospects in the organization’s system.
The team has put together a group of guys that create a mix of experience, knowledge, toughness, and connection with the players that could set this team over any hump in the Western Conference.
4.) Naming AHL Affiliate for Next Year
This may not affect the team this season, but it creates an element that the team has not had in a while, starting in the 2018-19 season. Announced this week, next season the Blues will have the San Antonio Rampage as the minor league affiliate.
This will be tremendously beneficial for their prospects to grow faster than years past. Sharing an affiliation with another team (i.e. Vegas Golden Knight sharing the Chicago Wolves) is great but you’re splitting playing time with other team’s prospects and they call the shots.
Now, you have a team where your organization hires the coaches and the playing time is for all of YOUR prospects. Look at an organization like Detroit, Chicago, or even Pittsburgh, all players flourished and grew from within. A solid affiliation creates more chances and faster turnaround.
5.) Re-signing Magnus Paajarvi
This one could be a minor depth move or it could be a big “under the radar” signing for the upcoming season.
No question he had a HUGE season last year, compared to what he had in his past with the Blues & Edmonton Oilers. Four goals and three assists in 13 February games last year created a steady spot in the line-up.
Out of training camp he was sent to Chicago and worked on his game and confidence with Berube (now an assistant coach on Yeo’s staff). That could create a different player for the upcoming season and a steady third-line winger for this team’s offense.
Compare it to Viktor Arvidsson of the Nashville Predators, 16 points in 56 games in 2015-16. Last year, he scores 31 goals and contributes 61 points – he was a 4th round draft pick. Could the No. 10 overall pick from 2009 do something similar for the Blues this year?