One of the model franchises across the NHL, the St. Louis Blues qualified for the postseason for the fourth straight season and the ninth time in the last ten years in 2021. The team rallied down the stretch after battling COVID-19 outbreaks and injuries during the second half. This led them to finish with 49 wins and 109 points, the ninth-highest total in the league. Ultimately meeting up with their bitter divisional rival in the Minnesota Wild during the opening round of the playoffs, the group charged back after falling behind 2-1 in the series. They won three games in a row to advance on. Squaring off with the Colorado Avalanche, Craig Berube‘s team would, in the end, come up short after being dispatched in six games.
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Power Play: 26.97% (2nd)
Penalty Kill: 84.09% (5th)
Goals For: 309 (3rd)
Goals Against: 239 (22nd)
Vladimir Tarasenko was able to bounce back after missing nearly all of last season with a shoulder injury. Once again, one of the game’s elite goal scorers, the former first-round pick, led the Blues in both goals (34) and points (82). A mainstay on the team’s power play, the Yaroslavl, Russia native, amassed 17 helpers with the extra man. Along with this, he also recorded a 14.8 percent shooting rate, his highest total in eight seasons. Playing on a line alongside Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich, the 30-year-old averaged nearly 17 minutes of ice time per night. Choosing not to rescind his trade request after asking to be moved last summer, he has one year remaining on his deal with a $7.5 million cap hit.
Playing in the first season of his six-year $36 million extension, Jordan Binnington struggled mightily for St. Louis during the regular season. The 28-year-old recorded career lows in save percentage (.901) and goals-against average (3.13). Furthermore, he racked up a -6.4 goals save above average and a .431 quality start percentage. Replaced by backup Ville Husso in early February, he allowed 18 goals in a three-game stretch against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, and the New Jersey Devils. Finishing the season with an 18-14-4 record across 37 starts, the Richmond Hill, Ontario native was able to take back the net in the postseason. He was fantastic for the Blues during his six starts. However, his playoff run was ultimately cut short after suffering a lower-body injury.
Behind the Bench Analysis
Remaining one of the game’s brightest minds behind the bench, Berube was able to lead the Blues to the postseason for the fourth time. The team recorded its highest win total during his tenure behind the bench. Bringing accountability and organization to the franchise, the 56-year-old saw the group become one of the best offensive clubs in the game. Apart from this, he also switched to Husso at the midway point in the year when Binnington was struggling. Lauded for his ability to connect with each and every player up and down the lineup, the former undrafted free agent also saw both Thomas and Jordan Kyrou blossom into stars, with each player surpassing the 20-goal mark.
Front Office Analysis
Currently, the second longest-tenured general manager in the NHL behind David Poile, Doug Armstrong made multiple key moves to try and get his team back to the Stanley Cup Finals in the loaded Western Conference. Most importantly, he acquired Buchnevich from the New York Rangers for Sammy Blais and a second-round pick. Struggling to carve out a role in New York in his first year with the Blues, Buchnevich would go on to eclipse the 30-goal and 70-point marks for the first time in his career. Furthermore, he also filled two significant needs by singing veteran Brandon Saad to play inside the top six. Also, Armstrong veteran defenseman Nick Leddy as a left-shot defenseman at the deadline to play alongside Colton Parayko on St. Louis’ top pairing.
2022 NHL Entry Draft
St. Louis is slated to make five picks during the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. They own the 23rd pick in the opening round due to their loss to the Avalanche in the postseason. Without their second-round choice, the franchise shipped it to the Rangers in the trade that brought in Buchnevich. The Blues also dealt their seventh-round choice to the Montreal Canadiens for two picks in the 2020 Draft. With the status of Tarasenko still up in the air, veteran winger David Perron is also scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency on July 13th. This means the team could look to add scoring on the wing. Lastly, the organization could also look to bolster its blue line with size.
The Blues have multiple items on their offseason to-do list. The first thing the team needs to address is their goaltending situation. Set to hit the open market after outplaying Binnington for a large chunk of the season, Husso is likely to command a significant raise. Secondly, the franchise will also look to upgrade on the back end. Lacking depth behind Torey Krug, Justin Faulk, and Parayko, neither Leddy nor Marco Scandella appear to be viable long-term options. This means St. Louis can look to explore the trade or free agency market, with names like Ben Chiarot and Josh Manson available. Lastly, the organization could also look to lock up some of its core pieces for the long term as they have multiple expiring contracts over the next few seasons.
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