The goaltending lacked consistency, to put it mildly. Jaroslav Halak proved unable to stay healthy, which seems to happen every season. Halak is the best goalie on the roster, but when he went down, Brian Elliot seemed to collapse under pressure, providing an opportunity for rookie Jake Allen to step up and play some games. Allen played so well that when Halak finally did get back into the line-up, Hitchcock started the rookie over both Halak and Elliot. Then suddenly late in the season, Elliot found his mojo again and put together an impressive shutout streak. It's impossible to predict what will happen between the pipes for this team next season, but they have 3 good guys to choose from, all of them on very team friendly contracts.
Looking at this roster, the first word that comes to mind is balance. They have a very strong defense and a very talented and physical group of forwards. Chris Stewart led the team in scoring with 36 PTS in 48 GP, and the team had 12 players who recorded at least 19 PTS in the shortened season. Vladimir Tarasenko was the most exciting player early in the season until a concussion derailed his impressive rookie campaign. They have substantial scoring depth, even if they lack an elite offensive producer. The Jay Bouwmeester contract is no longer the albatross it once was, given that it is expiring after next season. However, it does complicate the re-signing of Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk, two guys who are going to want big pay raises in the summer.
Preseason Rank: 4
Midseason Rank: 12
Final Rank: 9
GM Grade: A
1st Star: David Backes
2nd Star: Chris Stewart
3rd Star: Alex Pietrangelo
UFAs: Andy McDonald, Jamie Langenbrunner, Scott Nichol, Andrew Murray, Jordan Leopold, Jeff Woywitka, Taylor Chorney
RFAs: Alex Pietrangelo, Chris Stewart, Kris Russell, Ian Cole, Kevin Shattenkirk, Patrick Berglund, Evgeny Grachev,
Best Contract: David Backes 3 more years at $4.5M
Worst Contract: Jay Bouwmeester 1 more year at $6.6M
What I said about them in preseason: Will the Blues get better or worse in their second season under Hitchcock? Most teams experience diminishing marginal returns under Hitchcock, but this team is very young and might buy the Hitchcock agenda for a few more years. Smart money says they are going to be really good again.
This General Manager will have a challenging offseason with several important names becoming free agents. Andy MacDonald has chosen to retire due to concussion concerns, but it is not the UFAs this team needs to be concerned about. Alex Pietrangelo is going to get paid. If St.Louis decides to play it tough in negotiations, Pietrangelo would be advised to seek an offer sheet because there are several teams who would undoubtedly kill to get him. The Blues will continue to be a top team in the NHL next season, which they should be for several years to come. If they had not had the misfortune of drawing LA in the first round, they should have won at least one playoff series. Next year could be the year.