St. Louis Blues, 2009-10
Goals For: 225 18th
Goals Against: 223 13th
GVT: 2 15th
Points: 90 16th
VUKOTA Projection for 2010-11
Goals For: 224 23rd
Goals Against: 226 7th
GVT: -2 15th
Points: 90 15th
The last seven seasons have seen the St. Louis Blues exit the first round of the playoffs on three occasions
and miss the postseason entirely the other four times. And it's about to be five. After a superb 20-12-5 (.608) start to 2010-11leading the Central Division for a timeSt. Louis has gone a highly disappointing 11-16-4 (.419), leaving them all but dead and buried. Yes, they've won three straight contests, but their chances of making the playoffs sit around 1%.
Recently-departed blueliners Erik Johnson and Eric Brewer would have placed in a few of the "secondary stats" below: Johnson with 6.6 Shots/60 and 0.9 Takeaways/giveaway and Brewer with 4.0 Shots/60, 3.6 Hits/60, 4.7 Blocked Shots/60 and 0.7 Takeaways/giveaway. Forward Brad Boyes would have shown up as well, with 8.6 Shots/60. The Blues don't appear too solid by faceoffs, but keep in mind that Vladimir Sobotka 54.3% and Andy McDonald 53.9% were excellent in limited usage (less than 500 faceoffs).
Blues top forwards, by 2009-10 stats
Shots/60: Chris Stewart 10.3*, Alexander Steen 10.3, Patrik Berglund 8.1
Hits/60: Cam Janssen 21.7, Brad Winchester 14.8, Vladimir Sobotka 12.1*
Blocked shots/60: T.J. Oshie 2.8, David Backes 2.5, Jay McClement 2.3
Takeaways/giveaway: T.J. Oshie 2.4, Matt D'Agostini 2.3, Cam Janssen 2.0
Faceoffs: Jay McClement 49.6%, David Backes 47.3%
Blues top defensemen, by 2009-10 stats
Shots/60: Carlo Colaiacovo 3.8, Barret Jackman 2.9, Roman Polak 2.8
Hits/60: Roman Polak 5.3, Barret Jackman 2.8, Carlo Colaiacovo 2.7
Blocked shots/60: Mike Weaver 5.8, Roman Polak 4.8, Barret Jackman 4.3
Takeaways/giveaway: Mike Weaver 1.6, Roman Polak 0.8, Barret Jackman 0.6
Minimum 40 games played
Blues goaltenders, 2009-10 and 2010-11 stats
Through two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Canadiens' Jaroslav Halak was making a case for being the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Alas, Montreal's run ended too quickly for the 25-year-old Slovakian netminder to have a chance at being playoff MVP. Given that kind of talent, and only at the cost of Lars Eller, it seemed like St. Louis had been a big winner in the offseason's Halak derby. Alas, it's Montreal, with Carey Price, who's got one of the top five goaltenders of 2010-11.
Overall save percentage .924 / .908
Even strength save percentage: .933 / .913
Power play save percentage: .892 / .874
Shorthanded save percentage: .838 / .955
Overall save percentage .921 / .899
Even strength save percentage: .918 / .900
Power play save percentage: .937 / .880
Shorthanded save percentage: .889 / 1.000
Overall save percentage N/A / .881
Even strength save percentage: N/A / .892
Power play save percentage: N/A / .814
Shorthanded save percentage: N/A / 1.000
2009-10 statistics / 2010-11 statistics shown above
In dealing Brad Boyes to Buffalo, one thing that St. Louis lost was a superior shootout performer (46.2% career in 52 attempts). The Blues still have several promising shooters, but with still relatively small samples to look at, we're not sure if they'll be quite as good as the stats show right now. Between the pipes, Halak's been an above-average netminder in extra frames, while backup Ty Conklin's been very poor.
Best options, shooters with 10 or more career attempts
T.J. Oshie: 57.9% (11 for 19)
Alexander Steen: 41.7% (5 for 12)
Chris Stewart: 36.4% (4 for 11)
Andy McDonald: 35.0% (14 for 40)
Best options, shooters with a limited track record
Matt D'Agostini: 20.0% (1 for 5)
Jaroslav Halak: .723 career (47 for 65), .762 in 2009-10, .692 in 2010-11
Ty Conklin: .500 career (26 for 52), .500 in 2009-10, .500 in 2010-11
Ben Bishop: .500 career (4 for 8), .143 in 2009-10, .143 in 2010-11
THE BIG QUESTIONS FACING THE BLUES
The quotes below are from the Blues 5-2 loss against the Islanders on March 5.
Big Question #1: What happened to the Blues, who started off the season quick for a change?
David Backes: "Everything [is going wrong]. From guy one to guy twenty, from effort to execution to will. It's not very enjoyable to be here every day. I'm personally getting sick of it, and we've got plenty of things to change. The one thing is the effort and the commitment to our game plan that we can control. At least if things don't go well from that, we can probably live with it. But there's not 20 guys buying in and not 20 guys laying it on the line for each other. When you get in a track race with Michael Grabner, you're going to end up looking at the wrong end of a three goal deficit."
Head coach Davis Payne: "We've got to play a disciplined, structured game. We have to be on the right side of the puck. We have to have a game that includes pace and close puck support. I thought our support was decent at times, but very late in getting there tonight. And we need to be a team that grinds on other teams in the offensive zone. We did a very poor job of that tonight."
VUKOTA says: Heading into the 2010-11, St. Louis looked like a league-average team, yet again (15th in GVT).
Timo says: The Blues rank average to below average in just about every major team statistic: 15th in GF (2.74), 21st in GA (2.90), 22nd in even strength GF/GA (0.91), 14th in PP% (17.7%), 19th in PK% (81.3%) and 20th in SF (29.6). Only in SA (28.1) are they exceptional, ranking third in the NHL. Somehow, it would seem more promising if there were distinct strengths to build on and distinct weaknesses to fix.
Answer: What you see is what you get. St. Louis has some solid pieces, but no one should have mistaken this team for a contender regardless of a quick start.
Big Question #2: Did the trades help or hurt the team?
Head coach Davis Payne (on rookie defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk): "Skilled puck-mover, good reader of the play, can create with possession, can join rushes. He's an intelligent player, very good on the power play as far as making reads and creating things. His feet are putting him in positions to defend, and defend well against top-end players. We feel that's a great starting point for him."
Head coach Davis Payne (on sophomore power forward Chris Stewart): "He needs to be a physical presence. He needs to be a guy that plays the power game. He needs to be a guy that plays with the edge and plays in the tough areas of the ice. Obviously, a guy who can finish some plays and play around the net front, score in a number of different ways. He needs to do more of that."
Timo says: Unlike most of my colleagues, yet like most of the St. Louis media that covers them, I supported the moves of GM Doug Armstrong to "shuffle the deck". Think what you will about the Boyes movethe Blues didn't need him this season as they were already out of the playoff picturegetting burgeoning power forward Chris Stewart was a big move toward increasing the ceiling of their talent.
Answer: The addition of Chris Stewart undoubtedly helped to improve the Blues for the future. Doug Armstrong has $4 million to work with for next season to replace Brad Boyes with equivalent talent even if you didn't like that move.
Big Question #3: Do the Blues have a foundation of a contender? How can St. Louis take the next step or two toward contention?
Head coach Davis Payne: "We believe we do, but it's a matter of the right players moving forward with the right kind of effort
David Backes: "We've definitely got pieces here. Obviously, we haven't passed any tests as a group since the trades have been made
I guess there's 17 more games to evaluate how much of a turnover needs to happen this summer."
Hockey Prospectus 2010-11 says: As of last summer, the Blues had three of the Top 50 NHL Prospects, #3 D Alex Pietrangelo (now an NHL regular), #13 RW Vladimir Tarasenko and #44 C Jaden Schwartz.
Timo says: St. Louis has scouted and drafted well over the yearslargely thanks to the now-departed Jarmo Kekalainenhelping them develop one of the best farm systems in the NHL. What they need now is for some of those talented youngsters to reach their ceilings and/or for the ownership/new ownership to spend wisely on a star player or two
and I don't mean old guys on their last legs like what they did with Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya.
Answer: St. Louis has the foundation of a contender. The question is: will they ever spend to build a house on that foundation?
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Timo by clicking here or click here to see Timo's other articles.