If there is one team the Detroit Red Wings need to be looking out for in the rear view mirror, it’s the St. Louis Blues, and this year, the Blues are much closer than they appear. No, the Blues won’t contend for a Cup (at least not for a couple more years) but for the time being, they have a real shot at making life hard for the Red Wings in a very weak Central Division.
Everybody’s been down on the Blues since they finished 30th. But with the players the Blues had, they weren’t a 30th place team, which is why the last place season was so frustrating for Blues fans. Certainly, after losing Pronger and Demitra and the meltdown of Patrick Lalime, they weren’t the same team they were, but they still had no excuse to finish dead last. Yes, Tkachuk and Weight are past their prime, but please, they’re not geriatric. (Of course, they way they played you wouldn’t know…)
Andy Murray has turned things around, and even before signing Kariya, the Blues were a dark horse team that could quietly contend for a playoff spot. Sure, we’ve all heard about Lee Stempniak because of the Kevin Lowe RFA rampage, but the Blues are also packing a lot of young talent like David Backes and number one pick Erik Johnson. Look for Brad Boyes to have a good season, especially if he finds himself on the first line with Kariya and Tkachuk. Boyes had an excellent second half under Andy Murray, and even though I liked Wideman, I think JD made the right move to get Boyes. Kariya, Tkachuk, and Weight can still put up solid enough numbers that the Blues should make the playoffs. Could they be a contender? Probably not yet. But could they make the playoffs? Probably, which is quite a turnaround from the Blues’ terrible record.
Still don’t think the Blues are serious? As Adam Proteau pointed out in the Hockey News, the Blues are in the Central. Although they are a good team, Detroit is not the powerhouse they used to be. They are a beatable team, and if Calgary would have had an ounce of discipline, Detroit would have had the better tee times last year. Nashville lost a lot of players, and even after reading some blogs claiming the Preds can still be good, I have my doubts about them. Even if the Preds are any good, I’m not sure they are much better than the Blues. And, as usual, the Hawks and Jackets haven’t done much to improve—which is unfortunate, because I yearn for the return of the Blues killer rivalry with the Hawks, and it’s hard to hate a team that is outright terrible.
So by way of a weak division, and a talented, young roster, the Blues will make some noise. Nobody may be listening yet, but you heard it here first. I can’t wait to drop the puck this season.