With the NHL season now just a month away, it’s time to look at what each team has done this summer and what to watch for in the year to come. Today, we focus on the St. Louis Blues.
Last Season: 46-29-7 record (99 points), third in Central Division (lost in the second round to Nashville)
Remaining Cap Space: $2.43MM per CapFriendly
Key Departures: F Jori Lehtera (trade, Philadelphia), F David Perron (expansion draft, Vegas), F Scottie Upshall (free agency, Vancouver), F Ryan Reaves (trade, Pittsburgh), F Nail Yakupov (free agency, Colorado)
[Related: Maple Leafs Depth Chart From Roster Resource]
Player To Watch: F Robby Fabbri – With respect to Colton Parayko and his expected ascension to the elite level of NHL defender, Fabbri may have even more impact on the success of the Blues this season. After a rookie season in 2015-16 when he showed off his offensive upside with 18 goals and 37 points, Fabbri was well on his way to eclipsing that total when he suffered a torn ACL and would be out for the rest of the season. With 29 points in his first 51 games, he amazingly still finished in the team’s top-10 in scoring and should push higher than that this year.
An established presence on the powerplay and a dynamic puck-handler at even strength, Fabbri had only barely turned 21 when he went down to injury. If he can stay healthy this year—he’ll be with the team when training camp starts this week—he could push 50 points or more in his third season in the NHL. The 21st-overall pick from 2014, Fabbri is ready to become a star forward in this league and has the depth and team to do it with.
It will be interesting to see where he lines up to start the year, as the Blues have a lineup filled with different types of players. Should he find himself alongside sniper Schenn and two-way dynamo Alex Steen, the trio could push Vladimir Tarasenko’s line for the most productive on the team. He’s also headed into a contract year, as Fabbri’s entry-level contract will expire at the end of the season. While he likely doesn’t need any more motivation, the contracts handed out to players like Leon Draisaitl, Jonathan Drouin and soon David Pastrnak should have him flying up and down the ice (and scoresheet).
Key Storyline: When the Blues fired legendary coach Ken Hitchcock in the middle of last season, the team was treading water at 24-21-5 and not making much of an impact in the Western Conference. After promoting Mike Yeo, they took off and went 22-8-2 down the stretch, with much of the credit going to young goaltender Jake Allen. Allen had been struggling tremendously to the tune of a .895 save percentage, and looked completely lost at times in the net.
When Yeo took over, assistant GM Martin Brodeur came down from the front office to work with Allen, and along with new coach Ty Conklin turned the goaltender’s season completely around. Whether it was the system, luck or something Brodeur noticed, Allen would post a .938 save percentage through the end of the season and then completely shut the door on the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs.
Though Nashville would eventually get the best of him, Allen is probably the most important player for the Blues this season if they want to get to the next level. The team needs him to be at his best, and he has all the talent to do it. Brodeur will be back upstairs this year, but the team brought in David Alexander to be the team’s goaltending coach. Alexander has known Allen since he was 14-years old in New Brunswick, and the two have a solid comfort level already. Hopefully that shows on the ice, where the Blues are a potential Stanley Cup contender.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images