2021-22 St. Louis Blues Preview: Another underwhelming season?
Sharks fans have their fingers crossed for another less than stellar run from the Blues.
If you’re like us, the St. Louis Blues are a team you’ve grown to view as an enemy. Yes, I still have not let go of the pain and suffering we endured as Sharks fans during the 2019 Western Conference Final. I am sure I am not alone in actively rooting against the St. Louis Blues still to this day.
Last season was not the best for our enemies in Missouri. While they made it to the playoffs, they fell short early. Instead of taking the off-season to rebuild their core group, the Blues chose to stick it out with the crew they had last season. What could go wrong?
Where they left off
After losing their former captain, Alex Pietrangelo, to the Vegas Golden Knights, things were a bit rocky for the Blues. Pietrangelo bid farewell to his former club for a seven-year, $8.8 million contract in Vegas during free agency. Seeing Pietrangelo in another sweater was weird to begin with, but with the Golden Knights? It was even more annoying.
Without their captain, the Blues pushed on. They finished fourth in the West Division with 27 wins and 20 losses, landing themselves in the final spot for playoffs under the leadership of captain Ryan O’Reilly. Their playoff run was short-lived, however, getting swept by the Colorado Avalanche and the Blues were out as the first round came to a close.
When it came to scoring, O'Reilly did it the most. While he led his team in regular season goals (24 of them to be exact) he flatlined in the playoffs. He scored no goals and the team as a whole only landed seven pucks in the net during their short-lived playoff venture.
Their power play was fairly impressive, coming in at sixth-best in the league, converting at 23.2 percent. As for their goaltending, Jordan Binnington was still their guy. He finished the season with a .910 save percentage.
The Blues had a decent run last season, though I am sure they wish they could relive their playoff run and do things a little differently. It seems as though they will get another shot, as they did not make too many changes in the off-season, but moving back to the Central Division might make it a challenge.
2021 Entry Draft
The Blues went into the 2021 NHL Entry Draft with only four picks in hand. Their selections fell into the first, third, fifth, and seventh rounds. The pressure was on to pick the right players to grow with the team, as the futures of so many of their staple players were up in the air.
With the 17th pick in the first round, the Blues selected 19-year-old Zack Bolduc. Bolduc is a forward who played two seasons with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. During that time, he put 40 goals in the net. Not too shabby for a mid-to-late first-rounder, all things about those two seasons considered.
The Blues’ other draft picks shaped up as follows:
- Simon Robertson, RW (71st overall)
- Tyson Galloway, D (145th overall)
- Ivan Vorobyov, RW (198th overall)/
There have been a lot of question marks swirling above the Blues this off-season. The team had several key players with unsure futures, including Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko rumors have been up in the air for a while now, and it seems almost certain he will leave at this point. The major roadblock has been his contract, which comes in at $7.5 million for the next two seasons. He has a no-trade clause in place, but it seems that he wants to leave and would be more than willing to waive it for the right fit. With so many teams hitting their salary cap already, finding a new home for Tarasenko will be difficult. As of now, he is skating with his team, but his fate remains uncertain.
Forward Jaden Schwartz was another player whose future with St. Louis was up in the air. He nearly decided to miss last season after the death of his father, and his commitment to the Blues has been the subject of rumors during previous contract negotiations. He ultimately signed with the Seattle Kraken in free agency and will be part of the inaugural team that hits the ice in the Pacific Northwest this season.
Mike Hoffman, Sharks legend, was also a wild card when it came to where he would be playing this season. He has bid St. Louis farewell for a roster spot with the Montreal Canadiens. He signed a three-year, $4.5 million AAV contract with the Habs.
The Blues did not only suffer losses this off-season. They were able to sign Colton Parayko to an eight-year, $52 million contract extension. They secured pending free agents Dakota Joshua, Ivan Barbashev and Jordan Kyrou, while also bringing in Brandon Saad and Pavel Buchnevich. They’ve yet to sign Robert Thomas to a new contract, another aspect of their lineup that is worrisome to Blues fans.
Of course, the Blues still have their captain O’Reilly and their veteran David Perron. Their blue line will continue to see Torey Krug and Robert Bortuzzo. Binnington will still be their main netminder. Although they lost some key pieces of their roster, much has stayed the same for the Blues during the off-season.
What can we expect in 2021-22?
It looks like the Blues will have a similar run as last season. They haven’t made any big moves, aside from possibly losing one of their most reliable players in Tarasenko. They’ll continue to look to O’Reilly to produce goals and lead the team while expecting Binnington to be on his A-game all season long.
Will the additions of Saad and Buchnevich be enough to fill the holes left by Hoffman and Schwartz? Only time will tell. With so many questions still lingering when it comes to the Blues’ final roster for the season, players are going to have to step up. It will be an interesting year for the Blues, to say the least.
You can catch the Blues’ first pre-season game on September 25 against the Minnesota Wild at 5 p.m. PT. They’ll hit the ice for real on October 16 against their rivals, the Colorado Avalanche, at 6 p.m. PT. The Sharks will play the Blues twice in November and once in April.