Will the team build on its success from last season?
Well, it might be difficult improve on the last regular season, considering the Blues won the Central Division championship with 109 points and the Vancouver Canucks had 111 to finish first overall and win the Presidents Trophy. But the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings swept the Blues in the second round of the playoffs, so the Blues have room for improvement. In the division, second-place Nashville and third-place Detroit won’t be as good with the Predators losing defenseman Ryan Suter as a free agent to Minnesota and the Red Wings losing defenseman-extraordinaire Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement. Chicago appears to be the only impediment to another division title, and the Blues must fair better in the playoffs.
Will Chris Stewart become a sniper again?
After back-to-back seasons of 28 goals, the key player from Colorado in the Erik Jonson deal is at something of a career crossroads. He scored 15 goals in 79 games last season with 30 points, down from the previous season, and he was a healthy scratch in the playoffs. The Blues gave the five-year veteran a one-year contract in the offseason so that he can prove himself as T.J. Oshie and David Perron did with one-year deals last season.
How will T.J. Oshie and David Perron perform now that they have security?
In the offseason, the Blues locked up Oshie (five years) and Perron (four years) with long-term contracts after giving them one-year deals the previous year. Oshie came through by tying with David Backes for the team scoring lead with 54 points, on 19 goals and 35 assists after an injury plague 2010-2011 campaign. Perron scored 21 goals and 42 points in only 57 games after missing more than a season with postconcussion syndrome. Oshie and Perron are expected to add scoring to the Blues’ offense, which ranked 21st in the NHL last season with 210 goals.
Will goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott improve on last season?
The pair shared the Jennings Trophy last season for finishing with the NHL’s lowest team goals-against average at 1.78. Halak started the season as the No. 1 but opened the door for Elliott with a slow start. Both excelled by sharing the load, with Elliott posting a 23-10-4 record with a 1.56 GAA and .940 save percentage and Halak finishing 26-12-7 with a 1.97 GAA and .926 SP. They combined for a record 15 shutouts, with Elliott getting nine and Halak six. After Halak’s high-ankle sprain in the playoffs, Elliott carried the load but faded in the second round.
Where will Vladimir Tarasenko fit in?
The Blues signed their much-ballyhooed and much-hyped prospect to a three-year, entry level deal June 2. The Blues picked Tarasenko in the first round, 16th overall, of the 2010 draft, and Tarasenko played the past four years in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League, garnering 52 goals and 48 assists over 176 games. Last season, he had 23 goals and 24 assistant with Sibir and St. Petersburg. The Blues envision him as a top-nine forward, but he’ll probably have to earn his stripes on the Blues’ third line.