Days are getting shorter and the temperatures are getting colder. That can only mean one thing—hockey is coming back.
Blues' training camp began this week. Unfortunately, the real games don't begin until October 8. Until then, we hockey fans, and journalists, have to pass the time. What better way to do that than try and predict the future!
Each season is filled with story lines. Some develop over time—injuries and such—but some are story lines from Day 1. Let's try and predict the stories for this season.
Last Chance Player: Jamie Langenbrunner
The Blues actually have a couple of guys who can fit this narrative, but my gut says that Jamie is going to be the guy for this. Once a very, very good player, Langenbrunner is most certainly in the twilight of his career.
In 2008-09, Langenbrunner scored 29 goals. Last season, as a 35-year-old with Dallas and New Jersey, he scored nine goals in 70 games. The Blues were able to pluck Langenbrunner out of the bargain bin hoping he still has gas left in the tank.
The Make It Or Break Season: T.J. Oshie
I've been harder on Oshie than others, but I think more people are starting to look at him with a more skeptical eye. A career isn't made on some fancy shootout goals and two hits on Rick Nash.
Oshie had a well-publicized flaunting of team rules last year and is coming off a few injuries. He had an ankle injury during the season and then hurt his hand at the end of the year. Oh and he signed a one-year contract this offseason while every other Blue got at least a two-year deal. I mean guys like James Van Riemsdyk got P.A.I.D (six years, $25.5 million) and his best season isn't as good as Oshie's.
Oshie needs to prove he can stay healthy, stay out of trouble and produce. The pressure will be on this year.
The Breakout Player: Patrik Berglund
This one is almost a no-brainer. Berglund went on a tear in the second half and was a beast in the World Championships. Berglund went 22-30-52 last year and had just eight goals on New Years Day.
Initial word from camp is that Berglund finally realized what a beast he is and is playing well.
Other choices: Pietrangelo, Halak, Chris Stewart
The Guy Taking on the Bigger Role: David Backes
David Backes had his best season as a pro and was the best forward on the Blues last season. Twice now he has potted 30 goals and now he has a big C on his shoulder.
Backes is the leader of the team and the big goal scorer. Can he handle a more mature role? Will he stop taking stupid penalties? Only time will tell.
The Hoping He's The No. 1 Guy This Year: Jaroslav Halak
Last year was Jaro's first season as the guy. He was pretty average. Jaro posted a record of 27-21-7, a 2.48 GAA and a .910 save percentage.
When the Blues were good, Halak was great. He started the season on fire and posted shutout after shutout. Somewhere along the way, the wheels fell off. He wasn't Chris Osgood bad, but he certainly wasn't a goalie who won games. The guy we saw in the playoffs before his trade to St. Louis showed up in bursts, but he needs to be around longer.
More than any other player, the Blues season hinges on Halak.
The Sophomore Slump: Kevin Shattenkirk
The sophomore slump really isn't real, but fans and sportswriters pretend it is.
Alex Pietrangelo wasn't really a rookie last year, so the biggest rookie, and really only significant rookie, was Mr. Shattenkirk.
Stat folks have already pegged Shattenkirk as a guy likely to not match his impressive rookie numbers. Players all the time have good first years and then disappear. Shattenkirk was a highly touted prospect, so it's unlikely that he just disappears like Jonas Junland.
There will be other storylines to be sure. Share your best in the comments.