April 14, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues center David Backes (42) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the second period in game two of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE
Well, this is interesting. Will there be a season next year? Who knows, but if there is one apparently someone out there thinks that the St. Louis Blues're the team to beat in the Western Conference. The Hockey News' annual predictions are out, and let me be the first to say how weird it looks to be staring at the Blues in the number one spot, next to this paragraph:
Why: Meet the Western Conference’s new juggernaut. The St. Louis Blues came within two points of first in the West last season, largely because they were the NHL’s top defensive team, riding amazing efforts by goaltenders Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. With budding superstar Alex Pietrangelo anchoring the blueline, captain David Backes proving a menacing two-way presence up the middle and Jack Adams Award winner Ken Hitchcock getting every guy to buy into his system, the Blues should once again be impossible to score on.
The Blues have to be the least offensively powered juggernaut in the history of juggernauts, and this is where a question or two comes into play (for me at least). What kind of things are we banking on happening this season? Will Halak and Elliott play as well as they did last year? That was a mind-blowing performance that's going to be hard to replicate. The defense? Didn't necessarily get any better, though even with losing (presumably) Carlo Colaiacovo it's still pretty solid.
If the Blues get increased offensive output from David Backes and T.J. Oshie, while getting Chris Stewart's ass in gear and making sure Alex Steen and Andy McDonald stay non-concussed, well, then I would say that they have a chance for numero uno. But the lack of scoring coupled with stellar defense still can hinder you -- no one likes to lose 1-0 games in the shootout, and a couple of wins in those would have ensured that the Blues finished in the top spot last season. That problem needs to be addressed this year if the Blues want to lock onto the top spot.
But hey, there might not even be a season, so why worry? Regardless of if they play or not, it's nice seeing the Blues at the top of these lists. I just hope that they don't find a way to let everyone down in the end.