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Tuesdays With Hildy: What Do The Forwards Need To Work On?

Looking at the Blues' Season Preview that's already up on the official site, I figured hell, I know stuff (actually, I pretend to), so why not do a season preview of my own? I watched last season's disappointment agog with agog-ment at the flatness of the team at times, and the regression of many of the forwards. The goaltending was relatively solid (11th in the league in GA as far as teams go at 2.66 , which isn't awesome but not bad, either) aside from the occasional 3rd period meltdown and Chris Mason's soft goal a game. Defense wasn't horrible - Weaver really picked his game up and EJ, while not mind-blowing, rebounded from his year off pretty well. The only defensive weak point that was really glairing, not to beat a dead horse, was Eric Brewer with his -17 and ability to be on the ice for every goal against.

The bottom six forwards weren't horrible either. Heck, Alexander Steen scored 24 goals and 23 assists last season. That was good for fourth on the team. His +/- also improved from a -6 to a +6. Brad Winchester, for all of our unhappiness at his lack of scoring ability, improved his +/- by four. Janssen and Crombeen improved their defensive numbers, although they were still in minus territory. Silent Jay McClement had a career renaissance in some way, going from a -10 to even.

Then you shift to the top six, or who the fans would consider the "top six." Their scoring dropped off - not entirely, as Perron's stayed steady. Oshie and McDonald looked like they improved their numbers, but when you take into consideration the fact that both of them played more games this season than last and didn't score significantly more, you can assume that if they had played the entire season the year before that those point totals would have been higher - and last season's would have been stagnant or less in comparison. Patrik Berglund and Brad Boyes' point totals took the most noticeable drop, while David Backes' assists went up as his goals went down.

Obviously, scoring is the most important fix, right?

To be contrarian, what about +/- ratings? I know that some people consider them a bunch of hooey - more dependent on the others on the ice than anything that the player necessarily does - but the +/- ratings of some of the top six were abysmal. Berglund's plummeted from a +19 to a -5. Perron dropped from a +13 to a -10. Oshie dropped from a +16 to a -1. I know that the Blues weren't goal scoring machines last season, but the team wasn't much better the year before, either. Defensively speaking they were about the same both years, but the responsibility seemed to shift from the front lines to the bottom six, and the top six failed to make up for that with goals. The only player on the top six that improved hugely in +/- was Brad Boyes, who leaped from a -20 to a +1.

Goal scoring is a wonky thing from year to year (explain that to Brad Boyes), but working on team defensive strategy is something that can happen at camp as well as at practices. It might be easier to fix. But, dear readers, which do they need to look at first - goals or offensive defense?