With the season nearly upon us, it is time to look at who has come and gone. For the purpose of this article, I will be matching up those who left with those who have joined. This isn't to mean that the player coming in will take the departing players exact role. I will compare most players as a group, rather than as a player vs player comparison. The exception to this rule will be players who are obviously and easily comparable. Such as Ryan Miller and Jake Allen. This will be a reoccurring article throughout the season. Every month I will look at how these former Blues are playing and compare it to how our new Blues are performing. By the end of the season we should see whether or not we made the right moves.
Let's start with our departures from last season:
Ryan Miller - G
Vladdy Sobotka - C
Brenden Morrow - W
Derek Roy - C
Carlo Colaiacovo - D
Roman Polak -D
There is one big name here, and a lot of gumption. Ryan Miller is one of the more recognizable names in hockey. He was brought in at the trade deadline, and never lived up to his billing. He made some great saves and let in some horrible shots. The Blues looked to move forward with Brian Elliott and AHL call up Jake Allen. Miller wasn't re-signed in the off season, and took a job with the Vancouver Canucks. The only other name that could be considered big on this list is Valddy Sobotka. He was an enigma in St. Louis. He was a small man who played big. He skated hard whenever he was on the ice, but his talent level never matched his compete level. He was a coach's favorite, and a polarizing figure for fans. Many loved his style of play while many moaned he was played too high in the lineup and didn't contribute enough. Sobotka inked a deal with the KHL after the Blues refused to pay what he felt was a fair price for his services. Then comes the next three, best described as the 3 musketeers. I call them this not because of their legendary swashbuckling, but because no one uses muskets anymore. The gun, like these players, are old and slow. Roy was brought in to be the center that the Blues were lacking. He finished the season with only 37 points and shot just under 8%. Roy walked in the off season and was picked up by the Nashville Predators. Brenden Morrow was brought in for his grit. He was a big bodied tough guy who is a real veteran of the sport. I enjoyed watching Morrow, who has the face of a real hockey player, whatever that means. I didn't enjoy his production: 25 points in 71 games. He also fell off when the team needed him most, only participating in 2 of the playoff games. During the off season Morrow took a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Colaiacovo was a late season acquisition who had previously played for the team. He never made much of an impact, save his lone goal to help propel the team to a victory over the Wild in March. At the time of this article, Colaiacovo is out of the league and not currently playing professional hockey. Roman Polak left in a trade for Carl Gunnarsson, also a defenseman. Polak was a powerful hitter who played the body far more often than he played the puck. His biggest contributions came on the penalty kill, where he was the team's best. He will be skating in Toronto this season.
Now let's look at the new faces. I understand the roster isn't complete yet, so I am taking those most likely to make the final roster. (Position designations were taken from the St. Louis Blues official website. Some of these players may end up playing positions other than their designation)
Jake Allen - G
Paul Stastny - C
Jori Lehtera - C
Joakim Lindstrom - C
Robby Fabbri -C
Carl Gunnarsson -D
This is a mixed bag. Jake Allen won the AHL goaltender of the year, and was the Blues savior in the lockout shortened season when he came in as a stabilizing force when Elliott was struggling. Paul Stastny is a top tier center. I personally would consider him at the bottom of the top tier or upper second tier, but imaginary groupings are rather meaningless. He is a very talented true center. Many of the centers last season were converted wingers. Jori Lehtera was brought in from the KHL where he was formerly paired with our very own Vlad Tarasenko. They had amazing chemistry in the KHL, and have seemingly picked up right where they left off. In a recent practice when paired with our top defensive pairing, the former KHLers came out on top. Lindstrom I believe will be slotted as a winger. He is the dinosaur in the group at 30. He has played well recently, however. His past 3 season were spent in Sweden, where he lead his squad to 2 titles. He was also named MVP. During last seasons playoffs he scored 18 points in 14 games. Only time will tell if this translates to the NHL. Robby Fabbri is a budding star. I say budding because he is only 19 and is physically underwhelming. He has been making a case for his spot on the roster, but the safe bet would be to allow him to age and develop before asking his body to take on a full NHL season. Carl Gunnarsson was mentioned earlier, as he came over in the trade for Roman Polak. Gunnarsson is a mobile defenseman, but he is not an offensive minded player. He was the Toronto's top defenseman, but will play lower in the lineup in St. Louis. My guess would be the second pairing with Kevin Shattenkirk. Carl will be an upgrade over Polak at even strength, but his play on the PK will be a sharp drop off when compared to his predecessor.
Personally I feel this team has more talent across the board than it did last season. There is a visible movement away from the bruising style of the past. We have replaced grit and cunning with scoring ability. It seems like the only logical move after our sudden ousters in the playoffs recently. We were unable to keep pace with the high scoring powers of the west. We still have players capable of playing with grit, but we now have a more rounded team. Only time will tell if these moves work, but I for one can't wait to watch it unfold.