Training camp starts today at the St. Louis Outlet Mall, and between now and the start of the regular season on October 4th against the Winnipeg Jets, there will be questions. Thankfully, this is why God created preseason hockey. Kinks get ironed out, prospects get trimmed from the roster, surprises happen, and stuff falls into place.
That doesn’t prevent people from questioning what the future holds as camp begins, however. And this year, there are a lot of questions
Where does Jay Bouwmeester wind up?
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester says he’s feeling better after recovering from hip surgery. This is, of course, excellent news for him. For the Blues, paying the former iron man $5.4 million dollars for his last season before hitting UFA status is a burden. He’s 35, he’s coming off an awful season by his standards, and captain Alex Pietrangelo isn’t tied to playing with him anymore. He should’ve been dealt, but no other team was going to take that contract on. When healthy, he’s still an important player and a veteran voice on the team. He’s also a 35 year old defenseman who played about that many games last season.
What will happen with Jake Allen?
Apparently Jake’s not dead yet, meaning that his back spasms are already improving. That’s nice.
He’s the biggest question mark on the team going into the regular season after multiple cases of the January Yips. If he doesn’t succeed, the Blues don’t succeed. He doesn’t have Carter Hutton to bail him out, which either is terrifying or a bonus, depending on if you believe that Allen plays better without competition breathing his neck.
Regardless, missing two weeks of camp because of back spasms isn’t ideal, especially for someone who needs the work. If you subscribe to the school of thought that this season rides on Allen’s second half, this isn’t the best start to his first.
What will the final line combinations and defensive pairings look like?
No one knows until the first day of the season. Figuring out what they are and then being totally incorrect is part of the fun of training camp and preseason games. Calm down and wait until October.
Will the special teams function properly?
Hopefully, with the addition of Ryan O’Reilly, but it all comes down to who’s out there at any given moment and special teams coaching. On paper, it looks like it will be an improvement. On the ice, however, is something we don’t know yet. Last season was an abysmal year for the Blues on special teams (30th on the power play and 18th on the penalty kill). There’s nearly nowhere else to go but up.
What will Robby Fabbri do?
The forward is the perfect example of getting a player back from injury being just the same as making a trade. But you’ve made a trade for a player who hasn’t played in an NHL game in a year and a half, so the Blues’ guess is as best as mine. Hopefully he will pick up where he left off when he was injured. Hopefully he won’t injure his knee again. Hopefully he’ll slot right into the lineup. But who knows?
How will the new Blues fit in?
Hopefully well. Tyler Bozak is a hard-nosed third line center that the Blues haven’t had in ages (sorry, Berglund and Sobotka). Patrick Maroon will step and provide a physicality on the ice that has been missing for at least a season, probably more. Ryan O’Reilly should be a solid playmaking center for whoever’s on his wing. David Perron is David Perron, which means he should have some fun goals and some offensive zone penalties, but he’ll play well as long as you don’t expect him to repeat his numbers from last season on the Golden Knights.
They’ll all do fine, but we’ll have to wait to see where they wind up as far as the opening night lineup goes.
Who are the prospects that will make a splash?
Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. I’m not sure if both make the team, but if Kyrou doesn’t he’ll hang around until the end. Thomas will have to fight for a position higher than the fourth line to begin with, but hopefully he’ll make a bigger name for himself than Tage Thompson and Samuel Blais. Starting on the fourth line is difficult, but if injuries happen (and since this is the Blues, they will) then Thomas will be the safe bet in stepping up when he’s called on.