The loss of David Perron during free agency was a blow to the Blues on several levels. They lost a locker room favorite, the guy that always came back - who now knows if he doesn’t see himself ever returning to St. Louis. The team also lost a key forward who put up 27 goals and 30 assists at the age of 34 years old. Perron has only gotten better with age, and now he gets to be a mentor to a young Detroit Red Wings team who Steve Yzerman is turning into a playoff contender piece by piece.
Clearly, the Blues need players to step up this year. If you look at last season’s output, it’s easy to assume that won’t be an issue. The Blues had two 30 goal scorers in forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich, and nine players who netted at least 20 goals (the two aforementioned players, Perron, Jordan Kyrou, Ivan Barbashev, Brayden Schenn, Brandon Saad, Ryan O’Reilly, and Robert Thomas). Defenseman Justin Faulk was right in the mix with 16 goals on the season. Offense in the form of assists came in the form of Thomas (57), Tarasenko and Kyrou (48), and Buchnevich (46) with defenseman Torey Krug leading the blueline with 34. Faulk was close behind with 31.
The Blues’ are not an offensively challenged team, even with the loss of Perron - which is why Doug Armstrong may’ve felt comfortable letting him go for the ability to re-sign defenseman Nick Leddy. Last year’s offensive powerhouses will need to keep up the pace to mitigate the departure of Perron’s output, which means Kyrou’s second-half drop off doesn’t need to happen again. It also means that the trio of Tarasenko, Thomas, and Buchnevich need to continue to click (and that Tarasenko doesn’t get dealt at the trade deadline). Consistency is key to offensive success, and if the Blues’ forward corps doesn’t regress - and they shouldn’t - the team will be fine.
The team’s impact player this season may be coming from the back half of the ice. After a year where the Blues’ defense wasn’t the strongest part of their team, there is both room for improvement and room for a surprise. Justin Faulk and Torey Krug continue to anchor the team’s blueline, and both had solid seasons last year. Krug’s absence was sorely felt in the postseason; couple that with Colton Parayko’s gradual improvement as he returns from back problems gives the Blues much to work with. Niko Mikkola and Robert Bortuzzo aren’t game-changers, and Leddy’s signing brings stability and experience. If you’re looking for a player to take you by surprise defensively, chances are good it won’t be any of the three of those.
Parayko stands the greatest chance of turning heads and making his eight-year, $6.5 million AAV contract look like a bargain. His play the last two seasons hasn’t come close to matching that of the Blues’ Stanley Cup winning year, but his continued progression after back injury could set him up to be a surprise impact guy. If his slow play the season before last was due specifically to injury, and his climb back last year was in spite of it, this year could be the year he fully bounces back into form defensively. Offensively, his six goals and 29 assists tied 2017-2018 for his career best season stats, and his +16 (the pitfalls of this stat are well known, it’s noted) gives this past season a boost.
Who do you believe the Blues’ breakout star will be this year? Will it be an old forward favorite? Will Parayko or another defenseman be a lynchpin? Or will Jordan Binnington regain some old magic? Share in the comments.