Hockey World Blog

2011-12 NHL Season Preview: St. Louis Blues

Chris Stewart of the St. Louis Blues

Chris Stewart will lead the offensive attack for the St. Louis Blues in 2011-12

Key Offseason Additions: Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jonathan Cheechoo, Brian Elliott

Key Offseason Losses: Ty Conklin

Last Season Ranking: 11th in the West

Offense: The additions made in the off-season have really pushed the Blues into contention in the West. However, one of the biggest acquisitions, Chris Stewert, was actually made at the trade deadline last season. Stewart added 15 goals to the Blues offense in only 26 games, and picked up 8 assists to go along with it. Stewart will be counted on to continue his stellar play this season, and lead the Blues offense. He’ll be surrounded by good talent too, playing with the likes of David Backes, Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and Alex Steen to name a few.

Oshie, entering his fourth season in the NHL, missed much of last season due to injury. He also missed a practice due to an unexcused absence, was suspended by the team, and people began to question his character. Oshie has bounced back, however, and completed his best off-season training program to date. His fitness test results left him leading the team, tied with Andy McDonald, and he’s clearly ready to prove that he has what it takes to be an NHL star. A career year for Oshie this season wouldn’t be a surprise at all.

The newly acquired Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott are teammates once again after both being shipped out of New Jersey last season. Their production in New Jersey last season hardly reflects what they’re capable of, and each should have a bounce back year this season with St. Louis. In fact, after being traded to the Capitals, Jason Arnott piled on 7 points in 11 games after only scoring 24 points in the previous 62 games for the Devils. Langenbrunner and Arnott both have some hockey left in them, and will be great assets for the Blues.

Younger players such as Vladimir Sobotka and Matt D’Agostini are going to be counted on for continued¬† production as well. D’Agostini picked up 21 goals and 25 assists last season, ranking fifth on the team in points. They’ll be joined by B.J. Crombeen and Scott Nichol, two depth players, continuing to battle for more playing time.

Defense: Kevin Shattenkirk will be with the Blues from the get-go this season, and he looks to build on a strong rookie campaign where he played with both the Colorado Avalance and St. Louis Blues, and picked up 9 goals and 34 assists in 72 games. Shattenkirk can move the puck well, and will be a strong addition to the power-play. He’s still a young guy, but has tremendous upside. Alex Pietrangelo, another young defenseman, had a similar season to the aforementioned Shattenkirk. However, Pietrangelo was a first round (4th overall) draft pick by the Blues, and will see additional playing time in his sophomore campaign.

The young defenseman on the Blues roster will be mentored by Veteran Barret Jackman, the 2002-03 rookie of the year. Jackman has struggled the past few season offensively, but as a veteran of the game, he has a lot of knowledge to share. His veteran leadership will also be important to other young defenseman on the Blues squad such as Roman Polak, Carlo Colaiacovo, and Kent Huskins.

Goaltending: With a team that has improved over the summer, Jaroslav Halak will be in a position to improve his numbers this season. His seven shutouts were a career high, but behind a better squad, Halak’s .910 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average from last season should be a thing of the past. Expect Halak to continue standing in net for approximately 55-60 games, with Brian Elliott taking on back-up duty. Elliott has struggled the past couple of seasons in Ottawa and Colorado, but will be a suitable number two netminder for the Blues.

HWB Playoff Prediction: Not Playoff bound. While the team is much improved with their off-season adjustments, they’re still just outside of a playoff birth. Competing in a very tough Central Divison and Western Conference does not make things easy for the young squad.

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