Have the Blues Done Enough?
The 2015-16 season should be considered a monumental success by the St. Louis Blues, and their fan base. They advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in more than a decade. More importantly, under the Ken Hitchcock regime, the Blues advanced past the first round since the first year of his tenure.
Defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in seven thrilling games of the first round was a big accomplishment to a team led for several years by captain David Backes. Many, including GM Doug Armstrong, think the team has plenty of room to improve and go even deeper next year. The Blues still are hunting for that elusive first Stanley Cup.
Going into the offseason, Armstrong was faced with multiple difficult decisions. Captain Backes was a free agent, and so was gritty and clutch winger Troy Brouwer. The consensus seemed to be that the team could afford one but not both. But in a surprising turn of events on July 1st, both forwards departed, signing deals with Boston (Backes) and Calgary (Brouwer). On top of that, G Brian Elliott was traded to the Flames for draft picks.
To replace the lost offensive production of those two forwards, Armstrong brought back winger David Perron on a two year contract. He represents a skill upgrade over Brouwer. Perron will likely slot in on the right side of the second line.
Teams that bow out in the mid rounds of the playoffs usually try to add pieces in order to get over the hump. But the Blues have lost three major pieces and added just one. Armstrong and Hitchcock are banking on the continued development, and increased production, from young forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz & Robby Fabbri. Indeed, other forwards will need to step up as well, not just on the scoresheet, but in the toughness department, to fill in for what Backes and Brouwer took with them to their new teams.
So what will Blues fans see in 2016-17? That remains to be seen, but the future seems to be bright. New captain Alex Pietrangelo certainly hopes to be the first captain to hoist the Cup for St. Louis.