With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.
After a flurry of offseason moves, the St. Louis Blues have become a trendy pick to make some noise in 2018-19.
How they finished in 2017-18: 44-32-6 (94 points), 18th in the NHL, 5th in Central Division
The Blues peaked too early, then slipped at the wrong time. Slumping into the trade deadline, GM Doug Armstrong decided to cut the cord on the season and traded away coveted center (but pending free agent) Paul Stastny. The Blues remained in the hunt until the end but missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 96.5
Best-case scenario: Ryan O'Reilly is the No. 1 center they think he is, and Jake Allen is the franchise goalie they pray he is.
Worst-case scenario: Just when it looks as if everything is coming together, the Blues succumb to injury, again. And it's not the usual suspects (Robby Fabbri, Jaden Schwartz). No, this time it's other valuable players, and finally you begin to wonder if this city might actually be cursed.
Forward overview: The Blues underwent a major face lift, adding O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak, David Perron and Patrick Maroon -- plus an in-house candidate in Fabbri, who St. Louis hopes is finally healthy. They should spruce up a lineup that already includes sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn (coming off a career year) and Schwartz, who had a 0.95 points-per-game average in 62 games. NHL rank: 9th
Defense overview: St. Louis returns its entire defensive group, which ranked sixth in the NHL, giving up only 2.71 goals per game. Vince Dunn had a breakout season and should take the next step with more experience. The group is anchored by Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko as the top two right-handed defensemen. NHL rank: 12th
Goalie overview: Allen missed part of training camp because of back spasms but appears to be OK. Allen was inconsistent last season, and his backup Carter Hutton did so well in relief, he got paid big time in Buffalo this summer. Veteran Chad Johnson is the new backup. NHL rank: 21st
Special teams: The Blues ranked 18th on the penalty kill (79.7 percent) and their power play was rotten, ranking 30th in the league at 15.5 percent. This is an area where O'Reilly can help.
Pipeline overview: The Blues have been able to draft extremely well all while remaining competitive at the NHL level. The system is pulled up due to how well Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou have developed over the past season, with higher-end prospects such as Dominik Bokk, Klim Kostin and goaltender Ville Husso also near the top of a pretty deep group. Read more -- Chris Peters
Fantasy nugget: If anyone could use a little luck on the health front, it's Fabbri. After tearing his left ACL twice in 2017 nearly eight months apart, the 22-year-old is finally cleared to play. If that knee holds up, the 2014 first-round draft selection slots in promisingly on a formidable second line and power play with former O'Reilly and veteran right wing Alexander Steen. Combining for a daunting one-two punch with the Schwartz/Schenn/Tarasenko unit, the O'Reilly trio has the potential to put up some serious numbers. And if Fabbri falls hurt once more, coach Mike Yeo has plenty of sub options from one of the league's deeper roster of forwards. Read more -- Victoria Matiash
Coach on the hot seat? After missing the playoffs then signing/acquiring about half of the available forwards on the market, the Blues suddenly carry the weight of expectations. Yeo will be safe if he guides the team to the playoffs. He absolutely must shore up the power play.
Bold prediction: Allen falters early, and the team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations doesn't want to rely on Johnson. Considering top prospect Husso isn't ready for a full workload yet, the Blues acquire a goaltender midseason.