This season, I don't think I'm necessarily ready to hand that distinction to them again, but I won't go so far as to rail on this team too badly, because between then and now, they have done some good things that should be taken into consideration, ahead of the 2018 season.
Luring Vladimir Sobotka back from the KHL before the playoffs last year was a fine start and then adding Brayden Schenn to the mix at the entry draft this summer was another huge pickup for their forward ranks.
Sure, this team is without Kevin Shattenkirk on the back end, but with Colton Parayko now in line to take a much bigger role, that hole doesn't look as big, if you can really see it at all. Parayko is no Shattenkirk, by any means, especially offensively, but I think he's a better overall player and would prefer him at this cost too.
With a bit more strength down the middle and a more well-rounded lineup, these Blues still make an interesting case.
Table last updated on August 7th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
It's a contract year for forward Paul Stastny and if he was enjoying life with a $7 million cap hit, he is going to want to have a season for the ages to keep that number up... and it will have to be some kind of season.
With the Blues' cap situation the way it is, they had to weigh whether or not it was to their benefit to get one more season out of him or pay two-thirds of his salary over the next couple of years. If Stastny doesn't have a decent year, at the very least, I could see him being shifted to one of those teams with a lot of cap space, especially if the Blues are in the playoff mix, trying to open up space for someone who could actually work for them.
My initial projections are in the 45-point range, which could be serviceable in this lineup, but it isn't going to curry any favour for a big contract extension.
First Round Picks
The number one goalie and the team's top scorer, if they're both opening round selections, you've probably have yourself a pretty good start to a team. Jake Allen and Vladimir Tarasenko both may have slightly underachieved last season, but the Blues have a couple of different pieces in place, which could likely help this team out more this season. I think they're 1st rounders again this year, although Tarasenko could get lost in the mix and fall down to the next round.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
The Blues will be loaded with offensive options up front, as they made way for Brayden Schenn in the off-season, adding him to an already potent lineup, which also welcomes Vladimir Sobotka back from the KHL this season too. Jaden Schwartz, Alex Steen and Robby Fabbri also round out a very good Blues forward core, which struggles to stay healthy year after year, but if they can manage to make it come together at the same time, look out!
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The defense took a bit of a hit offensively, but I think if they are able to concentrate on their own zone a little bit more, they could really give a boost to their goaltending. Nevertheless, we're looking for points and I think you're going to find them from Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester, not that it was shocking to see any of those three on the list.
Backup goalie Carter Hutton made 31 appearances for the Blues last season, so they were able to keep him pretty busy. Ideally, the team probably doesn't want him to see that much time, because they have pulled their number one guy a few too many times last year, but he should still get a good share of the workload, trying to keep everything fresh. He'll be a good option, indeed.
Team To Pick From Late?
The depth in St. Louis may be a bit thin after the worthy players are all gone and chosen, but a forward like Ivan Barbashev might finally get his chance or even a newcomer like Beau Bennett could find his stride again, but those guys might be better suited to the mid-season player swaps, if they are going to produce points.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
Only one non-roster defenseman left on the Blues' list of things to do, so they are relatively good to go for training camp next month. They have managed to shoe horn a 23-man projected roster together, leaving only $1.8 million in unused cap space, depending on how you line them up, for the rest of the season. The Blues depth will be very interesting to see how it plays out, but my current projection is one of the more expensive options.
The biggest dent in their lineup will come from forward Patrik Berglund, who is expected to be out until December after surgery on his shoulder in the off-season, hurt in an off-season training regime. His points above should reflect the late start to the season, plus trying to shake off the rust from the late start as well. He may be an okay option late in the season, trying to lift your team over the top. It should be all systems go for Robby Fabbri at training camp, as the youngster is coming back from a major knee injury last season, missing nearly the last half of the 2017 campaign.