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After a turbulent season, the St. Louis Blues look to improve under Mike Yeo

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The St. Louis Blues made some good moves over the offseason, but a slew of injuries could curtail their season.

St Louis Blues v Nashville Predators - Game Six Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

February 1st, 2017, the St. Louis Blues’ goaltending is a mess and the Blues are out of a playoff spot. That day, Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong relieved longtime head coach Ken Hitchcock of his head coaching duties and promoted former Minnesota Wild head coach, Mike Yeo, who had been signed in the offseason to take over for Hitchcock after the season. Fueling doubt that their season was over, the Blues traded Kevin Shattenkirk, a then upcoming UFA, to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline.

The team largely responded to Yeo’s coaching and by March 31st, the team had clinched a playoff spot. The Blues finished the regular season in 3rd place within the Central Division, setting them up to face off against the Wild in the first round of the playoffs. We can skip ahead here since most Wild fans know what happened as the Blues moved on to the next round of the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Blues, their season ended in just the second round of the playoffs against the Nashville Predators.

St. Louis Blues 2016-17 Season

Wins Losses OT Losses Points Goals For Goals Against Power Play % Penalty Kill % Shots/GP Shots Against/GP
Wins Losses OT Losses Points Goals For Goals Against Power Play % Penalty Kill % Shots/GP Shots Against/GP
46 29 7 99 233 216 21.3 84.8 28.4 28.4
Via NHL.com

The Blues lost several well known players over the offseason, including David Perron, who was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft while Ryan Reaves was protected. This obviously annoyed some fans, but it seems to have worked out well for the Blues, who later traded Reaves and a second round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2017 first round pick and a young center, Oskar Sundqvist. Jori Lehtera was also traded along with two picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for Brayden Shenn. In addition, Kenny Agostino and Nail Yakupov both left for different teams as their contracts expired. Chris Thorburn and Beau Bennett were signed in the offseason, but Bennett was recently cut from the Blues’ training camp and should start the season in the AHL.

However, the Blues lost more than just roster players over the summer. First, they lost their sole partnership with their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, as the Golden Knights will be sharing the affiliate this coming season. Blues fans didn’t have to wait long to find out who the new affiliate will be as the Blues have already announced a deal the the San Antonio Rampage to become their new AHL affiliate next season.

Less permanent, the Blues have already suffered a few losses to their opening night roster due to injury. Patrik Berglund had shoulder surgery in the offseason and won’t be back until December. Jay Bouwmeester is out at least 3 weeks with a fractured ankle and Alexander Steen is also out for three weeks with a hand injury. Lastly, Robby Fabbri is out for the entire season after reinjuring his left knee that ended his 2016-17 season.

Last season, the Central Division was up for grabs as many teams struggled out of the gate, which the Blues were able to take advantage of after their slump. The Central wasn’t the NHL’s marquee division and likely won’t be this year either, but by all accounts, it is a much tougher division now than last year. As a result, it will be much harder for a struggling team to make a comeback midseason. The Blues have a good defensive corps, a star in Vladimir Tarasenko, a new first line center, and a good goaltender in Jake Allen. Yeo is known for a employing a boring style of hockey, and while the Blues are smaller and more skilled than they were a few years ago, it’s easy to see how Yeo’s system could fit well with their roster. With all their injuries at the start of the year, the Blues start to the season likely won’t be indicative of the majority of their season. The Blues are set up to compete for a playoff spot, if not the division lead.