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Season 5 Preview - St. Louis Blues Written by habsfan93 - November 30th, -0001

No one will ever question that the St. Louis Blues have the most coloured history of any CMHL team. Having gone through 5 GM's in 5 seasons, fans in St. Louis must be asking themselves if Charles Wang is secretly running this team. But GM jockplante appears to have finally brought a sense of stability to the club, as he has now had them under his control for almost a year and a half. While he represents the quiet man in the GM circles, it seems apparent that his plan of patience and development might one day pay off big.

Offence

The St. Louis offence is a mixed bag of quality scorers and developing forwards. Nikolai Zherdev and Scott Gomez balance the team on their shoulders - there is no question that at the end of the day, one of these two will lead this team in scoring. Zherdev has increased his output every single year of his career, and this year he'll try and crack the 60 point mark for the first time. Gomez played well last and will be looking to do the same, as he shows why he is the dressing room leader and the guy others look to for direction. Petr Prucha has provided consistent scoring in his first two years, scoring around 45 points, and if he can step that up to the 60-80 point range, this team could really benefit.

Secondary scoring is expected to come from veterans Scott Rucchin, Darren McCarty, Brad Isbister, Brett McLean, and youngsters Raffi Torres and Dmitri Afanasenkov. Youngster Kyle Chipchura is commonly slotted in as the future captain of this team. While he's not going to light the lamp every night, he's supremely mature for his age and one of the more defensively responsible players on the team as he headlines the penalty kill next to Rene Bourque, who could also really benefit the team by passing the 45 point mark.

Defense

The defensive core is headlined by developing youngsters and journeyman veterans. One thing that can be said about the blueline is that they are quite possibly the biggest group in the league. Night after night, opposing offences don't look forward to trying to push through the wall that is the Blues back-end. Dustin Byfuglien, Milan Jurcina and Brad Norton stand tall as they lay out punishing checks to opposing forwards. Veterans Ossi Vaananan and Niclas Wallin are puck-movers who can cycle things out of their own zone. These guys aren't gonna play in a lot of All-Star games, but they get the job done and with surprising discipline.

Goaltending

For two years now, the Blues have been operating on a tandem basis with Antero Niitymaki and Curtis Joseph splitting time pretty equally. Part of the reason for this is that neither of the goalies have really stood out as a true #1 - in fact, they both seem pretty content to start 40 games each. But Nittymaki, knowing that Cujo will likely be hanging up the skates within a year or two, should really be pushing hard to prove that he is the guy in St. Louis, otherwise, he may find himself in a backup role if the Blues ever decide to go out and acquire a franchise goalie.

Prospects

Courtesy of several years of missing the playoffs, the Blues have benefitted by keeping many of their draft picks and building a very deep depth chart. Headlining the group is this summer's #1 pick, Steven Stamkos. Stamkos will be given one more year in the minors before it is anticipated he will star for this team in Season 6. Other top prospects include the likes of Viktor Tikhonov, Colton Gillies and Kenndal McArdle. Two players who could really surprise are Mathieu Carle and Yannick Weber. Both dmen have made really big strides in the last two years and have drastically improved their chances of one day making it in the show.

Playoffs

No one in St. Louis is planning on a playoff run. This team is built for the long run and everyone knows that. The goal in St. Louis is to further develop all their young players and steal some games here and there along the way. But watch out because this team could be making its move in the 1-2 year horizon with guys like Stamkos waiting very closely in the wings.

Quick Hits

Best Bargain: Scott Gomez - Making a bargain basement $800,000, this is a free agency year for him and he's going to be looking for a big raise next summer unless he stumbles this season.
Overpaid: Curtis Joseph - I guess somebody has to make lots of money on this team, but Joseph is not earning the $6.2 million he's making, considering most of the leagues best goalies earn less than that.
Breakout Player: Petr Prucha - If Prucha can transform himself into a top 30 player, which he has the potential to do, this team will really benefit. No matter what happens, it should be near impossible for him not to improve on last season.
Overrated: Brad Isbister - After two seasons of 65+ points that surprised everyone, the cracks in Isbister's game started to show last year and this may spark the beginning of the end of the road

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