The St. Louis Blues losing streak reached seven games before it was snapped on Wednesday night at Scottrade Center in a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Still, despite their free-fall through the group of teams that are bunched into the Western Conference playoff picture, they remain in good position to contend for a wild-card berth in ninth place with 74 points.
Actually, they are tied with the Anaheim Ducks in points. However, the Ducks have a game in hand so the Blues are technically out of a playoff spot as this is being written. This situation is so volatile that fully eight teams are within six points of each other from fourth through eleventh. It looks like it’s going to be a free-for-all again this year. Their recent and dramatic fall from grace notwithstanding, the Blues are right in the thick of things going into the final few weeks of the NHL season.
The St. Louis Blues Losing Streak is Over
Been There, Done That
Of course, every Blues fan knows that simply reaching the playoffs is no big deal for this franchise. In their 50 years of existence, they have failed to make the playoffs only eight times, an NHL-best record over that time span. Yet, of course, they have never won a Stanley Cup and have not won a conference championship since 1970. They have been knocked out in the first round of the playoffs a total of 19 times. Plus, they have ascended to the conference finals only three times since 1970. If ever there was a model of consistent mediocrity in the NHL it must surely be the St. Louis Blues.
Reasons to Believe
Considering their historical lack of success and especially the roller-coaster ride that has exemplified the current 2017-18 campaign for the Blues, there is actually great reason to be extremely optimistic about the future. Looking at the way the current team is composed, there are some very solid core players around which to build. Winger Vladimir Tarasenko has scored more goals over the past five seasons than anyone in the league not named Alex Ovechkin. Forward Jaden Schwartz was having a career year until he suffered a broken ankle in December. Both should be entering the prime years of their respective careers.
Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson are two of the best young defencemen in the league. Team captain Alex Pietrangelo is widely considered to be a Norris Trophy candidate this season. So, there would appear to be a good nucleus for general manager Doug Armstrong to use as a foundation for the near future.
A Stinger Winger
A nucleus of good players is not enough to contend for a Stanley Cup, however. Fortunately for Armstrong, the Blues have some of the hottest young prospects in the game. Leading the way is the Blues’ 2nd-round draft pick in 2016, right-winger Jordan Kyrou of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. Kyrou, 19, is a slick-skating two-way player who can score and create scoring opportunities with the best of them. He’s the first OHL player to hit the 100-point plateau this year. Kyrou has 35 goals and 65 assists through just 50 games.
A Pair of Aces
Likewise, this past year’s first-round pick, 18-year-old centre Robert Thomas, is a smart and savvy playmaker. He could be a solid anchorman for the Blues for years to come once he’s ready. Another player who is turning heads in the hockey world is 18-year-old Russian winger Klim Kostin, currently with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL. Kostin, the second of the Blues’ two first-round draft picks in 2017, creates a big and imposing presence on the ice. He can skate and score at a high level. These three players are the cream of the crop. They project to be NHL-ready by perhaps as early as sometime next year but more likely 2020.
But Wait, There’s More!
Other bright prospects in their organization include defencemen Jake Walman, Tommy Vannelli and Jordan Schmaltz as well as forwards Sammy Blais, Nolan Stevens and, recently acquired in the Paul Stastny trade with the Winnipeg Jets, highly-rated college winger Erik Foley. Add 23-year-old Finnish goaltender Ville Husso to the mix and it becomes apparent that the Blues have some very exciting possibilities that are looming just over the horizon.
Here and Now
In addition to the players just mentioned who are waiting in the wings, the Blues also have a number of young players already wearing the note who should be about ready to blossom. Centre Ivan Barbashev‘s development was one key factor that enabled Armstrong to make the decision to trade Stastny to Winnipeg. 23-year-old forward Zach Sanford, acquired from the Washington Capitals last year in the Kevin Shattenkirk deal, is a big, rangy skater who has spent all of the current season on injured reserve but is due to return to the club after he completes a conditioning stint with San Antonio.
Impressive Rookies, Rebounding Veteran
Rookie defenceman Vince Dunn has had an impressive debut this year and should be a staple on the blueline for quite some time. Injuries have thrust 19-year-old centre and 2016 first-round draft pick Tage Thompson into action in the NHL a bit sooner than planned. At 6′ 5″ and 185 lbs, Thompson has a bit of filling out to do yet. He shows great promise as a strong two-way player with a deft scoring touch. Plus, high-flying centre Robby Fabbri was pencilled in to be a top-six forward for the Blues this season until he suffered a second knee injury. That injury required surgery to repair. He is only 22 and could be a real offensive factor if he can return to form and remain healthy.
Also acquired in the Stastny deal with the Jets was a conditional first-round draft pick for 2018. This reclaims the pick that was included as a part of the deal that brought Brayden Schenn to the Blues from the Philadelphia Flyers for Jori Lehtera during the off-season last summer. However, instead of dipping into the youthful amateur ranks once again, speculation is that Armstrong might look to package the pick along with perhaps another established player in a deal to obtain a veteran top-six forward. With the continued development of the young players already in the pipeline, along with the nucleus of quality players already on the team, the future over the next five years or so looks very promising indeed for the St. Louis Blues.
Main PHoto: NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 08: Robby Fabbri #15 of the St. Louis Blues celebrates his goal at 4:36 of the first period against the New York Islanders and is joined by Vladimir Tarasenko #91 at the Barclays Center on December 8, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)