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Blues Tweak Roster to Prepare for 2014-15

Thursday, 08.14.2014 / 9:02 AM / St Louis Blues - News
By Louie Korac  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Blues Tweak Roster to Prepare for 2014-15
After a third straight first-round loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the St. Louis Blues shook up their roster in order to get to the next level.

Talking about how and why they lost in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs was bad enough for the St. Louis Blues. Little did they know they would be addressing the same issues as reasons for being ousted one year later.

Those points of emphasis are what the Blues have been dealing with since losing in the first round to the Chicago Blackhawks in April. The six-game loss to the Blackhawks followed the same script as 2013, when the Blues lost to the Los Angeles Kings in six games after they had grabbed a 2-0 series lead.

Amid what seemed like a myriad of issues, one problematic obstacle always seemed to hover as an Achilles' heel: the inability to score the timely goal.

The Blues, who finished 52-23-7 (good for 111 points and a second-place finish in the Central Division), were steadfast and strong during the regular season. They were regarded as a potential replacement for the Blackhawks and Kings as the top team in the Western Conference. But the Kings (twice) and Blackhawks have knocked the Blues down a notch and served notice to St. Louis that it hasn't quite reached that top echelon.

The Blues even went with an all-in mentality near the NHL Trade Deadline with the acquisition of goalie Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres. It didn't make a difference.


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The Blues made several changes this summer, including signing St. Louis native Paul Stastny and 2008 draft pick Jori Lehtera.
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"We're doing some things correctly, but we're not doing enough correctly to win in April, May and June," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "Quite honestly, I've got to quit worrying about May. We've got to get out of April first, and we're not doing that yet. My job responsibility is to peel back the layers and see if we can work together with this group to see if we can get to a new level or make necessary changes to get to a new level."

With failed opportunities, changes seemed inevitable. Armstrong addressed some glaring needs, turned the page, retooled the roster and positioned it for what he hopes is a Stanley Cup run.

The Blues were able to sign the top unrestricted free agent center on the market in Paul Stastny, a playmaker who immediately fills the No. 1 center role. They also signed 2008 third-round pick Jori Lehtera, Joakim Lindstrom and Peter Mueller to go with David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Steve Ott and Maxim Lapierre. Vladimir Sobotka departed for the Kontinental Hockey League.

The one major change on the blue line was trading Roman Polak to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Carl Gunnarsson, a move made to open up more playing time for Ian Cole. Chris Butler and Nate Prosser were signed for depth purposes.

"It's deeper and it has to be," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told NHL.com when asked about his team's roster. "There's no choice [but] to keep pace in the West. There's other teams that improved dramatically too. Chicago got better, L.A.'s gotten better because they got those young guys that are going to get full-time service. Anaheim's better, Dallas is better, Nashville's better, Colorado's a top team. This is to keep pace.

"We've done some good things to help ourselves, but so has everybody else. This was done just to make sure we keep pace because this is how strong it is in the West now."

Assistant coaches Gary Agnew and Corey Hirsch were replaced by former Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller and Jim Corsi, who spent the past 16 seasons as goalie coach with the Buffalo Sabres.

The team's biggest question mark heading into 2014-15 is in goal.

The Blues allowed Miller to leave as an unrestricted free agent and opted to keep Brian Elliott. The 29-year-old, who re-signed a three-year contract, will team with Jake Allen, who was 9-4-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .905 save percentage with the Blues in 2012-13, then spent last season with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

"I look at it as an earned opportunity for Brian," Hitchcock said of Elliott, who is 55-24-7 with a 1.86 GAA and .932 save percentage in three seasons with the Blues. "He's paid his dues, he's earned the right.

"With Jake, we just need him to keep building on the things that he's done so well at the American [Hockey] League level. ... Every place Jake's gone with us, he's taken advantage of it. He's done a heck of a job in showing us that he's ready to play in the National Hockey League. I think we've got a good situation."

BLUES OFFSEASON OUTLOOK

2013-14 record: 52-23-7, 111 pts; 2nd in Central Division, 3rd in Western Conference

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Lost to Chicago Blackhawks in six games in first round

Additions: C Paul Stastny, C Jori Lehtera, C Joakim Lindstrom, D Carl Gunnarsson, D Chris Butler, D Nate Prosser, C Peter Mueller, LW John McCarthy, C Philip McRae, RW Benn Ferriero, C Jeremy Welsh

Subtractions: G Ryan Miller, D Roman Polak, F Vladimir Sobotka, LW Brenden Morrow, C Derek Roy, RW Adam Cracknell

Pending FAs: LW Jaden Schwartz (RFA), D Carlo Colaiacovo (UFA)

Promotion candidates: G Jake Allen, LW Dmitrij Jaskin, RW Ty Rattie

Top 2014 NHL Draft picks: C Robert Fabbri (No. 21), C Ivan Barbashev (No. 33), C Maxim Letunov (No. 52)

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Steen 68 33 29 17 62
T. Oshie 79 21 39 19 60
D. Backes 74 27 30 14 57
J. Schwartz 80 25 31 28 56
A. Pietrangelo 81 8 43 20 51
K. Shattenkirk 81 10 35 1 45
V. Tarasenko 64 21 22 20 43
D. Roy 75 9 28 -1 37
J. Bouwmeester 82 4 33 26 37
V. Sobotka 61 9 24 14 33
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
B. Elliott 18 6 2 .922 1.96
R. Miller 25 30 4 .918 2.64

 
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