(HockeyStL) -- The historic Blues season that included: a Central Division title, a postseason appearance, and a quarterfinal victory reluctantly came to an end with a second round sweep to the Los Angeles Kings. There is no time to dwell on the loss, the Blues simply have to accept it, and look forward to next year. It will be some time before we see the Note take the ice at Scottrade Center, and embark on their next journey, but it helps knowing that what we saw them do this year is inferior compared to what is to come.
This season was only the beginning of what’s ahead for the St. Louis Blues. It is simply a stepping stone, a disappointment that was necessary for the future Blues to have under their belt. Moving forward the Blues should find that disappointments are fewer and farther between as the pieces are now in place for future success.
One of the last pieces of the puzzle was fitted into place recently as former Blues minority owner Tom Stillman finalized a deal for the purchase of the Blues. On shaky financial ground for nearly two years, the Blues were in a dire situation financially. Needless to say, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong was handcuffed financially, and there were few transactions he could pull the trigger on. Yet, he was able to put together a team worthy of the second seed in the Western Conference, and did it despite being nearly $12 million under the NHL’s salary cap. Stillman stepping in comes at exactly the right time. The NHL’s free agent signing period begins in a few months, and the Blues have many players they will look to sign on their own roster, as well as on the free agent market. The Blues won’t be pushing up against the cap next season, but GM Doug Armstrong will have some flexibility this season, something he hasn’t had in many seasons. But the Blues will also look for some youngsters to contribute next year.
Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko both may hold a roster spot next year. If you want talent and potential, search no further than these two players. Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz will not require AHL seasoning before joining the NHL club. Schwartz left his college team late in the season, to join the Blues. Many will remember him scoring 2 goals on 2 shots, and showing his composure with the puck. There is no question that Schwartz is NHL ready, but will there be room for him? This is a question that will be answered by the signings that take place in the offseason, but there is another variable that could affect whether or not he holds a roster spot next season: Vladimir Tarasenko.
Perhaps the most coveted Blues prospect, Tarasenko, is still contemplating whether or not he wants to leave the KHL to come over to North America next season. The hype that he has built up by delaying his decision is not surprising considering he has all the makings of a superstar. Tarasenko is a pure goal scorer, with some size as well as some nifty hands. His decision to join the club will impact some of Armstrong’s decisions in the offseason. Should Tarasenko come to North America, he will have a roster spot as Armstrong has said countless times. He is ready to make the jump to the NHL; it’s now just a matter of waiting for his decision which will come at the end of May.
The biggest plus for the Blues moving forward is their growing fan base. NHL teams do not win if they don’t have the support of the fans. It is clear that this is not a problem for the Blues. They have sold out 65 regular season home games the past two years, and have one of the loudest buildings in the NHL. The passion of the fans was shown throughout the year, and it has played a huge part in the Blues’ success this season.
Last but certainly not least is the offseason. This offseason will be a bit different from the last in many capacities. Chris Stewart is taking a new approach to preparing, hiring his own trainer, and preparing for the “the most important season of his career.” Blues forward David Perron will be able to train this summer, which he was unable to do last year as he was still battling concussion symptoms. And of course this will be the first offseason for the Blues under Ken Hitchcock. This means the Blues will have adequate time to address the areas of their game that were lacking this past season, and will have time to perfect Hitchcock’s system.
There are many positives for the Blues heading into the offseason, and the future. The Blues have solidified their depth, used the draft to restock and improve their talent, and have put themselves in a great position to be successful under the guidance of Doug Armstrong and Ken Hitchcock. The next key for the Blues is to get on stable ground financially, but as of right now it appears that the Blues have the makings of a team that will be dominant for many years to come. It is a great time to be a Blues fan.