Our St. Louis Blues 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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The 2020-21 season was a huge disappointment for the St. Louis Blues. The team was expected to be competing in the top tier of the division with Colorado and Vegas. What ended up happening, however, was the Blues finding a groove on their own in the mid-tier of the division. Comfortably in a playoff spot, finishing fourth by 9 points over Arizona, but nowhere near the top tier of the West Division. Colorado ultimately swept the Blues in the first round of the playoffs.
The Blues were extremely average in terms of goals for/against. St. Louis managed to both score and give up 167 over the season, good for 13th in the league. Their powerplay was potent as they finished 6th in the league at 23.2% but the penalty kill was surprisingly awful. Their 77.8 PK% was 25th in the NHL.
Some struggles were to be expected heading into this season. It was to be their first season without Alex Pietrangelo. Torey Krug, brought in to fill a similar spot in the lineup, is not quite the same type of player as Pietrangelo. And Krug did struggle a bit in his first year in St. Louis. He was never known for being a strong defensive defender, always more a point producer, and he was alright with 32 points in 51 games. That was his lowest scoring rate in the last 4 seasons. He also only scored 2 goals, the worst total in his entire career (of full seasons).
Justin Faulk had an excellent season to help recover a bit of that but they were still down the defensive presence. Colton Parayko was supposed to be the guy to step into that role but he did not. Parayko struggled in a lot of areas and was also injured for almost half the season, playing only 32 games.
The defensive side of the team’s play was not helped at all by the goaltending, either. Jordan Binnington was overall average but there was a stretch of 9 games from March 6th to April 5th where he (and the team) went 1-5-3 and Binnington had an .894 SV%. Not to mention his, what do we call them, temper tantrums (?) on the ice in tough games and after being pulled.
The team went with unproven Ville Husso in net as the backup and he was not particularly great, either. A 9-6-1 record is decent but his statline is well below NHL level with a 3.2 GAA and .893 SV%.
St. Louis is going with largely the same roster again next season with the only real additions being at forward and those mostly being to replace what was lost. So it is clear the team believes the defensive and goaltending weaknesses will remedy themselves in player development for some or others having bounceback years. And if they don’t, the team wants to try and outscore their problems.
St. Louis Blues Roster Additions
St. Louis Blues Roster Subtractions
St. Louis Blues Roster Overview
The final combinations for the top 2 lines hinge almost entirely on one player: Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko has missed significant time over the last few seasons recovering from shoulder surgeries. He played in 24 games last season, but only scored 4 goals and 14 points. There was also the trade request storyline that ended up with Tarasenko left unprotected in the expansion draft and teams inquiring about how to get the sniper on their team.
Tarasenko is, on paper, the team’s best RW. He should have the first shot at the first line. But, this is entirely dependent on how he rebounds from his injuries, if he can still shoot and score, and how he fits in with the roster at this point. The Blues acquired Pavel Buchnevich, another scoring RW, over the offseason so if Tarasenko can’t find his game, Buchnevich will quickly pass him on the depth chart.
Whichever RW takes the first line will get to play with David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly. These two were the Blues’ best offensive players last season, 54 points for O’Reilly and 58 for Perron. They spent most of their time together at even strength and there is no reason to split them up after both had a couple of the best seasons of their careers.
Brayden Schenn could have entirely new linemates for the season. New acquisitions Brandon Saad and Pavel Buchnevich are leading candidates for this second line. Brandon Saad’s utilization will be interesting to watch as he only played about 14 minutes per game last season in Colorado, but got closer to 17 per game in Chicago in years past. Because of a couple of the players right below in the depth chart, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas, looking for more ice time, Saad may not be a permanent fixture on the second line.
The aforementioned Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou are not quite in the top 6 yet, but they are close to it. Kyrou had a great season last year with 35 points in 55 games which is definitely enough offense to justify a higher spot in the lineup. Ivan Barbashev is probably the next best option for winger on this line. Keep an eye on James Neal though, he was brought to camp on a PTO. A third line spot with a couple of younger, speedy players is a decent fit for him.
With age and younger players developing and passing him on the depth chart, Tyler Bozak probably slots in as the fourth line centre for good now. Kyle Clifford, Mackenzie MacEachern, Logan Brown, and maybe Nathan Walker could be main competitors for the final forward spots.
One other player to keep an eye on is Klim Kostin, who is still looking to win one of the team’s open roster spots.
Torey Krug and Jusin Faulk are the team’s best defenders, spent the most time together last season, and should continue to do so again. This is Faulk’s third season in St. Louis. His first was not great, but his second was a major bounceback and he was a solid contributor for the Blues. We will get to see what a ‘normal’ performance for Faulk looks like and where it falls on the good-bad spectrum.
Colton Parayko should be on the second pairing. He really needs to have a good season after missing a lot of time due to injury and not quite being 100% even when he was playing. Marco Scandella had a rough season as well, finishing near the bottom of the team’s regulars in various possession metrics and underlying numbers. He is probably the team’s best bet on the second pairing so hopefully Scandella-Parayko can be a quiet duo for the Blues.
Even though Parayko is back, Vince Dunn was selected in the expansion draft which gives Robert Bortuzzo the final RD spot full time for next season. Over the years, Bortuzzo has been a fairly solid bottom pairing option for the Blues when needed. He has also often been the odd-man out in their blueline so this season he now slots in as a regular again. Niko Mikkola, Jake Walman, and maybe even Steven Santini could see ice time in the final spot.
Someone here to keep your eyes on is Scott Perunovich, the team’s top defensive prospect. He missed the 2020-21 season after undergoing shoulder surgery but with him being a LD and the team’s third pairing LD spot being a bit weak and uncertain, Perunovich could make this team with a strong training camp.
Jordan Binnington is the team’s starter and will need to play 60-65 games if we are basing things off of last season’s stats. Ville Husso wasn’t quite good enough to reliably play many of the team’s games. With how goaltending was for the Blues last season, this is a make-or-break spot for the team. If this season starts and one or both of these two don’t bounce back (or find more consistency in his game, in Binnington’s case), St. Louis might find themselves in the market for a new goalie very quickly.
St. Louis Blues 2021-22 Prediction
3rd-4th Central Division
The middle of the Central could be very competitive between St. Louis, Minnesota, and Dallas. Even Chicago could find themselves here with a hot streak. But, this is still a strong, playoff team that is approximately the same quality on paper as it was last season. They are banking heavily on the defensive side of things turning it around after being mediocre last season. If they do, this should be an easy lock for a playoff spot. If not, it’ll be more of a fight.
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