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The Blues will be part of the 7-team Western Conference Central Division in the newly realigned National Hockey League and will be joined by former Central Division opponents Chicago, Minnesota, and Nashville. The Winnipeg Jets come over from the Eastern Conference and are back where they belong. Coming over from last season’s Pacific Division will be the Dallas Stars and the Colorado Avalanche to round out the division.
NHL odds currently have the Blues at 12-1 to win the Stanley Cup.The Blues are the second best team in the division in my personal power ratings for this upcoming season, only the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks are rated higher.
It was a familiar theme in St. Louis a season ago. The Blues had a terrific regular season going 29-17-2. They finished only behind Chicago in the Central Division, had the 3rd most points in the Western Conference, and the 6th most points in all of the NHL. They entered the playoffs as the #4 seed in Western Conference. However, after jumping out to a 2-0 series lead in the opening round versus the Los Angeles Kings, they proceeded to lose the next 4-games of the series. Unfortunately for Blues fans it was another disappointing early playoff exit after a stellar regular season.
The Blues will look to put last year behind them and focus in on what they can control in the upcoming season. They return both their goalies from a season ago in Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak. Both of these players are capable of carrying their club for long stretches during a grueling 82-game schedule. The Blues defense is the strength of their team led by veterans Jay Bouwmeester, Barret Jackman, in addition to 23-year old Alex Pietrangelo. The Blues most improve offensively if they’re going to be taken seriously as a Stanley Cup contender. Granted last year was an abbreviated 48-game schedule. That doesn’t the fact they only had 3 players tally 10 goals or more during the regular season. Management should be very concerned entering this season about the lack of scoring punch.
The Ken Hitchcock Factor
Ken Hitchcock returns for his 3rd season as head coach of the St. Louis Blues. Hitchcock took over a month into the 2011-2012 (11/7/2011) campaign. In his first year, Hitchcock led the Blues to an outstanding 49-22-11 regular season good for 109 points and a Central Division title. It was the Blues first division title since 2000, and Hitchcock was appropriately awarded the Jack Adams award for NHL Coach of the Year at the conclusion of the season. He has compiled a 603-382-171 record in 1,156 regular season games with Columbus, Philadelphia, Dallas and St. Louis during his NHL coaching career. Included in that impressive resume is leading the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999. His teams have qualified for the playoffs in 10 of his 16 years, have recorded 100 points or more 9 times, and had 40 or more wins on 10 occasions. His career Stanley Cup playoff record is a very respectable 72-64.
It would be hard to imagine the Blues not getting off to a good start this season. Their early season schedule is extremely favorable. They open the year with 5 consecutive home games, and play 11 of their first 17 games on home ice. In the last 2 seasons, the Blues have gone a terrific 45-14-6 in their regular season home games. They can also feel secure in knowing they went a very good 33-25-7 in that same time span on the road.
The Final Analysis
In my professional sports betting opinion, the Blues will be in store for another solid regular season. However, if they don’t make a move to bring in a couple of 20 to 30 goal scorers, and if a couple of their current forwards fail to step it up and have career years, then they will once again fall short come playoff time. They’re disciplined enough and extremely strong on the back end. Making possible run to the Western Conference Finals with this current roster isn’t out of the realm of possibility if everything falls into place. Expecting anything more than that would be a big surprise in my eyes. This is a team that’s very much overvalued at 12:1 according to future NHL betting odds. I won’t be going to the betting window anytime soon to wager on the Blues to win the Stanley Cup.
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