Monday, September 8, 2008

NHL Four-cast: St. Louis Blues

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Did you know Brad Boyes had 43 goals last year? Dude can score. Manny Legacy? Dude can stop pucks (I still don't understand why he was run out of Detroit). Barret Jackman and Jay McKee are two of the better defensive defensemen in the league. D.J. King is good at defending his teammates and Cam Janssen is insane.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? Better. They did lose stellar penalty killers in class act Jamal Mayers and Ryan Johnson but they replaced them with younger grinders in Matt Foy and Brad Winchester. They gave the incredibly underrated Legace a safety net in Chris Mason, who flunked as a starter last year but was wonderful as a backup two years ago (some folks can't take the pressure I guess). Plus the kids they played last year have a year's experience and a new crop is already coming in - T.J. Oshie is a stud.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Boyes is the only guarantee. Erik Johnson hasn't grown into a power play QB yet but is getting there. Andy McDonald has gotta do better, he can't be as bad as he was last year ... -17 in 49 games? Eesh, but he did have 36 points. If plus/minus doesn't scare you the the over-the-hill gang of Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk should be good for the 60 or so points they put up last year. David Backes is growing into a Tkachuk-esque player (some points, some PIM) and Lee Stempniak is only getting better. Keep an eye on them and while you are at it, take a peek at David Perron - he scored 27 points in 62 games and somehow put up a +16 on St. Louis. St. Louis. That's damn impressive. Legace had five shutouts and 27 wins and probably will better each number as the young Blues mature.

4 - If this on-going rebuild fails, if it doesn't result in a return to prominence (the kind that 25 straight playoff years gets you), will John Davidson have ruined his reputation in hockey? I don't think so. Davidson built a one incredible reputation around the league as an analyst after an above-average career. Many people complimented him for reaching out and taking this job, as crappy a gig as it seemed. If he fails, and I don't think he will, then those same folks will still think he is a great guy. You can't wash away 30+ years with a few bad ones in this business - Cliff Fletcher just got rehired for crissake. But if I'm right, and the team does bounce back and start making the playoffs (say, two, three years from now), then J.D. should be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame as a builder ...

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