A few weeks ago, James was kind enough to invite me to talk about about JetsNation and about the Jets in general this coming season to Blues fans over on his site BluesRants.com so it’s only right that we give him a chance to talk up the Blues and let him explain why this may be the most exciting team St. Louis fans have had a chance to get behind in maybe ever.
Once you’re done that, be sure to give him a follow on Twitter where he covers all things St. Louis sports, not just the Blues.
JN – Who is the real Jake Allen? Is he the guy that had a .913 save percentage up until last December, or is he the guy who struggled in January and February? How much faith do Blues fans have in their starting goalie and it it unfair to think the entire season could be dependent on how goaltending turns out for St. Louis?
James – I don’t think it is unfair, I think starting goaltending is a fair barometer of success for every NHL team. Did Allen’s play instill a high level of confidence last year? No, not really in many of the vocal fans that we run into, but I don’t think the Allen we saw in January and February is the real Snake. .913 is garbage, but he didn’t get any help from his D last year, a healthier year for Joel Edmundson and Jay Boumeester and perhaps a step forward for Colton Parayko and the Blues’ blue line will be able to help Jake out much more than last year. Remember he’s only 2 years removed from .935 in the playoffs, including an unconscious .956 against the Minnesota Wild in Round 1 of that year. Is he the dominate force we saw then, or the shaky goalie we saw parts of last year? I am a Jake Allen fan, I think this year he has no competition for the starting gig and he leads this team into the playoffs, if Chad Johnson starts more than 20 games…. well then we are in trouble.
JN -The Blues finished last season 24th in the NHL in goals for, but they’ve really boosted their offense this summer with the additions of Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Patrick Maroon and Tyler Bozak. Are their any concerns this is too much change to what should be the top nine forward group and are the additions enough to get the Blues into the top ten offensively?
James – They were miserable on the Power Play last year, 30th out of 31 (Thanks Edmonton). The additions of a big body forward like Maroon and a PP Quarterback like Ryan O’Reilly should make a big difference in that department. The fact of the matter is that the Blues have to be better at finishing. They need to put teams away and on paper they now have the weapons to do that. It is a big shake up in the top 9 and I expect that it will take some time for the team to gel up front. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them stumble a little at the onset, but by Christmas this team should be lighting the lamp with the upper echelon of teams.
JN – With all the additions this summer, there really doesn’t seem to be any room for prospects to make the club, but is there a name or two that could force the issue and make their way onto the main club?
James – Well, things could go a few ways here. If Allen really struggles you may see an abrupt debut of Ville Husso, who the Blues are high on, but I think they want him to develop in the AHL for another season. Robert Thomas is better than a coinflip to make it on to the roster after an incredible season at the Major Junior level last year and he would likely play protected minutes this year. He is too young for the AHL so I expect he will stay with the club and be available to fill in and play minutes centering Robby Fabbri, whose minutes I am sure will be monitored, and Dimitri Jaskin. Jordan Kyrou blew up the OHL last year as well, but I think he starts the year in San Antonio.
JN – If things start off poorly for the Blues, how hot is the seat that head coach Mike Yeo is in? Is there a chance that if things don’t go well, he could find himself out of a job?
James – I think they give him the year, I expect he will have to have this team in the playoffs to be here next year, but I don’t get the feeling management is breathing down his neck. This roster is expensive and talented, I think it’s obvious this is at the very least a playoff team and perhaps a cup contender. Yeo knows that, and he has been given plenty of tools to make that happen. He also seems to have the locker room’s ear, something that didn’t happen with previous coaches.
JN – There are a lot of expectations on your team this season and the bare minimum would seem to be “playoffs or bust” but in reality should expectations be higher than that?
James – This is the most exciting roster the Blues have had in at least 20 years. I think the expectations are that this will be an exciting time that will play deep into the year. If they stay healthy then there is a chance this team contends with the Jets for the division and once they are in the playoffs… who knows? It’s always going to be about the cup for a fan base desperate for their first, but a big step is making a run deep in the playoffs.