NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the St. Louis Blues.
1. Where will the offense come from with Vladimir Tarasenko out?
The St. Louis Blues will look for others to step up in the absence of the forward, who is recovering from shoulder surgery and is expected to miss the beginning of this season and be reevaluated in February.
That approach was effective for St. Louis last season, when Tarasenko missed all but the first 10 games after he had shoulder surgery on Oct. 29, 2019, and the Blues got balanced scoring among their forwards. Ryan O’Reilly led them with 61 points (12 goals, 49 assists), David Perron was second with 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists), Brayden Schenn was third with 58 points (25 goals, 33 assists), and Jaden Schwartz was fourth with 57 points (22 goals, 35 assists), each in 71 games. It helped lessen the impact of being without Tarasenko, who scored at least 33 goals in each of his past five full NHL seasons.
Defensemen should pitch in too. Colton Parayko scored 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 64 games last season, and Torey Krug, who agreed to a seven-year contract as a free agent Oct. 9, scored 49 points (nine goals, 40 assists) in 61 games for the Boston Bruins.
2. Is Ville Husso ready for the NHL?
With goalie Jake Allen traded to the Montreal Canadiens, Husso looks to take advantage of his chance to back up Jordan Binnington. The 25-year-old, who was selected by St. Louis in the fourth round (No. 94) of the 2014 NHL Draft, was 16-17-8 with a 2.56 goals-against average, a .909 save percentage and four shutouts in 42 games for San Antonio of the American Hockey League last season.
“We had him on our depth chart two years ago, slightly ahead of Binnington. Then he got injured, Binnington played well, and the rest is history,” general manager Doug Armstrong said of winning the Stanley Cup in 2019. “Husso’s a player that we invested time in, and we think he’s a good prospect. Like all young players, at some point you have to give them the opportunity, and this is the right time for Ville.”
3. Who will be their captain?
The captaincy is vacant after St. Louis did not re-sign defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who signed a seven-year contract with the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 12. Armstrong said he and coach Craig Berube will be discussing options.
“I personally go between having one captain or, as the game and the League evolve into leadership groups, can you go with just [alternate captains]?” he said. “So that’s something I go back and forth on, and I want to discuss with Craig and some people in our organization to get a good feel for what we have. We certainly have some strong candidates if we want to go that way, so Craig and I will make that decision jointly.”