St. Louis Blues facing tough task as defending Stanley Cup Champions

The St. Louis Blues just raised the Stanley Cup banner to kick off the 2019/20 NHL campaign and may be headed to the White House to celebrate last season’s victory, but they’re going to find the going to be awful tough this year. In the eyes of many experts, defending a championship is a heck of a lot tougher than winning one. This doesn’t bode too well for a club that took just over 50 years to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time.

Looking at the facts, the NHL’s silverware has been defended successfully just once in the salary-cap era, twice over the past 20 years and on five occasions in the last 35 seasons. It’s not impossible to achieve, but it’s certainly against the odds. The odds were against the club last season too though when they suddenly caught fire at the turn of the 2019 calendar year. The Blues resided in the league basement in early January then catapulted up the standings to make the playoffs and capture the Stanley Cup in seven games on the road in Boston.

The Blues more or less have the same lineup as last season with a couple of exceptions. Forward Patrick Maroon, who hails from St. Louis, left the team as an unrestricted free agent during the summer and inked a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. General manager Doug Armstrong then pulled the trigger on a significant trade by sending defenceman Joel Edmundson to the Carolina Hurricanes along with a seventh-round draft choice in 2021 and prospect Dominik Bokk for offensive blue liner Justin Faulk and a fifth-rounder in 2020.

The 27-year-old Faulk was signed to a $45.5 million, seven-year contract extension. In addition, Armstrong just gave forward Brayden Schenn a new eight-year deal worth $52 million. This leaves head coach Craig Berube with an arguably better squad than last season with the addition of Faulk, but with many other teams making several changes it’s possible the Blues haven’t done enough to keep up with them. Their season started on a sour note as they blew a 2-0 lead to the Washington Capitals in their season opener at home and lost 3-2 in overtime just hours after hoisting their championship banner to the rafters.

For the Blues to hold onto their title and repeat as champions they’re going to have to get better regular seasons from just about everybody. They can’t afford to wait until the campaign is three months old and then suddenly switch gears and make a run at the playoffs.  They need to play consistently from day one and stay in the thick of the playoff hunt at all times. Their key players will be netminder Jordan Binnington, captain and defenceman Alexander Pietrangelo and forwards Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly and Jayden Schwartz.

Binnington had a remarkable 2018/19 season as the Blues fortunes turned around when he was called up from the American Hockey League in January. He handled the transition physically and mentally and simply shrugged off losses and bad goals. He ended up setting an NHL record for winning 16 playoff games as a rookie and it will be interesting to see if he suffers from the so-called ‘sophomore jinx.”

Berube himself was also a catalyst for the team last season as he replaced former coach Mike Yeo on November 19th when Yeo was fired. It took the team about six weeks to get used to Berube’s ways and once everybody was on the same page they gelled. Once they reached the playoffs, the team collectively dug in even deeper and their gritty play combined with excellent goaltending and timely scoring resulted in the Stanley Cup. The Blues defending their title isn’t likely this season, but what they achieved last campaign was perhaps even more unlikely.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *