1. Vladimir Tarasenko.
Yes, he exists as a single engine destroyer all by himself -- a potential 40-50 goal scorer with talent that can make the opposing team look like cones on the ice instead of real bodies. Tarasenko scored 37 goals last season with Jori Lehtera dishing him pucks for a majority of the season, so what do you think he can do with Paul Stastny and Alexander Steen setting him up?
The sky is the limit for the Russian Martini. Tank is shaken and stirred, and the effect is equal on the fans. He is also the only Blues player who can perform well in the playoffs, which gets me thinking more about cloning than practicing his ways on his teammates. He's a theme park ride, folks, and is the greatest weapon the Blues have in 2015-16. He turns 24 in December, by the way.
2. The netminders.
Goaltending won't be a problem any time soon. Sure, Jake Allen started hot and fizzled late in the playoffs this past spring, but on a team that couldn't average more than two goals a game, it didn't matter if Patrick Roy was in net. The Blues have the perfect setup if egos and emotions don't come into play.
Brian Elliott is the seasoned vet, a man who has spent enough time behind supposed No. 1 guys that he could stitch a jersey with a dull needle. Allen is the young sort of battle-tested gun who is hungry for more action. Jordan Binnington and Pheonix Copley (who I think could be the future steal of the T.J. Oshie trade) wait behind these men. Allen and Elliott are great goaltenders and each are capable of leading this team. The question is gets set in motion as No. 1 and who is the guy in February? Good problems to have.
3. Youth, and the space for it.
Youth is nice. Yes, the team lost a general in Barret Jackman, but it helped the team get young on defense. Petteri Lindbohm gave the fans a sneak peek of something special late last season, and could win a spot this season as a full-time guy. Colton Parayko is knocking on the door, especially with Robert Bortuzzo suffering a camp injury.
Look at 18-year-old Vince Dunn, a hungry kid who bounced his statistics from 36 points in 63 games to 56 points (18 goals) in 68 games in the OHL this past season. Sure, it's the OHL but the point is the Blues are getting younger. Part of the greatness from the Oshie trade was clearing room for guys like Robby Fabbri, Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin. The Blues are just getting younger and younger, unlike other teams.
1. Paul Stastny's contract.
Yes, he started off 2014-15 injured and out of sync in a new system and found himself on the second line somehow. However, this year Stastny is getting first-line minutes and will be paired with Tarasenko. Can he rise to the occasion? The dude is making some sweet cash for the next few years and the team needs more than 46 points in 74 games and definitely need more than the ONE point in the playoffs? Will Stastny be the next Paul Kariya and come to the team with promise and basically decline year after year, or will he become an elite performer again? Maybe touch 70 points again for the first time in five years? We shall see. I feel like he is the X-Factor in this offense.
2. Steve Ott.
The man who stole playoff minutes from more talented co-stars. The guy who I think is the most overrated useless chunk of redheaded madness in the world outside of Carrot Top. (OK, that was harsh.) But still, I stay up late at night wondering how many minutes and games Ott's presence will cost younger more integral players. He plays too much even on the third or fourth line and many wish he wouldn't have been resigned. I think Chris Porter can do his job and for a lot less money but that's just me. Ott may slow the team down more than help it in 2015-16.
3. The head coach.
Yes, I know Ken Hitchcock has a lot of wins, a Stanley Cup, and the tenure few coaches can hold onto as they near the end of the their career, but can this team find traction under him after years of flops? What will make this season any different than the last? If so, why? Mention "buy-in" and the bunny gets it! (Con Air reference for the non-film addicts).
Look, he has talked with his coaches about change and such but can the fans believe it? Will we see "reckless" play and a lack of goal production in the playoffs? Will he allow lines to get comfortable and link up or will he constantly change them due to a fear of losing his job? Will he finish the season or be asked to leave midseason like the last Blues coach or two? Is this Hitch's last hurrah in this city? What will come of it? Will his system hinder or help the Blues expand?
1. Will Troy Brouwer make people forget the T.J. Oshie trade?
2. Will Ken Hitchcock and his coaching staff make it through the season?
3. What is "reckless?"
The team figures out what playing reckless means. Tarasenko matches or improves upon is 37-goal performance last season. The T.J. Oshie trade pays off. Patrik Berglund being out for an extended period of time doesn’t hurt the team (it shouldn't). Jake Allen and Brian Elliott continue to play at the high level that they have been the last few years.
Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo get back to the elite pairing that they were in 2013-2014. Kevin Shattenkirk has another great year without injury. David Backes move to wing paying off giving Stastny more ice time. They take the Central Division. Draw a favorable playoff opponent in the first round and actually win. Get to the Stanley Cup Final and hoist the prize that has been eluding them for years.
Hitchcock leads the Blues to a first-round exit again. Even worse than that, they miss the playoffs completely. Many teams have improved in the offseason, so it's not as crazy as it sounds. Major players spend more time in press box due to injury than on ice. Tarasenko flops. The Oshie trade backfires. Backes moving to wing doesn't work out. No one steps up to replace Berglund. Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo have down years again. Fans riot, burn down Scottrade and the team is forced to move to Kansas City. I mean that is the worst ... right?