THE BOTTOM LINE
By Jim Kelley, Special to ESPN.com
The Blues dumped salary as a prelude to a sale. They also lost an All-Star defenseman in Al MacInnis (retirement) and Chris Pronger (trade to Edmonton) as well as scorer Pavol Demitra. That doesn't make them a bad team, just different and a little bit more at risk.
Offense: Despite a reputation for name players, the Blues couldn't score last season (21st overall) and lost a lot in the departure of Demitra and especially Pronger, who often fed the attack. Problematical is Keith Tkachuk (33 goals last season), the veteran forward showed up fat for training camp and was suspended.
Defense: Pronger is gone, but the Blues did get Eric Brewer in return, and he's very steady. Even with MacInnis gone, the unit is stable and smart, and fairly deep and experienced.
Goaltending: The Blues picked up former Ottawa Senator Patrick Lalime before the lockout and he becomes the latest in an ever-rotating group at the position. He's good, and got a bit of a bad rap as a scapegoat in Ottawa, but might not be good enough to carry this team.
WHERE THEY'LL FINISH
YES They dumped some money players, but they have a good core of vets in front of a goalie, Lalime, with something to prove.
BUT Too many moves, coupled with a possible sale and the majority of players on one-year contracts, is bad chemistry.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Barrett Jackman is a quality defenseman looking to comeback from injuries (he missed half of the 2003-04 season with a dislocated left shoulder) and will help ease the loss of Pronger if he's successful.
The Blues showed Joel Quenneville, a quality coach, the door part way through the 2003-04 season and you have to wonder why. In his place is assistant Mike Kitchen, who is knowledgeable, but in a very difficult position having a roster in flex mode and just 21 NHL games to his credit.
BEST OFFSEASON MOVE --> MAIN GOAL
The team improving from Chris Osgood to Patrick Lalime in goal. The former Senator will likely be the Blues' No. 1 starter.
WORST OFFSEASON MOVE --> WHERE'S CHRIS?
It hurts when St. Louis gives up Pronger's offensive playmaking skills just when the league is attempting to open up the game.
Keith Tkachuk, LW
A thinner Tkachuk led the Blues in 2003-04 with 33 goals and 38 assists in 75 games.
Chris Osgood, G
Osgood had a 31-25-8 record in the 2003-04 season with a 2.24 GAA and a .910 save percentage. Osgood is now in Detroit.
“Until he passes a physical, he's suspended.”
— Blues GM Larry Pleau on Tkachuk's status after the LW failed a physical.