Good lord, training camp hasn't even started yet. We have no clue what the rosters are going to look like yet. I honestly haven't even seen any ill-devised line combinations floating about anywhere. But the Blues' official website's already decided to start the season previews with their sneak peek, so what the hell. I'm also doing my Thrashers preview over on View From My Seats instead of the Blues' preview this season, so I have to use my Magic 8 Ball somewhere... and I figured I might as well use it in an analysis as what the heck the Blues need to do on offense to fix things.
Last season's anti-climatic end of the year was a disappointment to the team and to the fans. The folks surrounding the Blues had every confidence that the 2008-2009 season was a sign that the team'd turned a corner, and the youth movement was working - and then it stopped. The team appeared to slack off.at times; whether that was youthful cockiness or a response to Andy Murray's badgering I'm not sure. Some players, such as Patrik Berglund, played gunshy all season and saw their totals drop off (Berglund dropped from 21-26-47 to 13-13-26, as well as from a +19 to a -5). Lack of production, arrogance, paranoia, and high expectations combined to leave the Blues in 9th place. They have to remember this season - what's good enough for a playoff spot in the East is NOT good enough for one in the West. Time to step it up a bit, boys.
Which one of the Blues is going to be Invisible this year? And yes, I went there. God, I hope he's not wearing a Walt jersey.
The problem sat last season for the Blues squarely on the shoulders of the forward corps. While it's not particularly good to have an issue at any position, it seemed that the forwards and their lack of scoring held the team back significantly. The Blues were11th in the league with 2.66 goals allowed per game, but 17th in the league with the exact same number. You can't win games if you allow the same amount of goals on average that you score. Mathematically and common sense-ically, that isn't going to equate to a trip to the playoffs.
Other than Berglund, David Backes (31-23-54 to 17-31-48) and Brad Boyes (14-28-42) saw their numbers drop off hugely. Actually, the young forward who had his production go up, TJ Oshie (14-25-39 to 18-30-48), has to be taken with a grain of salt: he played 57 games in 2008-2009, and 76 last season. Averaged out for an entire year, his poit totals probably would have held steady or dropped. David Perron's totals remained basically constant. Andy McDonald's totals went up (15-29-44 to 24-33-57), but that's with about 40 more games played for him, so much like Oshie, you could argue that his season was a decline from the previous year.
Alexander Steen was the only player with a major production jump between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. Hopping from 6-18-24 to 24-23-47, Steen also improved his +/- to a +6, one of the few scoring forwards to actually improve that stat - Brad Boyes being the other one (-20 to a +1).
Based on all of that, increased scoring is what the team needs, and not just in general, but scoring from the players who can. We all know Boyes is a sniper and last season was more than likely an aberration, but what of Berglund and Backes? Is Andy McDonald getting up there in age? Will Steen be able to maintain? All very valid questions, and ones that can possibly be fixed with coaching, focus, and not living in fear.
Defensive responsibility among the forwards could be easier for the team to fix than anything else. While Steen and Boyes' +/- ratings jumped thanks to improved play (and McDonald's, marginally), Oshie dropped from a +16 to a -1, Perron went from a +13 to a -10, and Berglund went from a +19 to a -5. It doesn't matter how many more goals the forwards score if they can't be defensively responsible.
And I know that this was supposed to be about the forwards, but will someone please include Eric Brewer in that training workshop? His -17 is the worst on the team and does nothing but prove that he might very well have been on the ice for every goal against last season. If the team is looking to him to lead by example, I guess that explains the shift in priorities.