Pretender or Contender?
This team is not a Stanley Cup contender, and likely won't be for the next couple years despite how bright the future looks. However, this team is a potential playoff contender and is still treading on the brink of the second season despite a thrashing at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche this past weekend. It's never a good thing when you have absolutely no clue what this team's identity is some 65 games into the year. I give a lot of credit to T.J. Oshie.
While he has had his ups and downs like the entire St. Louis roster, his consistency from last year to the present campaign is something the rest of the team should pay attention to. Just take a look at his numbers:
2008-09: 57 games - 14 goals, 25 assists - 39 points.
2009-10: 61 games - 15 goals, 25 assists - 40 points.
The intangibles won't show up in any boxscores, but you can be certain that Oshie continues to motor around the ice and deliver crushing checks were one seemingly shouldn't exist. His production from his rookie season to present has seen growth and is a huge bright spot when looking toward the future.
I've talked about it numerous times this year. Consistency. The Blues are consistently inconsistent, which was a label I gave them just a bit into the 2009-10 season. Great five game winning streak followed up by an effort in Colorado that leaves me scratching my head. Every team has a "night off", but to put forth a performance like that against a contender is just ... confusing. The Blues obviously lack big name scoring and lack what many would label as a true number one goaltender. Several Blues have gone the opposite direction Oshie has, and have seen their numbers fall off considerably - Brad Boyes, I'm looking at you. These holes are tough to fill, and when several guys don't turn in a solid effort you get what we saw in Colorado.
That being said, what should we expect? Down the stretch, will we see more of the high scoring Blues we saw during the win streak or more of the team that got destroyed in Colorado? I won't pretend like I can answer that question. I do think we can all count on one thing - the Blues will play some fantastic hockey and will have some more serious meltdown ala the Avalanche game.
Ultimately, I don't think the Blues will be able to leap into the 8th spot and more importantly, hold on to it. When the season is on the line, who knows which form of the Blues will show. Who knows what sort of performances will be turned in. The road to the end of the year should be a wild one - and one filled with highs and lows.
The offseason should feature the Blues making moves they couldn't pull the trigger on at the deadline. I expect several new faces to come in and several faces to exit. Aside from the obvious holes mentioned at scoring and possibly in net, the defense probably needs to be called in to question too - something I can not say I have done too often.
The game against Colorado was disgusting and should serve as an example of what can happen if you take a night off defending. I'm not giving any Blues defender a pass on that one. This sort of inconsistency at defense is exactly what could keep the Blues out of the 8th spot, in addition to the already mentioned scoring waves.
So the question is posed: 2009-10 edition of the St. Louis Blues - playoff contender or pretender?
I think we will fall just short, but I am hoping I am mistaken. I feel the inconsistent mentality mixed with effort that frankly seems to come and go as it pleases will be the demise of this squad.
Oshie I feel brings intangibles to the ice each time he skates, regardless of whether or not his play earns him a goal or a point. However, the majority of this squad fails to bring intangibles to the ice on a regular basis, and I think it will be these intangibles that leave the Blues on the outside looking in.