Coming off a disappointing 2022-23 season, the St. Louis Blues find themselves in an interesting spot.
The Blues have lost significant pieces since their 2019 Stanley Cup win. Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan O'Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, David Perron, Vince Dunn, Ivan Barbashev and others have all since departed. In the meantime, the team hasn't managed to bring in anywhere near enough talent to replace them.
At the same time, they're far from a bottom-feeder. Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou and Brayden Schenn are all locked up long-term, and the team's roster remains competitive. But in somewhat of a new era, it's up in the air as to whether this is a playoff team.
On route to their 9-7-1 record to start the season though, there have been some surprises.
Jordan Binnington bouncing back eloquently
After backstopping the Blues to their first Cup in 2019, Binnington emerged as St. Louis' long-term solution in net. Then by March of 2021, the team signed him to a six-year extension, carrying a $6 million cap hit.
Things took a turn from there though, with Binnington struggling over the next few years. In the 2021-22 season, the netminder managed just a .901 save percentage and was splitting the net with Ville Husso by the end of the year. If Binnington wasn't locked into his contract, there was probably a pretty good chance the Blues would've tried to stick with Husso as their guy, rather than Binnington.
After Husso's departure, Binnington was counted on even more last season, to even worse results. Despite playing over 60 games in 2022-23, Binngington managed only an .894 save percentage, marking by far his worst numbers since making the jump to the NHL. So this season, there wasn't necessarily a ton of optimism for Binnington bouncing back.
Through his 12 games this season though, Binnington has arguably been the team's most valuable player. The netminder has posted an excellent .922 save percentage and 2.47 goals against average.
Meanwhile, it's not like the Blues have been great defensively. They've allowed about 32 shots per game this season, which ranks within the top-10 of the league. St. Louis is a team who can give up pretty great chances on a nightly basis, with somewhat of a weak defense group. The team ranks 29th in the league in high danger chances for percentage, according to HockeyReference.com.
St. Louis' backup netminder, Joel Hofer, also isn't likely to be counted on for a large role at this point. Hofer is 23 years old and had played just eight career NHL games coming into this season. As a result, we can expect Binnington to continue to carry a huge workload this season.
So Binnington is going to need to continue to be good in order for the Blues to get back to the playoffs. But at a point where it seemed like he was in the midst of a steep decline, he has shown that at his best, he can be a key part of the team's success.
Blues' lack of offense becoming a disappointing issue
The Blues may be allowing fewer goals than expected, but scoring goals themselves is a separate issue.
Over recent years, scoring hasn't been an issue for the Blues. The team ranked third in the NHL in goals in 2021-22, and while they dropped all the way down to 17th last year, that still put them middle-of-the-pack.
This year, however, the Blues have really struggled to score. Through 17 games, the Blues rank 26th in the NHL in goals, averaging less than three tallies per game.
Looking at the reasons for this, a major factor would be the power play. The Blues rank second-worst in the NHL on the man advantage, operating at a disastrous 7.7 percent.
Then in regards to the personnel, too many players have come out of the gate slow. Robert Thomas may be performing well, but nearly the entire top-nine is underperforming offensively. Pavel Buchnevich has been fine, with 11 points in 15 games, but has shown he's capable of more in recent years. Jordan Kyrou is also counted on as a high-producing winger, but has registered just 10 points in 17 games.
Meanwhile, veterans in Brayden Schenn and Brandon Saad haven't had much going either. Schenn has 10 points in 17 games, while Saad has managed only five points while playing in all games as well. Kasperi Kapanen and Jakub Vrana, who the Blues were likely hoping would take advantage of their opportunity, haven't provided much. Then Kevin Hayes, who was added over the offseason, has just seven points in 17 games too.
It's not just the forward group, either. While the Blues' defense group can struggle to actually defend, the top-four group should be able to produce offensively.
Justin Faulk is off to a pretty good start, but Torey Krug, Nick Leddy, and Colton Parayko haven't been overly productive. Krug specifically should be a key contributor for the Blues, carrying a $6.5 million cap hit for the numbers he can put up. However, his six points in 17 games aren't nearly enough. Essentially, St. Louis has invested a lot of money into a defense group that's capable of adding offense, but has yet to do so this year.
So it's not necessarily one thing plaguing the Blues' offense. But the combination of top stars not performing – both up front and on the blue line – as well as the power play struggles, leave the team in a tough spot.