I'm a Sabres fan, but the Blues are probably my second favorite NHL team, mostly because I think St. Louis is one of the better (and one of the most under-respected) American markets and cities (like Buffalo), but I don't follow them too closely.
At the start of the season, I looked at last year's Blues, their hot start, their injuries, and their crippling mid-season plunge and thought they were a threat to win the division if they had a bit more luck. I looked like an idiot for about three weeks until they started kicking a-- and taking names. So my question is this for those that follow the Blues much more closely:
Did people know this was a good team from the beginning? Did they retain faith through the slow start? Or was it more of an "let's see what we have" thought?
P.S. What the h- is wrong with your special teams?
We always knew this team was capable of this. Some of us would say that and fans of others teams would call us crazy, but deep down, we knew we were this talented. We just really need more direction and Hitchcock gave that to us.
The special teams have improved, but IMO we could use different assistant coaches next year. There really is no reason they should be as bad as they are on the special teams.
With the current core of players, I can guess everyone was thinking it's time to find out where they are. They kind of gave up on Murray and to be honest they really weren't playing too well for Payne at the beginning of the season. At that point you really do have to look at the players.
Regarding the Arnott and Langenbrunner signings, yes I totally expected an improvement with the two way game you knew they were going to bring. I expected team defense to improve and I expected the goaltending to improve with it.
Who wasn't surprised by the early season move to replace Payne with Hitchcock? The strange thing is he has basically turned this team into what I always envisioned they could be. An offensive defense with an emphasis on transition coupled with a great group of two way forwards.
Though, we can't realistically afford it, not until our ownership situation is resolved.
Most Sabres fans would probably be more than willing to trade Stafford. He put together a great 31 goal season last year in 62 games on driving hard to the net (which he hasn't done since) and having a lot of really terrible shots go in.
Since he signed his new contract, Stafford has been one of the softest players on the ice, rarely crashing the net and winning few battles along the boards, despite a 6-2, 214 frame. It's no surprise his play is down, and I think 25 goals is a ceiling with last season's 31 being a major fluke.
I can't speak for every fan, but I think the general feeling going into the season was confidence that they'd make the playoffs. We thought they'd make it in 2010 after their great run in 2009. We thought they'd make it in 2011 after their good start to the season. Even though they missed both seasons, I still think fans expected this year to be better. We'd all seen flashes of what they were capable of. For me, though, I thought the Blues would be battling for the 6, 7, 8 spot and I thought it might be a nail biter 'til the end of the season to see if they'd make it in. I expected them to have a good season, but I've been pleasantly surprised by their record after Hitchcock took over.
Going into the season, I predicted the 7th seed for the Blues. Obviously expectations have been raised since then.
I think if you take away the first couple weeks, the PK doesn't look nearly as bad. As for the PP, just need to learn to score on the road. Home PP is right around 19-20 percent if I'm not mistaken
That sounds reasonable, I write for a semi-popular Sabres site and one of my recurring columns is stats based power rankings. It's been interesting to watch the Blues special teams slowly climb (I think they were dead last in the conference in both at the start of the season).