In the off-season
St. Louis signed speedy veteran winger Paul Kariya to kick-start the power play
(second-worst in the league last season) and invigorate an often anemic
offense. And for the second straight year, the Blues gained by dealing a
veteran at the trading deadline and re-signing him as a free agent in the
summer. In 2006 center Doug Weight returned from Carolina; this June it was
gritty forward Keith Tkachuk after two months in Atlanta.
St. Louis is also
excited about defenseman Erik Johnson, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft, who
joins the team after a year at the University of Minnesota. The mix of veterans
hoping for one last hurrah and youngsters eager to prove themselves should at
least make the team entertaining, even if the Blues aren't yet playoff
31-42-9 (13th in West)
KEY ADDITIONS C
Robert Lang, LW Sergei Samsonov
KEY LOSSES D
Adrian Aucoin, D Jassen Cullimore, C Michal Handzus
Here's the NHL's
most striking irony: A team coached by Denis Savard, one of the most creative,
dynamic forwards in the history of the game, is an offensive enigma. Only the
Oilers scored fewer goals than the Blackhawks' 195 last season, and Chicago was
last in the league on the power play at 11.8%--including just 8.9% at home.
difference this year," insists G.M. Dale Tallon, "is that we have real
assets who can produce and build a long-term future for us." At just 5'
10", 163 pounds and 18 years old, right wing Patrick Kane, a skilled scorer
and playmaker whom Chicago made the No.�1 pick in the June draft, will
need plenty of seasoning before he becomes a frontline player. Center Jonathan
Toews, a strong two-way forward who was the third pick of the 2006 draft and
played for the last two seasons at the University of North Dakota, will be
ready to help the Blackhawks sooner.
So Tallon is
right: Chicago is indeed moving in the right direction, but it will take a few
years to arrive there.