LAST SEASON 41-31-10 (6th in West); lost in first round to Vancouver
KEY ADDITION G Ty Conklin
KEY LOSSES G Manny Legace, D Jay McKee
After a remarkable run (20-7-4 in their last 31 games, 9-1-1 in the final 11) lifted the Blues into the playoffs for the first time in five years, they benefited from the most significant addition of a defenseman west of Philadelphia—and did it without spending an extra dime. Erik Johnson (below), the 2006 No. 1 draft pick who at 6'4" and 219 pounds personifies a poor man's Chris Pronger, is back after missing all of 2008--09 with a knee injury. Among other things, his return should raise the Blues' power play to a place among the league's best. "When he shoots the puck," says goalie Chris Mason, "it leaves a mark."
In his first season in St. Louis, Mason, 33, left a mark of his own, stopping nearly 92% of the shots against him over those final 31 games. He and St. Louis's core of young stars—Johnson, plus forwards Patrik Berglund, David Perron and T.J. Oshie—made G.M. John Davidson, who continued to spout optimistically even as his team sank to last place in the conference early last season, look prophetic. The Blues can't count on a run like last season's to get into the playoffs, but in 2009--10 they shouldn't need it.
LAST SEASON 41-31-10 (7th in West); lost to Detroit in first round