Mile High Sticking Central Division Power Rankings — Preseason Debut!

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Sep 25, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Cody Goloubef (29) checks St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny (26) off the puck during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Blues added a shiny new toy to their arsenal, and his toothless grin should be familiar to Avs fans. Paul Stastny signed a 4-year $28M dollar contract to leave the Mile High City, where he has played hockey for the past ten seasons (2 at Denver University and 8 with the Avalanche), and join the rival Blues.

Stastny most likely saw the writing on the wall in Denver. With Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene in the fold, he wasn’t likely to hold on to his top-2 center-man role for much longer. He was born in St. Louis, and they gave him 28 million reasons to sign in the city with the arch, but it still stings a bit that he went to a direct rival.

Stastny has never been a player who can do it on his own, but he is a fantastic complimentary piece, and makes his line-mates better. The Blues have some talented young wingers such as TJ Oshie, Alexander Steen, and Vladimir Tarasenko. If Stastny can facilitate for these guys, it could really boost the Blues offense, which dried up at the end of last season.

Last Season: 111 pts – 2nd in Division – Lost first round

Prediction: 108 pts

Team Strength: Toughness

The Blues are a difficult team to play against. As far as their skill guys are concerned, David Backes and TJ Oshie like to get into it more than most. The Blues also made a point to go out and acquire a bunch of not-so-likeable guys to spruce up their roster. Guys like Maxim Lapierre, Steve Ott, and Ryan Reaves.

The Blues gameplan tends to be to try and intimidate their opponent and really get into their head. Once they accomplish that, they have enough skill to put a few goals on the board, while their opponents are busy worrying about how much the Blues antics pissed them off.

Like the Blackhawks, the Blues also have excellent team balance, ranking in the top 10 in both goals scored and goals allowed last season.

Team Weakness: Handling expectations

The Blues, by most accounts have reached that elite level of NHL teams, but when it comes time to play like an elite team, they haven’t shown up. St. Louis is built to win. They have a big, tough, talented group of forwards. Their defense is solid, let by Alex Pietrangelo (the guy who made Erik Johnson expendable), and offensive whiz Kevin Shattenkirk.

Last season the Blues acquired what they thought was going to be the final piece of the puzzle, Ryan Miller. However Miller was very average in his time with a note on his sweater, and the Blues went completely flat in the final two weeks of the regular season. They found their footing somewhat in the playoffs, but still couldn’t take out Chicago.

This year, the Blues are rolling with Brian Elliott as their starting goaltender. Elliott has been good since arriving in St. Louis, but he had some pretty rough seasons in years prior. If Elliott struggles, the Blues may slip into the middle of the pack in the Central, and again face a tough opponent in the first round of the playoffs.