The St. Louis Blues won’t spend a whole of time in Eastern Conference cities this season, but this franchise has connections all over that side of the National Hockey League this season.
While Brett Hull is busy selling tickets and suites in the front office here, his old running mate, Adam Oates, will try to coach the Washington Capitals toward a deep playoff run.
Oates finally got the Capitals to play his offensive and defensive systems last season during his rookie season as head coach. If they can pick up where they left off last season – and maintain their highly productive power play – they could make a deep run next spring.
“He always comes up with something. He always sees those little details that maybe you as a player don’t always think about,” center Nicklas Backstrom told the Washington Post. “How you can get a shot off quicker, how to catch the puck — it’s always something that, when he tells you, you try it and it really works.”
Of course, the Capitals won’t have the old Southeast Division to kick around any more. That grouping was sad last season, like the worst days of the old (Chuck) Norris Division on this side of the league.
Another Oates teammate in St. Louis, Paul MacLean, did a nice job coaching the Senators through an injury-marred campaign. With Bobby Ryan replacing the departed Daniel Alfredsson up front and cornerstone defenseman Erik Karlsson back to full strength, MacLean could have some fun this season.
Former Blues defenseman Marc Bergevin demonstrated a light touch as a team leader in St. Louis. His practical jokes kept teammates loose. But as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens he embraces the very serious challenge of a storied franchise in an intense media environment.
If goaltender Carey Price regains his old form, the Habs will be very dangerous. (His Opening Night performance left a bit to be desired.)
St. Louis owes John Davidson tremendous gratitude for guiding this decimated franchise back on the upward track. Now he is trying to do the same in Columbus after taking over the floundering Blue Jackets hockey operation.
Last season former Blues president of hockey operations hired his old St. Louis scouting director, Jarmo Kekalainen, as general manager. Together they plotted a daring course, acquiring mercurial scorer Marian Gaborik from the New York Rangers in a blockbuster trade.
They also signed Boston Bruins power forward Nathan Horton to a big free agent deal. Horton’s subsequent shoulder surgery delayed the impact of that move, but the Blue Jackets could be a handful for their new Eastern Conference rivals during the season’s second half.
St. Louisan Ben Bishop, a former Blues prospect, is finally getting his chance to earn a starting goaltender role in the NHL. The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired him from Ottawa last season to address a long-standing team need.
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