The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.
To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for all 32 teams.
2022-23 Fantasy Outlook: St. Louis Blues
Last season: 49-22-11, 3rd Central, 9th overall. GF: 3rd, GA: 11th, PP: 9th, PK: 5th.
For a while, the Blues seemed to be at crossroads. Captain Alex Pietrangelo had left via free agency following a disappointing opening-round defeat in the bubble playoffs, and in the following season, they were swept in the first round. They were in purgatory, ranking 15th in the league standings, 13th in goals for, and 19th in goals against. If you’re not winning, you’re losing, so the Blues had to either get really good, really quickly, or think about how they wanted to start a new foundation. They had the eighth-oldest team in the league and expectations were still pretty high having won just a few seasons ago.
Then the 2022-23 season begins and the Blues are, all of a sudden, a significantly improved team and a contender once again. Acquiring Pavel Buchnevich was a stroke of genius, and not only did the Blues have the deepest offense with nine 20-goal scorers, but four of them were also scoring at a point-per-game pace and all five of their top scorers had career seasons.
It is no coincidence that the emergence of Robert Thomas (and Jordan Kyrou, the Bonanza Bros. who secured all the bags this summer) coincided with Vladimir Tarasenko scoring a career-high 82 points, the first time a Blues player has ever scored at least 80 points in the cap era.
The Blues are not known for having a skilled offense but that is certainly changing now. This is hilariously ironic because coach Craig Berube was probably the worst scorer to have ever played in the NHL with just 61 career goals, the lowest total among the 246 forwards who have played at least 1,000 games.
They played in arguably the toughest division and their record could’ve been better had they not started Jordan Binnington or just used Ville Husso as the starter the entire season. Husso was a big reason why their penalty killing was good, ranking 15th in GSAA/60 on the PK, according to naturalstattrick.com, and it’s one of the biggest improvements they made from the previous season. They were ousted in the playoffs by the eventual Cup champions, but remember that for a small tiny window the Blues looked like the better team, and they handed two of the Avs’ three losses at home.
Best Fantasy Option: Robert Thomas, C
Almost every public model and sportsbook have Tarasenko leading the team in scoring but the margin between him and the Blues’ two young stars isn’t very big. Tarasenko has an outside shot at 40 goals and the lack of assists – up until last season, at least – had always prevented him from being an elite point producer. He’ll be 31 in December, so the upside seems to be capped. He’s a safe pick but not nearly as enticing or possessing the same kind of upside as Thomas.
Thomas should be a very valuable player going into the season. His faceoff percentage improved tremendously and even though Ryan O’Reilly still takes a large share of the draws, he averaged only five more faceoffs taken per game than Thomas last season, and that gap might narrow sooner or later. Thomas was always known as a skilled player and his breakout season seems to be no fluke with 36 first assists, according to IcyData, and on a per-minute basis meant he scored at a higher rate than even J.T. Miller or Mitch Marner, both of whom also scored 36 first assists. The drawback: low PIM, no shots, and almost nothing in the banger categories.
Hidden Gem: Scott Perunovich, D
The Blues are too deep to have any real hidden gems. Brayden Schenn is slated to center their third line but he’s been a very good fantasy player for many years. The Blues' blue line is also very deep, which makes Perunovich more of a name to remember because getting quality minutes will be hard, but it’s pretty clear he’s being groomed to quarterback the power play after averaging second in PP TOI/GP during the season and first in the playoffs, leapfrogging Torey Krug.
This is an ideal situation for a promising young defenseman who led Minnesota-Duluth in scoring in his junior year and at the highest rate in the AHL with Springfield; he’ll be playing sheltered minutes at even strength and log a ton of minutes with highly skilled players with a lot of offensive-zone starts.
This is the toughest question of them all because Binnington looked very good in the playoffs but very poor during the season. Husso is no longer a safety net for the Blues; backup Thomas Greiss is coming off arguably the worst season of his career and he will be 37 years old in January.
The problem with Binnington in fantasy isn’t really winning games, because their offense is good enough to overcome his poor performances, but he’s maddeningly inconsistent and it’s impossible to tell when he might implode.
At best, Binnington has a chance to be a top-five fantasy goalie with at least 35 wins and decent peripherals, but the downside is much harder to gauge. The silver lining if Binnington struggles is that he’s unlikely to lose the starting job. Greiss is much less of a threat than Husso, and projected third-string Joel Hofer is still a prospect with two games of NHL experience. Binnington’s a gamble, but at worst would still probably rank in the 15-20 range of all fantasy goalies.
He should be good enough to anchor a competitive fantasy team and a good gamble if he’s your second goalie.
The Blues are once again deep at every position but in net. How good they are in their own end could dictate how good their offense will be. For two straight seasons, the Blues have not graded out well in analytics, and if poor possession is combined with poor goaltending, they might be spending a lot of time preventing goals and not scoring them. (Note the Blues were really good at staging comeback wins last season, ranking second with 21 wins when trailing first.)
The point is, all that defending could lead to less offense, and the Blues’ shooting percentage of 12.4 percent was well above the league average (9.8 S%) and 100 (!) basis points higher than the second-best team (11.4 S%, Wild). In the past five seasons, only the 2018-19 Lightning (12.2 S%) has been as efficient as the Blues when it comes to scoring goals, and in the following season the Lightning fell down to earth to 11.2 S%, though it still led the league. In other words, it’s unlikely the same five players – Tarasenko, Kyrou, Thomas, Pavel Buchnevich, and Ivan Barbashev – will set new career highs again (especially Barbashev, an obvious bust candidate), but the Blues still offer plenty of good options.
There is some debate about who’s the better option on defense between Justin Faulk and Torey Krug, with Colton Parayko the obvious third choice. It really depends on your league’s settings; Krug is the more reliable scorer with a higher offensive ceiling thanks to a big role on the power play, while Faulk is the surer bet for blocks and hits.