ST. LOUIS — The Blues open training camp for the fast-approaching start of the 2018 National Hockey League season one week from today at the IceZone in Hazelwood followed by a Saturday, September 15th practice at the newly named and renovated Enterprise Center. Fans have had a difficult time containing their excitement but their level of enthusiasm can't touch that of Blues coach Mike Yeo. After the offseason moves of General Manager Doug Armstrong landed ultra play-making center Ryan O'Reilly, hard nosed center Tyler Bozak, rugged winger Patrick Maroon and a seasoned David Perron for another tour of duty, Yeo has to be feeling like a kid in a candy store.
Better still, Yeo's like the old lady that lived in a shoe — he's got so many possible line combinations that he doesn't know what to do! It 's a pleasant problem to have, but one he and his coaching staff have to figure out. Armstrong did his job. Now, the pressure is squarely on Yeo to do his with an assemblage of talent not seen taking the ice for St. Louis in at least a couple of decades. You'd have to revisit the days of Hull and Oates for a comparison of rosters but this team stands out more so because of its relatively young, NHL experienced veterans and a core of highly prized prospects poised to make their debuts once camp breaks.
Robby Fabbri returns to top-three line membership after rehabbing a tear of the same ACL that included ballet. How sound that knee is will go a long ways towards making the Blues one of the prime contenders to win the Stanley Cup. Center Robert Thomas, a candidate for inclusion on the All-Rookie Team, can be brought along at a much more favorable pace to his development as a member of the fourth line along with winger Jordan Kyrou, following a stellar OHL performance. Both are expected to survive the final cuts and be a part of the Opening Night lineup. Both are expected to log ice time that increases with positive performances and both are expected to contribute to the team's overall success with their elite speed and skill sets.
Good luck trying to figure out who plays with the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Eric Foley, Zach Sanford or Dmitrij Jaskin. The defensive pairings are pretty well set but also offer a multitude of options if Yeo should be inclined to mix and match. He's probably had quite a few sleepless nights mulling over a seemingly unending smorgasbord of talent that he'll attempt to put together in such a way as to complement and maximize an individual's abilities. How well and quickly Yeo and staff can recognize who works best together will determine if he becomes a candidate for NHL Coach of the Year or placed on the "hot seat". That's what practice and preseason games are designed for.
Competition will be keen. Iron sharpens iron. Preparation will pay off, eventually. Yeo's got that twinkle in his eyes. He's brimming with confidence that this team could give him, his assistants, the players, owner, and fans their best opportunity to hoist the Cup. He's like that kid in a candy store, better still the old lady who lived in the shoe, but before the puck officially drops to start the season, he'll have to have figured out what to do.
Armstrong did his job. Now, Yeo MUST do his. A parade down Market Street depends on it!