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Analysis | Ranking the Blues' 2021 opponents in new 'West' division

The Blues will only have seven opponents on their regular season schedule this year. And a few of them are some of the best teams in hockey. Here's what to look for

ST. LOUIS — This NHL regular season is going to be odd to say the least, but hey, hockey is back, and that's cause for celebration.

The Blues will be playing just seven other teams in the new "West" division, in a sort of baseball-style schedule with two- or three-game "series" against opponents in a 56-game season.

Of course, the divisions are set up the way they are to decrease travel and contact because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be a lot of trips out to California and likely a lot of late nights for Blues fans, but with a revamped roster and new playoff format, St. Louis should be in good position to make a run at another Cup.

This year, the Blues have to be just one of the four best teams in their division to make the playoffs. 

So what's the competition look like? Well, here's a quick glance at each of the Blues' new division opponents for 2021, and what and who to look out for.

T-1: Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche are one of the most talented teams in all of hockey.

The last two seasons, Colorado has come up just a game short of playing in the Western Conference Final. It's Stanley Cup Final or bust for them in 2021.

On a team that was already loaded, the Avalanche added forward Brandon Saad and defenseman Devin Toews this offseason.

Nathan McKinnon remains one of the most talented players in the NHL, finishing fifth in the league in total points in 2019-2020.

The Blues should have some classic slugfests against the Kroenke-owned Avalanche in 2021.

T-1:Vegas Golden Knights

Since their inception into the NHL for the 2017-2018 season, the Golden Knights haven't faced many hard times. 

They went to the Stanley Cup Final in their first year, lost in the first round their second year and lost in the Conference Final last year.

And in 2021, they look loaded again.

The biggest news as it relates to the Blues is of course the Golden Knights' signing of Alex Pietrangelo.

The former Blues' captain left St. Louis this offseason to sign an enormous 7-year, $61,600,000 deal with Vegas after leading the Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2019.

Pietrangelo makes a good team even better.

The Golden Knights are one of the Cup favorites in 2021, with a deep roster anchored by both veterans and younger, exciting players.

And oh yeah, former Blues fan favorite Ryan Reaves is still there as well and ready to dish out punishment as he sees fit.

3: Arizona Coyotes

Former Blues Assistant General Manager Bill Armstrong is now running the show as the GM in Arizona, and he inherits an interesting team.

The Coyotes have a mix of established veterans and some young talent as well, that could break out.

St. Louis native Clayton Keller is one of the most exciting young players in the league, and knows how to bring it against his hometown team. Keller's 9 career points against the Blues are tied for the most he has against any opponent in his young career.

With most people picking the Golden Knights, Avalanche and Blues to claim the top three spots in this division, the fourth spot really could be a wild card.

A second-round playoff team last year (albeit as an 11 seed), the Coyotes may have the best claim as the fourth-best team in this new division.

4: Minnesota Wild

Here's a team Blues fans will know well.

The division realignment because of the pandemic ended up sticking both the Blues and Wild in the West Division, and not the reigning Western Conference champion Dallas Stars.

The Wild have done a bit of redecorating this offseason.

They have a new goaltender in Cam Talbot, and a number of other new players like forward Nick Bonino and Marcus Johnasson.

The Wild made the playoffs as the no. 10 seed in 2020, and will likely be in the middle of the pack in this division in 2021.

Unfortunately the Blues and Wild weren't able to meet on New Year's Day up at Target Field in Minneapolis for the Winter Classic as planned in 2021, but these teams are quite familiar with each other, and should have some nice battles in this abbreviated season.

T - Last: Anaheim Ducks

Blues fans will get some nostalgia with this year's Ducks team.

Unfortunately, former Blues captain and fan favorite David Backes was waived by the Ducks, so we likely won't see him this season. But the team did sign newly christened Stanley Cup champion Kevin Shattenkirk this past offseason to help anchor their defensive unit.

(Short-time Blue goaltender Ryan Miller is also on the roster)

The Ducks were... not great in 2020, only managing 67 points on the season and finished third to last in the Western Conference. The only other teams below them are still to be mentioned on this list.

To be honest, it might be a toss up between these last three teams for the race to the bottom of the west.

T - Last: Los Angeles Kings

The Kings were three points more abysmal than the Ducks last season, and it got them the second overall pick in the draft.

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are still kicking in Los Angeles, but at 33 and 31 years old respectively, the Kings' core is past its prime.

The Blues outscored the Kings 9-3 in two meetings last season, and should look to clean up against them in 2021.

T - Last: San Jose Sharks

These last three may be sort of interchangeable, but it felt right to put the Sharks ultimately last because of how far they've fallen in just one season.

The Sharks were two wins over the Blues away from playing in the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. A season later they were one of the worst teams in hockey. 

The "hand-pass" seems like a lifetime ago for these Sharks.

And even though they were one of the worst teams in the league, they still didn't get a top draft pick, because it had been included in the trade for Erik Karlsson, who continues to eat up a sizeable chunk of their payroll.

Some big names are still in San Jose, but a lot will have to break right for the Sharks to get back to the playoffs.

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