An NHL season is filled with twists and turns for each of the League's 30 teams. Here are five of the major questions that could define the 2016-17 season for the St. Louis Blues:
Can Vladimir Tarasenko keep raising the scoring bar?
Tarasenko, 24 and entering his fifth season in the NHL, all with the St. Louis Blues, reached 40 goals last season after scoring 37 in 2014-15 and 21 in 2013-14, his first full season. Coach Ken Hitchcock has said Tarasenko has the ability to score from distance because of his great shot. Tarasenko will get the chance to play top-line minutes this season and will be relied upon heavily with the losses of David Backes and Troy Brouwer in free agency. Backes and Brouwer combined for 39 goals last season.
Can Jake Allen handle the workload as No. 1 goaltender?
Allen, 26, is the clear-cut starter after the Blues traded Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames on June 24. However, Allen has never played more than 53 games in a season, and that was with Montreal of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2008-09 when he was 18. He played 52 games with Chicago of the American Hockey League in 2013-14 and an NHL career-high 47 last season with the Blues. But Allen will be counted on for more minutes this season, leaving 20-25 games for backup Carter Hutton, who was signed as a free agent on July 1.
Video: STL@SJS, Gm4: Allen makes a nice pad save
How will Hitchcock manage the minutes of defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester?
Pietrangelo (26:18) and Bouwmeester (23:06) were the Blues' leaders in average time on ice last season. They were given a few days off after playing prominent roles in helping Team Canada win the World Cup of Hockey 2016. "To me, rest is a weapon, and we're going to use it every chance we get," Hitchcock said. "We're not forcing them on the ice. If conditioning is a problem for them, then we're in real tough shape because that tournament was played at a higher speed than any game we're going to play right now." Pietrangelo, 26, was sixth in the NHL in ice time last season and Bouwmeester, 33, was 32nd.
Can left wing David Perron be a difference-maker?
Perron, 28, signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract (average annual value $3.75 million) on July 1. He returns after spending the first six seasons of his NHL career in St. Louis. Hitchcock likes Perron, who had 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists) in 71 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks last season. The Blues hope Perron can contribute the same kind of numbers he did in his first tenure with them; he had 198 points (84 goals, 114 assists) in 340 games before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers on July 10, 2013.
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm5: Perron banks it off Josi and in
Who will be the big surprises this season?
Defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson each burst on to the scene a year ago as a rookie and unexpectedly earned a roster spot. This season, forwards Kenny Agostino and Landon Ferraro, each playing on a one-year, two-way contract, were being given every chance to make roster out of training camp. Agostino had five points in his first preseason game but was waived; Ferraro, son of former NHL player Ray Ferraro, could fill a depth role.