The St. Louis Blues won the Central Division last season with 109 points, but once again fell short in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they lost to the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference First Round.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong opted not to overhaul his roster, but he did make some changes, including a trade that sent popular right wing T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals for power forward Troy Brouwer. St. Louis also signed center Kyle Brodziak, who helped the Wild defeat the Blues in the playoffs.
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is confident the subtle changes will be beneficial and he is encouraged by the turnout for the informal skates that have taken place this week.
"[Armstrong] and [coach Ken Hitchcock] did a great job this summer," Pietrangelo told the Blues website Friday. "It's obviously tough to see guys go because they're good friends, but some of these guys have come in pretty early. [Brouwer] has been here for a few weeks now. We've bonded pretty well, and he fits right in."
Pietrangelo is coming off another solid season for St. Louis; the 25-year-old had seven goals and 39 assists in 81 regular-season games and two assists in the six-game series loss against Minnesota. He led the Blues by averaging 25:24 of ice time per game.
"You learn that no matter who your opponent is, it takes a lot to win in the playoffs," Pietrangelo said. "A lot of things have to click. The series is never over until it's over, and we had a lot of ups and downs. Consistency in the playoffs is an important thing. It's tough to keep looking back, but we've got to learn from it, move on and get ready for next year."
With Pietrangelo leading the way on defense and right wing Vladimir Tarasenko emerging into an elite player, the Blues are poised to contend again this season. But they know they must find a way to get over the hump in the playoffs.
"Winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal for us," Pietrangelo said. "Personally, it's about being successful at both ends of the ice and being a good leader."