Why Blues eliminated

The St. Louis Blues failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season.

The Blues (42-33-5) were eliminated Friday when the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Minnesota Wild 7-2 after St. Louis lost 5-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Prior to missing the postseason in 2022-23, the Blues made the playoffs four straight seasons, including winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 2018-19.

Here’s a look at what happened in the 2023-24 season for the Blues and why things could be better next season.

The skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Kasperi Kapanen, F; Sammy Blais, F; Jakub Vrana, F; Marco Scandella, D; Josh Jacobs, D

Potential restricted free agents: Nikita Alexandrov, F; Scott Perunovich, D

Potential picks in 2024 Draft: 9

What went wrong

Struggles at the start: The Blues started the season with a 13-14-1 record, leading to Craig Berube being fired after six seasons as coach Dec. 12. He was replaced by Drew Bannister two days later. At the time, they were 26th in the NHL with an average of 2.82 goals per game, and were 24th in goals-against (3.32). Though the goals for slightly improved to 2.88 per game under Bannister and the goals against shrunk to 2.94, it was not enough to get the Blues into the postseason.

Struggling veterans: Forward Kevin Hayes has 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 77 games this season. His previous NHL career-low for a full 82-game season was 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) for the New York Rangers in 2015-16, his second year in the NHL. His NHL career low in any season is 31 points, which he hit with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2020-21 and 2021-22, but the first was a COVID-shortened season and the second he had three surgeries and played 48 games. Defenseman Torey Krug has 39 points (four goals, 35 assists) in 77 games but is minus-31, which is sixth worst in the NHL among defensemen. Forward Brayden Schenn’s production is also down, with 44 points (19 goals, 25 assists) in 80 games this season, compared to 65 points (21 goals, 44 assists) in 82 games last season.

Special teams: There wasn’t enough going in either of these departments for the Blues. Their power play has converted 18.2 percent of the time (23rd in the NHL) and their penalty kill had a success rate of 78.5 percent (19th).

Reasons for optimism

Thomas leading the way: The eight-year, $65 million contract ($8.125 million average annual value) Robert Thomas signed on July 13, 2022, kicked in this season, and the forward responded with one of his best seasons. The 24-year-old leads the Blues with an NHL career-high 85 points (25 goals, 60 assists) in 80 games. His goals are also an NHL career high, as are his power-play points (27) and power-play goals (eight).

ANA@STL: Thomas scores his second PPG of night

Goaltending: Jordan Binnington had somewhat of a bounce-back season, going 28-21-4 with a 2.88 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and three shutouts in 56 starts (54 games), after going 27-27-6 with a 3.31 GAA and .894 save percentage last season. Joel Hofer has been a dependable backup, going 14-12-1 with a 2.88 GAA, .914 save percentage and one shutout.

Jake Neighbours: The No. 26 pick by the Blues in the 2020 NHL Draft got his biggest opportunity in the League this season, and he’s made the most of it. The 22-year-old forward has 38 points (27 goals, 11 assists) in 77 games, a big jump after having 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 43 NHL games last season. Neighbours, who has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury, is tied for second on the Blues with forward Pavel Buchnevich; center Jordan Kyrou leads with 30.