MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – First day of fall, first day of practice. The St. Louis Blues hit the ice Thursday for the start of training camp at the Centene Community Ice Center.
Hundreds gathered for a first look at the 2022-23 St. Louis Blues, enjoying drills and routines from two practice sessions.
Three seasons have passed since the Blues’ only Stanley Cup championship in 2019. Many key pieces have departed, but the expectation for another title remains.
“Our goal is to get there again, but we got a long road ahead of us and a lot of work,” said Blues head coach Craig Berube.
“We were so close last year. Just a couple of bounces, it’s a different end to the season,” said center Robert Thomas. “I feel like we’re going to be right there again, and we’re pushing for it.”
The Blues are looking to take care of some unfinished business. St. Louis was the only Western Conference foe to win a playoff game against the eventual 2022 Stanley Cup champion-Colorado Avalanche last year, before a last-minute regulation goal ended their season in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals.
“Everyone’s chasing Colorado,” said Thomas. “We all got to get better and match their level. We feel like we got a good chance of doing that.”
“We’re ready to prove people wrong and be a good hockey team this year in a tough division,” says center Brayden Schenn. “Every night, you’re going to have a battle in this division.”
St. Louis will march on without some key pieces from last year’s run, including longtime forward and reliable point-producer David Perron.
“He’s obviously going to be a loss for us, but some other guys are going to have to step up,” said Schenn.
Including Perron, notable losses for the Blues in the upcoming season include:
- Ville Husso (G)
- Dakota Joshua (C)
- Mackenzie MacEachern (LW)
- Charlie Lindgren (G)
- Marco Scandella (D, long-term injury)
New additions include:
- Noel Acciari (RW/C)
- Matthew Highmore (LW/RW)
- Martin Frk (RW)
- Thomas Greiss (G)
Many prospects will have an opportunity to try and break the opening night roster out of preseason, including first-round draft picks Jake Neighbours and Zac Bolduc and former Hobey Baker winner Scott Perunovch.
A few household names will look to fill bigger shoes as well. Jordan Binnington is the clear No.1 goaltender after Ville Husso’s departure and has a chance to break his personal season-best of 50 starts this season. Two centers, Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou will could take on more leadership roles with matching 8-year, $65 million contracts taking effect in the 2023-24 season.
Two standout components from Thursday: Binnington’s blocks and Thomas’s tenacity.
“First day has been good,” said Berube on training camp. “Good pace, guys working hard. You take the next step preparing for the regular season. You’re trying to prepare your team to play a certain way, a certain style and make sure they’re ready to go.”
The Blues’ first preseason game, which will feature prospects and regulars, is set for Sept. 24. The regular season begins on Oct. 15.