ST. LOUIS, MO -- The St. Louis Blues started the season with one goal in mind, winning the Stanley Cup. Their year ended, falling short, losing in six games to the San Jose Sharks.
Despite the current heartbreak the team and its fans are feeling, this has been quite the successful season for the Blues organization. They battled injuries all year long, yet stayed near the top of the Western Conference.
The Blues finally slayed their demons, beating none other than the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs in a dramatic seven-game series. Moving past the first round has been a challenge for this organization for years, so moving on to the second round boosted the club's confidence.
They then took on the Dallas Stars, the team that won the west. It was a grueling seven games, but after the final horn, the Blues finished on top.
They battled the revitalized San Jose Sharks in Round 3, and that's where the heartache starts. They were beaten by a better team. Their puck control, their intensity, their just about everything topped what the Blues could do. The Sharks outplayed the Blues in five of the six games in this series, and they deserved to win.
I honestly believe that the Blues lost to a team that will win the Stanley Cup. The Sharks are the best team left.
But now the off-season looms for the Blues, and there are many questions that need answered. Does that third round run bring Ken Hitchcock back next season? Do the Blues re-sign captain David Backes? What about Troy Brouwer, Scottie Upshall, or Kyle Brodziak?
The Blues need to find way to bring back both Backes and Brouwer. They both poured their hearts into this year's post-season, and we're key contributors this season.
I think the Blues explore trading Kevin Shattenkirk this summer. With the emergence of Colton Parayko, the Blues can move Shattenkirk to add some extra offensive punch for next season.
It would be in the best interest of the organization to do everything they can to trade Jay Bouwmeester this summer. While he's still a great NHL caliber defenseman, he's no longer the top two guy he used to be. He was a liability more often than not in the playoff this year, and his play hampered the effectiveness of Alex Pietrangelo in the later rounds. There are many teams that could use a guy like Bouwmeester, but he does have a limited NTC and that could certainly hinder the ability to move the veteran defenseman.
I would like to see the return of Vladimir Sobotka. He was rumored to return this past season, and now the rumors are back. He's an incredible bottom six forward, and while he's not an offensive phenom, he's certainly not an offensive black hole either. He could provide decent scoring from the lower lines, and would be a quality asset to the Blues organization.
I'll touch on potential draft picks in my Draft Preview next week.
Randall Ritchey is the St. Louis Correspondent for The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.