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By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

(Sports Network) - In 2005-06 the St. Louis Blues missed the postseason for the first time since the Carter administration.

The rebuilding has already begun.

This offseason has seen the Blues change hands in terms of ownership, as former MSG boss Dave Checketts leads the new group in power. Checketts hired John Davidson to be the team president and the club used the first-overall pick in June's draft on blue chip defenseman Erik Johnson.

The new regime also sparked an active presence in the offseason market, as several solid names came to town. Forwards Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, Radek Dvorak and Dan Hinote were brought in, as were defenseman Jay McKee and goaltender Manny Legace.

All this said, will the Blues make the playoffs as a result? That is a big stretch, because a few new players is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what this club needed. Not a single player on last year's roster managed 20 goals, and St. Louis finished with the worst offensive attack in the NHL.

It should be a better year in the Gateway City, and new ownership should keep things promising for the future. But let's not get too carried away.

FORWARDS - The Blues needed weapons and they picked up decent ones with the additions of Guerin, Weight, Hinote, Dvorak and Martin Rucinsky.

Look for Keith Tkachuk, Weight and Guerin form an all-American first line. While it's an aging group, there is potential for it to help lead this club out of the gutter. Guerin used to be a premier power forward, but he's coming off a down year with Dallas that saw him net only 13 goals in 70 games. Weight remains a terrific playmaker from the middle, and posted 33 assists in 47 games with the Blues last year before getting dealt to Carolina. Tkachuk, meanwhile, was on his way to a terrific year -- 15 goals in 41 games -- before injuries tossed a wrench into things.

Center Petr Cajanek should center the second line, and he is coming off a career-high 41-point season. Will having proven weapons ahead of him on the depth chart help him develop even more, or have we seen his best. He is 31- years-old, so there is a good chance we have.

Dvorak never became the scorer he was projected to be, but he plays a sound all-around game, while Rucinsky is typically good for somewhere in the mid- teens in terms of goal-scoring.

DEFENSE - Unfortunately Johnson isn't ready to leap to the NHL level just yet, but the Blues should sport an improved blueline with the addition of McKee. He isn't flashy and doesn't produce a ton of points, but he is sound and is one of the top shot blockers in the league.

Eric Brewer, who was acquired in the Chris Pronger trade, is a big guy who contributes in all areas of the ice. He's looking to bounce back after a separated shoulder ended his 2005-06 season. Is he a true anchor? Probably not, but he will be logging a ton of minutes on this club.

Barret Jackman is only 25, and his biggest mission is to avoid injury. Last season he missed the final 16 games with a broken jaw, and in 2003-04 he appeared in only 15 contests. He can throw in some offense once and a while, but for the most part he is a pure defender who plays a physical style.

Bryce Salvador, Christian Backman and Dennis Widerman should also be in the mix, while Jamie Rivers, Matt Walker and Jeff Woywitka will fight to make the club.

GOALTENDING - The Blues addressed their goaltending issues by signing Legace, who finally got a chance to start full time for Detroit last season. He enjoyed a terrific regular season, going 37-8-3 with a 2.19 goals-against average in 51 appearances (49 starts).

Legace did falter along with his club come playoff time, but he is definitely a perceived upgrade over Patrick Lalime.

Curtis Sanford will likely serve as Legace's backup. A season ago he finished 13-13-5 with a 2.66 GAA and .908 save percentage in 34 games.

http://146.145.120.3/default.asp?c=hockeynews&page=nhl/news/ADN4042354.htm
 
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