The St. Louis Blues were one of last season's best stories. They were a young team that blossomed under the leadership of veteran coach Ken Hitchcock, stunning Western Conference division rivals on the way to a 109-point season and a division title, beating out favorites like the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings for the top spot in the Central.
It's a breakout season that will be hard to duplicate by others, but every year there are surprises during the regular season and this year won't be any different. To find this year's version of the Blues, it helps to look at what made that team poised for success last year.
• They were a talented group of young, homegrown players on the verge of raising their games together to achieve team success.
• Key players stayed healthy after suffering through injuries the previous season. David Perron went from 10 games played to 57 games. T.J. Oshie went from 49 games played to 80. Barret Jackman went from 60 games to 81 games.
• St. Louis has a general manager in Doug Armstrong who proved he wasn't going to be overly patient with the homegrown talent in dealing potential franchise defenseman Erik Johnson to Colorado the previous season and then firing coach Davis Payne after just 13 games into last season. The message was clear -- the time to win was now.
Last season was a critical year for the Blues to prove that this group could win in its current form, and there are a number of NHL teams at a similar moment in their development. Here are the three best poised to make a Blues-like progression this season.
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