To think that this season was anything less than spectacular for the Blues is absurd. For a team that was supposed to be close to dead-last in the Western Conference by all accounts, they sure didn't play like it at all. The Blues played amazing when they needed to and grabbed the 6th seed after being 14th seed at the All-Star break and they can only grow from there.
While the kids played tough under pressure, the playoffs were definitely a learning experience for this group and should help them build up for the season's to come. Lord knows they are ahead of the curve of learning and have done the fan base proud and surprising many of the naysayers out there.
One of the questions for the next season will have to be if Chris Mason can keep up his stellar play. When he was handed the reigns in Nashville, he lost grip of it and was ousted from that gig very easily. If Mason is going to be able to keep the job and play as well as he did down the stretch, then the Blues should be in very good shape for the time when Marek Schwarz or Ben Bishop is ready to take over for the future.
Another question is what this team could do with health on their side. With Paul Kariya and Andy McDonald lost for a good chunk of the season, you have to wonder how much better the Blues could have been with these vets on the ice to help the kids out more so. Though McDonald return in February gave the Blues a nice shot in the arm. Also, what will happen with Erik Johnson back after a golf mishap that we all know too well about and how much could he contribute to the young squads. Also, with the return of Eric Brewer next season, it should be a nice boost for the blue line.
Much of the credit needs to go not only the players for growing up fast, but for the work of coach Andy Murray, president John Davidson, and the rest of the front office staff. Murray had a rough go about it in Los Angeles and struggled in his first season and a half with the Blues, but he was able to get across to the players this season and they responded, backing up their coach and buying into his message. Davidson, who took the job in June '06, has brought pride back to a floundering franchise that the Blues were becoming. With the confidence from owner Dave Checketts and supporting GM Larry Pleau, Davidson may have added to his hockey career by being a successful executive, at least in the short-term.
All in all, the Blues are much more ahead of schedule than any one had thought. With this experience for the younger kids, it'll only show them what they have to look forward to if they can keep playing the hardnosed, lunchpail game they bring to the table (which a touch of skill, may I add); they will succeed and go further as the years go along.