The Blues are counting on another big offensive season from Vladimir Tarasenko as the regular-season begins Wednesday night in Chicago. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

By Rob Rains

The Blues begin their 50th anniversary season on Wednesday night with the same unfulfilled goal they have had for each of the first 49 years – to win the Stanley Cup.

A year ago, the Blues came closer to that accomplishment then they had in 15 years, reaching the Western Conference final, before losing to San Jose in six games.

A lot has changed since that final game on May 25, however. The captain, David Backes, signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins. Starting goalie Brian Elliott was traded to Calgary, and the Flames also signed Troy Brouwer, whose eight goals in the playoffs were the second most on the team.

Ken Hitchcock also announced that this will be his final season as the Blues’ coach and the team hired former Wild coach Mike Yeo as an assistant and named him the coach in waiting.

Despite all those changes, the Blues are hoping to continue their recent run of success – three consecutive 100-point seasons – with a younger and faster team.

“We’re looking forward to the emergence of some of these younger guys,” Hitchcock said after practice on Tuesday. “It’s going to be fun to see. We know there is going to be some rough water, but there also is a ton of growth here.”

Vladimir Tarasenko has become one of the best players in the NHL at the age of 24 and is coming off a 40-goal season. Twenty-year-old Robby Fabbri scored 18 goals as a rookie last year and now finds himself on the team’s top forward line with Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny.

The Blues may have found another future star last season in rookie defenseman Colton Parayko, 22, who could play a much more prominent role on the power play this season.

Alex Pietrangelo, 26, takes over for Backes as the team captain, and Jake Allen, 25, becomes the number one goalie - even though he actually played five more games than Elliott last year because of injuries.

The Blues got good news on Allen during practice on Tuesday, after fearing he might have suffered an injury to his left ankle in the final pre-season game on Saturday night. After sitting out practice on Monday, Allen was able to skate on Tuesday and will start the season-opener against the Blackhawks in Chicago.

The Blues will be without forward Jaden Schwartz for at least the first two weeks of the season because of an elbow injury.

Trying to improve their depth at forward was one of the reasons the team acquired Nail Yakupov from Edmonton on Friday. Yakupov, 23, was the top overall pick in the 2012 draft but has not played up to that potential with the Oilers.

A Russian native, Yakupov is friends with Tarasenko. Initially he will play on the team’s third line with Patrik Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin.

“He’s really quick,” Hitchcock said after watching Yakupov’s first practice in St. Louis. “It’s an element the way we’re built right now that looks like it fits us very well right now.”

Another new, but also old, player the Blues are counting on to boost their offense this season is David Perron, who began his career in St. Louis before he was traded to Edmonton in 2013. Perron, 28, re-signed with the Blues as a free agent and will be skating on the team’s second line with Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera, at least until Schwartz returns.

The team’s other newcomer is backup goalie Carter Hutton, who spent the last three years in Nashville.

Of the 24 players who will begin the regular season with the Blues (counting the injured Schwartz) Hutton is one of only six who are 30 years old or older. The other members of the 30-plus club are Jay Bouwmeester, Kyle Brodziak, Stastny, Steen and Scottie Upshall.

One player still on the team after much speculation that he would be traded over the summer is defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. He can be a free agent after this season and knows he will be the subject of more trade rumors during the season but vows that it will not affect his performance on the ice.

The Blues defeated the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs last year, and the longtime rivals also have made numerous changes to their roster over the summer.

“We’re both a lot different than we were last year,” Hitchcock said. “We’re both curious to see how we’re built. Both teams looked way quicker (in the preseason) than we did last year.”

After Wednesday night’s game in Chicago, the Blues will play Minnesota on Thursday night in the home opener at Scottrade Center.