Blues: A post playoff chat between two fans

Two friends talking hockey back in the spring.

I posted this back in April after the Blues lost to Minnesota, but wanted to revisit it. A bang for bang convo between a good friend, PJ, and I.

Every writer needs someone to properly put them in their place when needed. A cooling stick to a guy with hot hands. For the past 12 years or so, that has been my good friend P.J. It doesn’t matter if it’s the St. Louis Cardinals, The Blues, a movie review, a comedian disagreement, musical taste, big statement about crime and poverty…P.J. will raise the hands at me if I write a shit article or ride off the rails. He is a good guy and someone I like to call a friend.

I posted my first Blues season wrapup where I broke down the latest failure of this hockey team to give anyway back to the city of St. Louis. Every time I post an article, I have this guy in my head and I would be lying if I said I didn’t aim a few paragraphs at him like I was pointing a dart gun at a man with his back turned. He’s my fiercest sports talk competitor, so when I saw a three paragraph response to my article, I got excited, weary and elated at the same time. In case you missed the article, here it is so you can get the base of the conversation. Let’s get into it.

P.J. kicked things off-

I disagree with the claim (made by you and others) that Allen performed well for the first 4 games.  He was not good in game one.  The first goal (the wraparound) was his fault.  The 2nd goal was a undeflected, lightly-screened, shot from the point on the power play.  It’s a save that goalies need to make if they want to win playoff games.  Despite the fact that the Wild outplayed the Blues for most of the first 2 periods, that game should have been 0-0 heading into the 3rd and was definitely winnable.  He was reasonably competent in games 2 and 4, but the way the team played, there was no way they were losing either of those.  He was outstanding in game 3; it was his only great performance in the series, despite the lopsided loss.  Games 5 and 6 don’t need to be revisited; we are both aware of Allen’s awful performance in those.  As is usually the case in playoff hockey, the two goaltenders were the biggest difference-makers in the series.  Dubnyk was above average; Allen was average.  In Allen’s defense, he played the same way in the regular season.  Allen’s play is usually a mixed bag of good and subpar performances.  He saved 116 or 125 shots he saw during the series – a 90.4% rate which is slightly below how he performed during the season.  There’s a reason that neither Allen or Elliott asserted their claim as the number one goalie until Hitchcock tapped Allen for the role after a few good performances at the tail end of the regular season. Inconsistent goaltending can be good enough in the regular season but falls way short in the playoffs when the margins are paper thin.  In the playoffs, a goalie has to elevate his play.  Allen didn’t.  Neither did Ryan Miller last year.  As is the case every year at this time, the team goes into the offseason with goaltending as a huge question mark.  Unfortunately, I don’t see a change being made between the pipes, so I think we’re stuck with what we have.
Obviously, Hitchcock needs to go.  He’s a good coach but he’s had 4 years to make something happen in the playoffs and if it hasn’t happened yet, there’s no reason to stick with him.  Someone like Dan Bylsma, who had a good run with Pittsburgh and has a reputation as a players’ coach (the antithesis of Hitchcock), would be a good choice.  Something has to change and it’s much easier to replace a coach than to replace a collection of players.  I do think the core of this team has the talent to be successful in the playoffs.  Despite the goaltending woes, the rest of the team underperformed. There were too many long stretches where Minnesota simply outplayed us.  If it was just a couple of guys lagging behind, you could point fingers, but given the comprehensive underachievement from one end of the bench to the other, you have to point to the head coach.  Tarasenko had a good series but disappeared in a couple games.  Oddly, Berglund was the most consistent forward; when that’s the case, you know you’re screwed.
No matter what team takes the ice next year and who is behind the bench, no one should take this team seriously until they win a playoff series.  The regular season serves only to separate the playoff teams from the non-playoff teams; aside from that, it is meaningless.  I don’t care of they go 82-0 next season; we will not have an answer until 365 days from now.
(Hannah Folsien-Getty Images)
My Response(typed inside 20 minutes with a cup of coffee flying down the pipes)

On Allen-In Game 1 he let in a soft goal but he also made some great saves to keep that game close. When you have a team that doesn’t score enough in the playoffs, like the Blues, making 25 of 27 saves in Game 1 is pretty solid. I see your point. The second goal Allen never even saw because he had three players in front of him. Actually, a lot of goalies don’t make that. Devan Dubnyk actually did let in a couple saucers from the middle of the blue line. Allen let in one soft goal in Game 1 but made more than a fair share of great saves. Pj, the Blues defense is dreadful at times. Their penalty killing had some horrible moments, and I can’t tell you how many odd man rushes they allowed in Game 1 that Allen snuffed out and stopped. He made 93 percent of his stops(and made more great ones than soft let in’s). 

Game 2 he was amazing. 24 of 25 and saved the Blues when they predictably took their foot off the gas pedal at the end of the 2nd and most of the 3rd period. Allen is the perfect combination in net. He’s calm, poised and doesn’t get rattled. He’s not laid back like Halak or a meth addict mobile guy like Elliott. Game 2 I agree was his best.
Game 3 was a game that the Blues didn’t show up for. Allen made some solid stops and stopped 91 percent but Game 3 was on the Blues lethargic offensive attack. It won’t matter who is in net when the Blues play so horribly and soft overall. When this team gets down 2-0 in a game they shut it down. Every single time. That’s the problem. While not amazing overall, I think Allen was solid in this series.
Game 4 was thoroughly dominated by the Blues offense. The only true game where they played a complete 100 percent attack never give up game. Allen only had to stop less in than 20 shots and kept 94 percent in front of him. Not on him or a particularly MVP showing.
Game 5 and 6 were not good. Allen came undone and the rest of the team sucked it up. He made good stops but let in the softest goal of all time in Game 6. 
However, I don’t think it matters who is in net for this team because the forwards and D-men play like utter useless crap for huge stretches. Allen was better in my opinion than yours but he didn’t outplay Dubnyk and has learning to do. Not bad for a rookie and I still stand behind my opinion that he was the guy for the team in the playoffs. I don’t think Elliott could have done a better job. 
As team reporter Lou Korac said, when you have a team scoring 2 GOALS in the final two games that are must win, the last thing you look at is goaltending. That’s not the issue. It’s a team that has averaged 2.11 goals the past five years in the playoffs. Allen had solid #’s overall so I can’t pin much of the blame on him. 
I do think these two will both be back and I hope Allen gets the bulk of the time because he is the goalie of the future. He showed enough promise in this series to make me think he can figure it out and be sharper next round. 
Forwards-
Berglund wasn’t bad but he’s still a useless 3.7 million making player who is holding a spot that a much younger and cheaper Blue needs. Tarasenko did disappear but he scored 6 of the 13 goals and disappeared less than Backes, Oshie, Schwartz, Steen and others. In my opinion, Oshie needs to go or see his role dramatically reduced. When it comes down to the former drunkard, his shootout expertise is nice but doesn’t matter in the playoffs and he was missing in action far too much. Backes is an underrated captain but his career playoff numbers are dog shit. Same for Steen. It may be time to break up this original core by sending Oshie/Berglund out and figuring out which roles Steen/Backes have moving forward.
We can both agree that this team is Peyton Manning with the exception of 2006. A regular season beast that goes aggressively limp in the playoffs. 
Coaching-
While I don’t like hanging it all on the coach, I do agree Hitch’s touch in the playoffs has disappeared. He had his time and has to go. While I hold players more accountable, he doesn’t have the success to hand him 82 more games to divide up and I think he struggles with line management. He should have noticed how better Stastny could be with more ice time and switched him and Oshie. You don’t sign a guy like Stastny and put him on the third line when Oshie doesn’t have a goal in over a month. Stastny didn’t blow me away this year but he plays so much better when paired with the right guys. Hitch can’t recognize that. 
I love Bylsma a lot. He is my first choice. I don’t mind Babcock from Detroit either or if the Kings get tired of Sutter, I’d take him. All three are playoff hungry and experienced lions. For some reason, I don’t want Todd McLellan because I don’t think he is much of an upgrade over Hitch. Bylsman is a radical change in the way he deals with and handles players. 
Overall, this team went limp at the wrong time. They won 51 games and like I said, seemed to come undone after a 2 goal deficit. The Wild aren’t more talented but in the playoffs, it’s about will power and the ability to react to bad shit happening. How you react defines your playoff tenure and the Blues are still children playing in a big boy’s pond. 
The goaltending wasn’t electric but it was good enough to deserve a better result. The Blues offense left the ice for the last two games and the soft core defense let in too many rushes. Eventually, those rushes lead to goals. 
It’s all ugly. Rock the ship, Armstrong. Shake up the core. It’s the only way.
P.J. Kicked This Back-
We’ve pretty much chewed up and spit out this topic, even if we don’t agree on some things.  In hindsight, game 1 was the biggest game of the series; it was winnable, whether there was one soft goal or two.  Goals are harder to come by in the playoffs, so when you cough up an easy one right off the bat, it changes the entire flow of the game.  Goaltending was also big key in game 5; I kind of feel like Dubnyk stole that one (we had 37 shots on goal) with some help from Allen.  I agree on Dubnyk; he was far from perfect in the games we won.  The Reaves slapper from the blueline and Tarasenko shot from the side of the net come to mind.  In my email to you, I originally had written “Dubnyk was outstanding” and changed it to “Dubnyk was above average” because, while he did enough to win the series and stole game 5, he wasn’t invincible by any means.
However, one factor that hasn’t been mentioned is luck.  After acquiring Dubnyk, Minnesota was the best team in the conference.  When you win your division and run into a team like that in the first round, you got screwed.  As the regular season was closing down, my hope was that we’d draw anyone but Minnesota. I think I even mentioned that in one of our email duels.  While losing the series sucks, I don’t really see it as an upset.  Minnesota is a legitimately good team and it’s just pure bad luck that we ended up with them in the first round.  They will give the Blackhawks all they can handle.  And yes, as I mentioned, whether I like it or not, I agree with you that Jake is likely our guy next season.  I wouldn’t be opposed to taking a shot at the Coyotes’ goalie Mike Smith, despite his huge contract, if Arizona decides to unload him.  However, I don’t see that happening because we don’t really have any young, talented players on cheap contracts and that will be what Arizona wants.  Allen is the only guy that fits that description and I don’t see the Blues parting with him yet (although I’d be fine with it), after they got burned a few years ago by giving up on Ben Bishop too quickly.  Hopefully this year was just a case of the rookie jitters and Jake will come back more solid next spring.
To Which I Sent Back-

The biggest aggravation is that, no matter who it is that comes before them, The Blues go down too easy and there isn’t any fight in this team at the crucial time. Look at the way the Jets battled the Ducks or the way the Pens batted the best team in the NHL In the Rangers. There were overtime games and back and forth struggles. In Game 2, the Blues got very luck with Backes pushing that near goal out of the crease and Allen was huge. They dominated Game 4 but the four losses they had the team was just flat. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Kings, Hawks or Wild. The Blues have to rise to a certain level of play in the playoffs and they consistently don’t. 25 different teams have won the Stanley Cup since the Blues came into the league in 1967 and it’s disheartening. I can’t tell you that if the Blues get a different coach, cut the fat, win another 50 games next season that they will advance past the first round. 

Luck is always a factor in the playoffs. The Wild were great down the stretch but the Blues finished 5-1, were completely healthy and got their asses kicked. Allen getting outplayed by Dubnyk was a factor but the bigger factor to me is our supposed playmakers(at least in salary alone) in Backes, Oshie and Steen coming up horribly short in a big time. That spells change. Do you really think we fare any better against a Predators team that struggled down the stretch. They pushed the Hawks to three OT’s and made the Hawks shuffle their goalies twice. 
The Blackhawks have decent to slightly above average goalies in Corey Crawford and Scott Darling(I believe Ells-Allen are better) but they win because their entire team plays a full 60 and doesn’t give up after the Preds go up 2-0 or 3-1. It’s a different thing with the Blues. Compared to the other series and the way they were played, the Blues went down too easy. 
I don’t want Mike Smith. I don’t think he is any better than what we got. Stay with Allen. He is going to be great. When Ells started playing like shit at a crucial time, Allen went berserk in net from March 5th to April 12th. He got beat up late in the playoffs but still deserves the future look of this team. The players put in front of them will make the biggest difference. If the Blues average a paltry 2.1 goals per game next playoffs, the person in net won’t matter much at all. 
This team is infuriating. Without Tarasenko’s ability to be an offensive beast(there’s a reason Dubnyk stopped him in the post game handshakes to tell him how good he was), the Blues get swept in this series. He also lit up the Blackhawks last year. He can’t do it alone. The other high paid guys need to show up. As much as I like Backes as a captain, he plays like shit in the playoffs. He takes bad penalties and doesn’t do much. That has to change. 
This October things better look different. If not, where’s the hope?
P.J. ends it with…
I can’t argue with any of what you wrote.  If Allen is the future, then I think you have to cut bait with Elliott and bring in someone who is fine being a backup (unless Elliott is willing to do that, which is doubtful).  I don’t like the “play the hot hand” approach that was used throughout this season.  I would take Mike Smith in a heartbeat if they wanted to give Allen more time to develop (or give up on him completely), as I do think he’s an elite goaltender (aside from his shitty start to this season), but it’s not going to happen, so it’s not even worth the words I’ve already given it.
I can completely agree with you regarding the frustrations of being a Blues fan.  This team has made the playoffs in nearly every year of my life and has never made the Stanley Cup Finals during that time.  I can only recall 2 times that they’ve even made the conference finals (vs Colorado during the manual scoreboard days and Calgary in around 1986 or 1987).  It is so frustrating so see talent wasted and potential unfulfilled year after year.  The fucking Lightning and Hurricanes have more Cups than the Blues and that is embarrassing.  We are regressing.  The pre-strike Blues used to win a series before wilting in the 2nd round.  Now, they don’t even do that.
And yes, you are correct in saying the way we lost was pathetic.  I may be wrong about this, but I don’t think we came back to erase a deficit once during this series.  Once Minnesota had a lead, it was game over.  All the other series losers battled harder.  We never sniffed overtime in the games we lost.  It was a pathetic pattern: fall behind, stay behind, pull goalie, immediately concede empty netter, game over.
My Finishing Touch
The Blues are just a kill joy. They either don’t get the goaltending they need or they flunk every single playoff test. It’s tiring and it doesn’t help that right down the street the Cards dominate every single season. There are hockey fans united in STL and they are let down every year. Stillman is a proud owner and a hockey guy himself, and he put up the cash for Stastny and other players and raised the payroll but saw the same result. It’s pathetic. 
If you are asking yourself how all this was typed in one afternoon, you have to understand how quick P.J. and I can fire at each other. It’s relentless and we kept this one mostly clean. If a bit of profanity dropped in there somewhere, I halfway apologize but come on, on this site it’s the middle of the night so anything goes.
I wanted to share this conversation because for years we have had these kind of talks and they never saw the light of day and I love reading a conversation between two fans. It’s real and there’s history and fire worked in so it’s interesting. I hope you enjoyed it and if you did, I’ll recruit the next GMAIL chat for future post. Thanks and see you in October Blues fans.

Blues enrich STL region with new Youth Hockey program

Tom Stillman and the Blues launched an initiative that should produce 25,000 hockey players by 2020.

Think about when you were a kid. It’s 5:30 in the morning. The sun is coming up. School is in two hours. It’s time to get out there and skate around with a puck and play a little hockey with your friends. The most important meal of the day for a legion of young kids was a slab of ice, a black puck and a net to chase. Thursday, the St. Louis Blues paid it forward in the best way possible.

Via STLBlues.com, Tom Stillman and his ownership group put up two million dollars in an attempt to rebuild the city’s youth hockey foundation. The campaign is called “Hockey STL 2020” with the goal being to grow the city’s youth hockey population by 70 percent when 2020 rolls around. The two million dollars will roll the two million dollar plan over the next five years.

This isn’t just dropping off a sack of pucks and shirts and letting the kids get after it. This is providing a future for a lot of families and their kids. Nobody goes to a game at Scottrade and doesn’t leave imagining themselves burying an overtime one timer. That’s where it starts. For a guy who jumped at the chance to play ice hockey as a sophomore in high school, I can admit the cost is steep and forced my small school, Brentwood High, to only play for a couple seasons. Ice time alone can bury a community in depth. This is a chance to erase that burden. This plan lowers those costs and makes ice time more affordable.

If the plan goes right, 25,000 kids will be introduced to ball hockey and 5,000 new ice hockey players will be born on the rinks across the city. Total Hockey and other companies are working with the Blues to get this done. After all, the interest in this town’s team has grown throughout the years. With it, come new rinks, players and a growth in the interest. If all things work out, maybe the team creates a revenue stream back towards the team down the road while doing a lot of good.

The St. Louis Cardinals just introduced a new stadium dedicated to Tony La Russa this past season. The St. Louis Rams may not have the greatest owner in the world, but they also do a lot of good in the area, including programs like Basket of Hope, Character Plus and a celebrity softball game. These are great ways of giving back to the community in a way that gets better every year.

Maybe, a few hundred of these players make it out of the city teams into amateur games and some play in college. In the end, a few NHL players may be introduced. Stillman and company can smile and know that they paid it forward in the best way possible. Building a community of hockey in the St. Louis area. This cup of coffee is for you Tom!

 

Blues fans: Hate Patrick Kane the right way

Patrick Kane may or may not have raped someone, but that’s not the real reason for Blues fans to hate him.

(In case you missed it in the St. Louis Game Time paper on Saturday)

It’s easy to toss the hate book at Patrick Kane. He is a very good Blackhawks player who was accused of rape this past summer. While the allegations eventually proved hollow and the case was dropped, that kind of charge follows a player around. Especially, when the player plays for your tea’s. Do me a favor and hate Patrick Kane the right way. As a member of the Blackhawks and not on other claims that don’t carry a lot of weight.

There’s a lot of dislike about the guy on the ice. He is rocking Kevin Shattenkirk’s hairline and trying to make it look good with longer hair. He has curls in his hair. He smirks a lot and has a Sidney Crosby swagger on the ice. He scored a backbreaking playoff goal against the Blues two years ago that I still get nightmares over(though Ryan Miller still gets more). Kane is a force to reckon with who happens to be among the league leaders in goals, assists, points and overall “BAMF” appeal. He’s playing like a Bruce Springsteen acoustic performance right now. There’s reason enough to hate the guy outside of something he may or may not have done. Through 18 games, Kane has 13 goals and 15 assists and a +14 rating. He has four game winning goals and six power play goals.

The problem with justifying allegations is the lack of evidence you can ride on. Is it really worth slamming a guy for something he may not have done? Anybody can climb on Twitter and fire a shot at the Blackhawks. I made a quick charge at Kane in August when the case was a turkey leg sitting up for sports writers to pick at. While it’s the last thing on a Blues fans mind right now, showing some class and taking the high road with “iffy” charges on a rival player is the best thing to do. While no one can complain with the fact that Kane needs to clean up his dating game, it’s premature in the worst way to taunt him with a case that has grown cold.

It’s okay to take shots at the Chicago Blackhawks for not throwing some weight at Kane during the unfolding of the allegations. They seemed to think it wasn’t a big deal to barely even mention anything except express good will on their winger. It could be called protection or discreet actions. When asked about it, all Joel Quenneville could muster was, “Ah fuck fuck and fuck”.

Every time Kane steps on the ice, a Blues fan should hate it. He has 218 goals in 594 games inside eight seasons with 68 power play goals. He is a +65 for his career. Here is the best reason to hate Kane. In 116 playoff games, Kane has 48 goals and 66 assists. That’s enough go fuck yourself juice for a lifetime. Goals aren’t everything unless you find a way to score them often and well.

Hate Patrick Kane the right way. Hate him for being one of the best players the Blues have to face every season. Hate him on the power play. Hate his ugly scarf and his stupid hair. Hate him for the color jersey he wears. Hate him for being a thorn in the Blues and many other teams side. Don’t hate for something he maybe or maybe not did.

 

Hating the Cardinals doesn’t make you a better Blues fan

The Riverfront Times took a shot at the Cardinals and hit Blues fans instead.

In case you lived under a rock shelter of Imos pizza boxes, you may have noticed the St. Louis Cardinals got eliminated by their bitter rival, the Chicago Cubs, this week in the NLDS. It wasn’t pretty, came too soon and I still haven’t completely shook it off yet. Apparently, some St. Louis writers love that the Cards are done, most notably Paul Friswold, the Arts and Culture editor for the Riverfront Times. He wrote this piece about his disdain for the Cards and why he is glad they are out of the playoffs. There are better methods to stating your opinion than spewing profanity in a derogatory manner that comes off like a four year whining about his toys. Maybe I am old fashioned.

The writer talks about the lack of coverage that the Blues get in relation to the Cards and how it’s not fair. This isn’t an invalid point. The Cards do get a lot of coverage throughout the year but they also produce a lot of collaborative work with the Blues and Rams. It isn’t their fault that the television networks and newspapers feature more of their team than the hockey team.

If this article was an attack on the networks or newspapers, it may have more juice and substance. This isn’t something new around St. Louis or other cities. There is always a team fanbase that wishes their team got as much attention as the other team. The Cards are definitely the big brother in the Lou, and this writer makes it seem as if they created this madness. That is inaccurate. The Cards didn’t step out onto Clark Avenue and scream, “We are kings and that is that.” They are a great franchise who works with local teams to better the city.

This isn’t a fluff piece. It isn’t good journalism. It is a hate piece that is unnecessary and brings a bad shade of black to Blues fans. I cover the Blues for St. Louis Game Time(yes, a Cardinals writer can also cover the Blues!) and our editor had this to say about the piece. A fair and measured rebuttal. In it, Laura Astorian says plainly, “When you’re a fan of a team that plays second fiddle, be it in your city or in that professional league, openly whining about it makes you seem petulant.” There isn’t a better way to hit the nail on the head. If you don’t like the Cardinals, that is one thing. Taking to your paper to openly complain and whine about “coverage” doesn’t make you seem any stronger.

Don’t get me wrong. RFT is a solid paper with good writers and a fair assortment of topics and a sharp edge, but this piece seemed out of touch and out of mind. I’ve read them for years and they have posted better pieces than this. It sounded more like a childish rant than a well thought out piece of commentary and all I do is write commentary, so I know where blunt ends and petulant begins.

Once again, if you hate the Cardinals, that is fine. Sports is a weird emotional chaotic ride of extremes and it brings out original reactions in people every year.  If you hate them because they get more coverage than the Blues, that is not fine. Hating the Cardinals doesn’t make anyone a better Blues fan. It gives the rest of Blues fans a bad name. That is it. There are better way to express an opinion.

Hate the game, not the player. Write about the networks uneven coverage or the paper’s improper usage of ink. Don’t hate the team for establishing themselves as a powerhouse in the city.

What do you think of the article? What was your reaction?

The 2015-16 Blues: Strengths and Weaknesses

The 2015-16 season presents another opportunity for the Blues to live up to the promise. Will they? Flip a coin first.

You ever pick up an interesting looking book and want to flip to the end of the book and read the ending? Save the time, heartache and see what lies ahead. Well, that’s the Blues in a nutshell for fans.

It’s time for hockey in St. Louis, and that means a few things. Doom, gloom and the urge to flip to the end of the book and see what the last page reads. Let’s talk strengths, weaknesses and what to expect.

Strengths-

  • They have a guy named Vladimir Tarasenko. Yes, he exists as a single engine destroyer all by himself. A potential 40-50 goal scorer with talent that can make the opposing team look like cones on the ice instead of real bodies. Tarasenko scored 37 goals last season with Jori Lehtera dishing him pucks for a majority of the season, so what do you think he can do with Paul “The Hometown kid” Stastny and Alexander “The Nose” Steen setting him up? The sky is the limit for the Russian Martini. Tank is shaken and stirred, and the effect is equal on the fans. He is also the only Blue who can perform well in the playoffs, which gets me thinking more about cloning than practicing his ways on the other Blues. He’s a theme park ride folks and is the greatest weapon the Blues have in 2015-16. He turns 24 in December by the way.
  • Goaltending won’t be a problem any time soon. Sure, Jake Allen started hot and fizzled late in the playoffs this past spring, but on a team that couldn’t average more than 2 goals a game, it didn’t matter if Patrick Roy was in net. The Blues have the perfect setup if egos and emotions don’t come into play. Brian Elliott is the seasoned vet, a man who has spent enough time behind supposed #1 guys that he could stitch a jersey with a dull needle. Allen is the young sort of battle tested gun who is hungry for more action. Jordan Bennington and Phoenix Copley(who I think could be the future steal of the T.J. Oshie trade) wait behind these men. Allen and Elliott are great goaltenders and each are capable of leading this team. The question is gets set in motion as #1 and who is the guy in February? Good problems to have.
  • Youth is nice. Yes, the team lost a general in Barret Jackman but it helped the team get young on defense. Petteri Lindbolm gave the fans a sneak peek of something special late last season, and could win a spot this season as a full time guy. Colton Parayko is knocking on the door, especially with Robert Bortuzzo suffering a camp injury. Look at 18 year old Vince Dunn, a hungry kid who bounced his statistics from 36 points in 63 games to 56 points(18 goals) in 68 games in the OHL this past season. Sure, it’s the OHL but the point is the Blues are getting younger. Part of the greatness from the Oshie trade was clearing room for guys like Robby Fabbri, Ty Rattie and Dmitri Jaskin. The Blues are just getting younger and younger, unlike other teams.

Weaknesses-

  • Can Paul Stastny become the player his contract calls for? Yes, he started off 2014-15 injured and out of sync in a new system and found himself on the second line somehow. However, this year Stastny is getting first line minutes and will be paired with Tarasenko. Can he rise to the occasion? The dude is making some sweet cash for the next few years and the team needs more than 46 points in 74 games and definitely need more than the ONE point in the playoffs? Will Stastny be the next Paul Kariya and come to the team with promise and basically decline year after year or will he become an elite performer again? Maybe touch 70 points again for the first time in five years? We shall see. I feel like he is the X-Factor in this offense.
  • Steve Ott. The man who stole playoff minutes from more talented co-stars. The guy who I think is the most overrated useless chunk of redheaded madness in the world outside of Carrot Top. Okay, that was harsh but still I stay up late at night wondering how many minutes and games Ott’s presence will cost younger more integral players. He plays too much even on the third or fourth line and wish he wouldn’t have been resigned. I think Chris Porter can do his job and for a lot less money but that’s just me. Ott may slow the team down more than help it in 2015-16.
  • The head coach. Yes, I know Ken Hitchcock has a lot of wins, a Stanley Cup, and the tenure few coaches can hold onto as they near the end of the their career but can this team find traction under him after years of flops? What will make this season any different than the last? If so, why? Mention “buy-in” and the bunny gets it!(Con Air reference for the non film-addicts). Look, he has talked with his coaches about change and such but can the fans believe it? Will we see reckless play and a lack of goal production in the playoffs? Will he allow lines to get comfortable and link up or will he constantly change them due to a fear of losing his job? Will he finish the season or be asked to leave midseason like the last Blues coach or two? This is Hitch’s last hurrah in this city? What will come of it? Will his system hinder or help the Blues expand?

Bryce Salvador: Captain of No Quit

Bryce Salvador did things his way during his 14 year NHL career, which included 7 seasons in St. Louis. My article on the retiring defenseman.

Most young kids get on a rink and all they can think about is wanting to be the next Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby. The next NHL sensation. It’s all they think about. A few wouldn’t mind playing in the NHL and putting together a respected career. While it’s not as sexy as leading the league in goals or hoisting The Stanley Cup, a 14 year career in the NHL is something to be extremely proud of.  Bryce Salvador played 14 years in the NHL, splitting time between the St. Louis Blues and New Jersey Devils. Salvador is calling it quits.

To Blues fans, he is the young kid who came to St. Louis in 2000 and played seven seasons with the Blues. He never put up gaudy point totals or was a perennial All Star, but he was a durable tough and solid defenseman for a playoff team. How can you forget Salvador’s game winning goal against San Jose in the playoffs in 2001? Many will know who Salvador was traded for(Cam Janssen) instead of the stout seasons he put in guarding the blue line. He was understated and did his job well. Not bad for a kid who was selected in the 138th spot in the sixth round and told by NHL scouts he would never play a single game in the league.

To Devils fans, he was the bullet headed lefty brick wall who solidified their blue line for the final seven years of his career, even after enduring a terrible puck shot to the face that almost ended his career. As Salvador revealed today in his heart pouring retirement blog for The Players Tribune(a website dedicated to providing players with a voice) the road back wasn’t an easy one. His issue were rooted in his vestibular system. Basically, his eyes weren’t working together anymore and were causing him to be constantly dizzy, nauseous and out of it. The shot had knocked his system out of wack. After a recovery that took several months and simple child like activities like spinning in a chair, Salvador came back in 2012, playing all 82 games. He made sure that he went out his way. The lights getting turned off when he said so.

To me, he will always be the quiet yet cool and polite neighbor. I met Salvador during his playing days with the Blues. He lived in a condo in Brentwood Forest, a suburban community in St. Louis county, next door to me. There were instances when fellow players like Jamal Mayers and Jamie McClennan knocked on my door instead of his. Salvador didn’t talk much but I did get to talk hockey with him after a couple games. One time, he came home after a game with a black eye and I had to commend him on the fight he won. He came home after the San Jose goal and I talked to him about it. It was cool living next to a hockey player. While I never got a 1 on 1 lesson like you would see in the movies, I couldn’t complain.

Salvador won’t get an extended clip reel on Sportscenter or be remembered for scoring a ton of goals(24 goals in 746 games). He will be remembered for hard work, defiance and playing the toughest position in hockey quite well for two teams and 14 seasons. He played in 74 playoff games and will be remembered for his 2011-12 postseason where he scored 4 goals and assisted on 10 others. When it comes to the little things forgotten by most NHL fans, Salvador leads the league in those. The gritty aspects that don’t fit into a website and must be seen in person in order to appreciate.

Take a moment and read Salvador’s career ending blog. It’s got detail, hope, fight, and all the power you would expect from a guy who just wouldn’t quit. He’s an embodiment of endurance that can’t be forgotten among young players, which is why Salvador’s post career will involve working with youth hockey leagues in New Jersey. He’s a testament to never believing in doubt and always placing your money on sweat equity. The next time your son gets told he isn’t good enough at hockey practice or at a tryout, just tell them about Bryce Salvador.

5 Remedies For The St. Louis Blues

Bylsma1Now that the latest playoff exit for the St. Louis Blues has sunk into the heartbroken minds of fans across the Lou, it’s time to look at some options this summer to improve the team. Some of them may be minor and some of them could be major. As I talked about last week, it’s time to depart the T.J. Oshie train, but it’s important to not stop there. There can be player moves and line transfers that could turn this team into a weapon not only this October but hopefully next spring as well. As the late comedian George Carlin once said, stop living in the past because it doesn’t care about your future. Let’s talk remedies.

1.) Hire Dan Bylsma

With no offense to Ken Hitchcock and his Stanley Cup success, he isn’t the man for this team’s future. The days of year to year contracts with a veteran coach who hasn’t tasted playoff success in quite some time must come to an end. Bring in a new coach and sign him for 3-4 seasons. Produce some stability instead of a substitute teacher behind the bench. While Mike Babcock can be enticing, I don’t see him leaving Detroit and the same goes for the old wolf, Darryl Sutter in Los Angeles. For my peace of mind, I’d like the gritty ex-player and ferocious Dan Bylsma. He coached the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship before they fired him last June and has spent the past year on the NHL Network and helping a friend on a WHL team. Bylsma wants to return to an NHL bench and could be the right guy for the Blues. He isn’t burned out after a year off, and has a chip on his shoulder after being canned in Pittsburgh so quickly. Bylsma is a player friendly coach who doesn’t just understand the game from a coaching level but can level with it from a young player due to his experience in the league. He has worked with superstars in Sidney Crosby and connected with younger grittier player in the minors. He is a fresh face in a Blues locker room needing a major face lift of any kind. If Doug Armstrong is not only practical but tactical, he calls Dan up and offers him the job. Start fresh and get serious. Bylsma has been to the promised land and knows what it takes, and will add a little intensity to the bench.

Or you could bring back Hitch and do the same old song and dance routine with your fanbase… Continue reading “5 Remedies For The St. Louis Blues”