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Thought of the Day: 05-27-09 May 28, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Thought of the Day.
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How should the Blues play?
by beatoni12

Watching the playoffs and seeing teams advance using different styles of playing hockey got me thinking about how I want the Blues to play. Now I’m not talking about structure or defensive schemes, I’m talking about the physical side of hockey and how each team decides to use this. The last two Cup winners used completely different tactics. Anaheim tried to intimidate and probably tried harder after the whistle than during the actual play. Detroit doesn’t pay any attention to intimidation and their players almost completely shut down once the whistle blows. Both have been shown to be effective.

The Blues currently play a style closer to Anaheim’s method. They are never afraid to drop the gloves and initiate confrontation quite often. Anyone who watches playoffs understands that penalty trouble absolutely kills teams (unless you are playing the Blues this year). Detroit goes out of there way to avoid penalties and make it very hard to argue with their success this year and last. But do Blues fans want to go to this style of play? If it means winning a cup, I’m sure most fans would gladly make the trade. Personnel has a lot to do with it and I don’t see the Blues building a team that will play like that. No other team in the league would be able to be successful if they tried to play like Detroit, and Detroit wouldn’t be nearly as successful if they tried to play like the Blues or Ducks.

In my eyes, we are building the ideal team for a fan base to really embrace. Many of our rookies showed they are willing to mix it up. Crombeen threw knuckles quite often, Polak played a very punishing style, and Perron and Oshie both jumped into scrums very quickly. I don’t think that Oshie would be nearly as popular if he played a methodical puck possession style of play. I personally wouldn’t want to replace DJ King and Winchester on our 4th line with players like Maltby (who has turned into a puck possession type player).

Connecting to a team is the best part of being a fan. Most hockey fans are going to connect to a very hard working, get dirty if it has to, team. This is pro sports, so winning really is everything. But winning with the type of players and team that the Blues are building will be that much more gratifying. It doesn’t make sense but I wouldn’t trade this Blues team for the current Wings team.

So how should the Blues change their style of play ? They shouldn’t.

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Blues ink McClement to 3 year / $4.35mil Contract May 27, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Offseason, Transactions.
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Andy Strickland reported this on Hockeybuzz earlier last week, however Jeremy Rutherford at the St. Louis Post Dispatch let fans know that the Blues made it official today. The Blues announced that Center Jay McClement has agreed to a 3 year deal worth more than $4 million dollars.

Per Strickland and Rutherford the deal breaks down this way:
2009-10: $1.4 million
2010-11: $1.45 million
2011-12: $1.5 million

Jeremy Rutherford quoted John Davidson on McClement:
I think he’s still improving. No. 1, he really has a defined role that he embraced last season. That was, he was the lead guy on the penalty kill, he was the lead guy on matchups, regarding the other team’s top lines. He’s maturing as a player in understanding what his strengths are, yet there’s still upside.”

High praise from one of the better guys in the NHL.

Is this a good signing? Yes it is. Why?

McClement produced 26 points while being the top forward on a Top 10 PK unit as well as being the primary Center to match up against the likes of Thronton, Datsyuk, Nash, etc. He finished a -10, which isn’t bad considering how little offense his line is expected to produce. McClement was the top face-off man for the Blues at 52.1%. I am not counting McDonald’s 58% due to the amount of face-offs he had compared to Jay. McClement was second on the Blues with 44 takeaways (Backes had 45). His 57 blocks were the most of any Blues Forward. McClement was the ONLY forward on the Blues to play more than 2:45min a night on the PK. SH TOI/G 3:50. Who was next? Yan Stastny at 2:34.

So Jay put up solid numbers and played a sound defensive game. Couldn’t someone do this without being paid over $1mil per?

Would comparable players like  Radek Bonk take $1.5mil? Would Lehtinen, Grier, Pahlsson, Madden? Sure you might be able to get Reasoner, Zigomanis, Kopecky, Yelle, Peca for the same or less. However they did not excel in the Blues system, McClement did. While that list is comprised of mainly vets, they would still  have to come in to a new environment. Why not keep you have drafted and developed?

So if you don’t go outside, why not stay inside. Could Stastny, Whitfield, or Paddock replace McClement?

In 37 Games Stastny had 9 takeaways, an average of (rounding) 0.3 a game. McClement per game rate was at 0.54. Stastny took 102 face-offs with a 45.1% winning %. Stastny had 18 blocks in 34 games for a .53 per game pace. McClement per game was at .70 per game pace. As far as offensive play, you aren’t paying either player to be offensive minded, so this shouldn’t be a major consideration. You are paying them both to back check, play the PK and shut down the other line, establish a forecheck and get pressure on the D. Scoring is like #5 on that list. 3 SHG for McClement in 08-09 (and many more opportunities)…how many for Yan? Just one.

Whitfield? If he was that good and deserving of the promotion, why did he not come up over Porter, Winchester, Regier, or Paddock earlier this year? They all have similar time in the AHL and play similar roles. Whitefield didn’t look like a fish out of water in his 3 NHL games this year, but he didn’t look much better than Stastny either. Paddock was given 16 games with the big club, not that he was bad, he just didn’t play as well as who we already had in McClement, Stastny, and Hinote.

I know there are fans out there still upset that the 2nd Round pick didn’t turn in to more of an offensive player. I know he is just a grinder. But you cannot refute that Jay found his role last year and played it well. The in house options aren’t as good and the guys on the outside will cost more than Jay. McClement was the best option to fill the shut down Center role. Why did Ryan Jonhson not get this contract? Age and lack of offensive upside. You can say Jay is streaky and not offensively gifted, but he has produced as much in one year as a “checking center” than RJ did from 05 to 07 (2 seasons) and played the same defensive game. Not keeping RJ likely turned Jay in to what he is now, which is fine with me.

Thought of the Day: 05-25-09 May 26, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Uncategorized.
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Just got home from seeing Night at the Museum 2 (good movie by the way) and watched the 2008 Draft Special on NHL Network.

They did spend some time going over the Blues and their #4 pick. Some interesting things seemed to have come up at the draft that I am not sure were talked about much.

The #2 and #4 Pick:
It sounded like Larry Pleau wasn’t sure that LA was going to draft Doughty. Sounded like they were very interested in him, with good reason after his solid rookie campaign.

Anaheim and the #28 Pick:
Anaheim dealt their #28 pick to Phoenix to pick up #35 and #39.
Based on what they showed with Burke mic’d up…
Blues offered #33 and #87
NYI offered #36 and #60
NJD offered #55 and #57
PHO offered #35 and #39

At #28 Phoenix drafted Viktor Tikhonov.

Detroit and the #30 pick:
Detroit took several offers for the 30th pick.  The Devils offered a similar set of picks and the Blues offered the same, #33 and #87. Ken Holland (mic’d up) said they could add the 65th to it and maybe give the Blues back a 4th or 5th rounder. Holland sounded like he would deal, if their player wasn’t there, which ended up being Thomas McCollum.

#33 turned in to Phil McRae, #87 turned in to Ian Schultz, and #65 turned in to Jori Lehtera.

Assuming these deals had gone down…would the Blues have taken Tikhanov or McCollum at #28? Would they have taken McCollum at 30 and passed on Jake Allen at #34 to hope for McRae instead? Are Tikhanov and McCollumn better than Allen, McRae, Schutlz, and Lehtera?

McCollum is ranked #4 in the Red Wings system by Hockeys Future and rated an 8.0D and Tikhanov is rated an 8.0C and #1 in the Coyotes system. Allen and McRae are rated 7.5C and 7.0C, ranked 6 and 7 in the Blues system. There is not a large difference. Add in a large guy like Schultz and an offensive upside guy Lehtra, I think the Blues did better not making the deals.

While it would have been nice to keep adding 1st Rounders to the coffers, Allen and McRae taken early in the 2nd are pretty comparable to the late 1st Round guys.  So not being able to trade up a few picks wasn’t the end of the world. Keep in mind that the Blues could have offered #33 and #34 to move up to get Tikhanov or McCollum and had a better offer than Phoenix.

With the Blues possibly trading down this year, look for similar scenarios. The Blues may not land a Pronger on draft day, they could add 3-4 additional 2nd to 4th round picks by dealing down. The Islanders have three 2nd round picks this summer, keep an eye open for that.

Blues Thought of the Day: 05-24-09 May 25, 2009

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Been a while, work is crazy and the baby is becoming more mobile and too smart for my own good.

As always JR at the St. Louis Post Dispatch had a good Thursday afternoon Hockey Chat a couple weeks ago. Several fans questioned Eric Brewer and his potential return to the Blues line up for the 09-10 season.

With the Blues Playoff push and appearance to cap off the 08-09 Season, expectations are sure to ramp up for the 09-10 campaign. There are obvious and serious questions surrounding the Blues blue line patrol. The 08-09 group was one of the least effective in terms offensive production in the league, not just of the 16 playoff teams. With so much of the NHL game revolving around mobility, transition, and the 5 man offense, can expectations realistically raise when there are issues with the defensemen?

Eric Brewer and his $4mil plus contract factor deeply in to this situation. With the return of Erik Johnson and the potential ascension of Alex Pietrangelo to the big show, the offensive effectiveness looks to turn around. However, at the same time how much can the Blues count on one kid returning from a major knee injury and another kid just really getting his feet wet? Without the addition of Johnson, Pietrangelo, and Brewer, the Blues defensemen figure to be lack luster in terms of offensive production.

Is Eric Brewer the “x-factor”?  Is he the cog that will make this wheel turn? Will he return from a very serious and potentially career threatening back injury and be as good or better than before?

For the Blues, who are still financially unsettled, the simple answer is “yes, he has to”…but why?

1. Money
While fans (this one included) would love to dabble in the Bouwmeester sweepstakes, that is just not a good business move at this point. It really pains me to say this, being on the Bouwmeester bandwagon for a quite a while. However, the Blues do not have the money…right now…to play the FA game. They gambled with Kariya which has worked, but no where to the degree hoped for. Right now the Blues just cannot afford the gamble.

Could the Blues make the play for the second tier type? Someone like Bergeron, Siedenberg, Leopold, Oduya, or Komisarek? There is that possibility, except that to make it feasible the Blues likely have to move out  Jay McKee’s $4mil contract. Not the easiest task when another team could get the afore mentioned Free Agents for likely less than McKee’s $4mil tag.

2. Lack of Replacement
The Blues blue line depth, or lack there of, was exposed. The loss of Johnson and Brewer, the lack of development of Steve Wagner, and the inability of 4th Overall pick Alex Pietrangelo to stick to the NHL roster opened up this glaring hole. A hole filled in by “fillers” like Mike Weaver, Tyson Strachan, Jeff Woywitka, and Wagner. Those four combined to produce 31 points (3 goals) in 175 games, which is roughly a 15 (14.5) point pace per 82 games. Not exactly what you would expect from a playoff team. I will give Woywitka some credit, he had 18 of the 31 points.

What do all the numbers mean? It means that beyond Colaiacovo and to a lesser extent Polak, there was little offensive production from the blue liners. While Brewer might have only been good for 5 or so goals and 25ish points, that’s still an improvement over the numbers put up by the likes of Weaver.

3. Who He Replaced
Yes, Eric Brewer was the principal return in the Pronger to Oilers trade. As many times as that horse has been beat (rest his soul), he is still holding some water. No matter how many fans say “it doesn’t matter”, it still does. Brewer is replacing a lot of production and a big name. Could Blues fan really expect Brewer to play anything close to the Hall of Fame level Pronger has? Not while being fair. However, Brewer has to be expected to contribute. Like it or not, he has been the #1 blue line patroller since the trade and the Blues need him to be as close to that level as possible.

I am pulling for Brewer. I hope his back is as close to 100% as possible and he can be a capable top 4 defensemen. For that matter, the Blues are pulling for him too. They really don’t have a choice.

Blues Thought of the Day: 05-06-09 May 7, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Thought of the Day.
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There are several teams (especially in the West) that have been bottom half / bottom 5 of their conference for a while who have stored up some good young players. The three closest to the Blues are Chicago, Edmonton, and Phoenix.

Last year (07-08) those three teams all competed for the 8 spot for quite a while with young teams. After that push how did those teams follow up in the off-season?

Chicago:
Signed Huet, Campbell, and Matt Walker.
Let Rene Bourque, Williams, and Perreault go.

Edmonton:
Traded Pitkanen for Cole.
Traded Torres for Brule.
Traded Stoll and Greene for Visnovsky.

Phoenix:
Traded Ballard, Boyton + for Jokinen.
Did not re-sign Vrbata.

Chicago upgraded, Edmonton sidegraded, and Phoenix traded away depth on the blue line for a forward (looked good at the time but didn’t replace the loss of depth = downgrade).

In my opinion the Blues are sitting between Chicago and Edmonton. The forward proved they can score. I know people complain about the scoring, but this team had two 30 goal scorers, two 20 goal scorers (would have been 3 if Andy played all year) and 6 players totaling 10-19 goals. That’s a total of 10 players scoring 10 or more goals (that’s basically the first 3 lines).

Where did the Blues struggle? Puck movement and transition. Hard for your forwards to score when you’re working twice as hard to just get it out of your end and through the neutral zone. Yes EJ is coming back and Petro should be here, but the Blues are one upgrade from take a Chicago like step.

My take is that the Blues need to take that chance and pursue Bouwmeester or a trade for an impact defenseman.

Thoughts?