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Thought of the Day 06-18-09: Winchester vs Stastny June 19, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Thought of the Day.
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All the talk of Keith Tkachuk Re-Signing soon should spur some additional thought in the minds of Blues fans.

Assuming Tkachuk is back for at least the 09-10 Season, the Blues have the following forwards under contract:
McDonald – Backes – Boyes
Perron – Berglund – Oshie
Kariya – Tkachuk – Steen
Stastny – McClement – ?

The question mark is that extra 3rd/4th line “grinder”. That guy who plays most of the season checking hard, seeing a little special teams play, a role player. Who could fill that role?

The likeliest answer is an internal source. Someone already in the system or a player on last year’s roster who is now a Free Agent. The Blues have BJ Crombeen, Brad Winchester, DJ King, Chris Porter, and Cam Paddock. I am sure I’m missing someone, but those are who come to mind as NHL level fillers who have done this role before.

Before getting too much in to this (and I know the title has told you where I am going), we need a few more assumptions.
1. Blues Re-Sign BJ Crombeen since he is a RFA. Lets just assume 3 years at $900k, $1.0 mil, $1.25mil, totaling $3.15mil which would be a $1.05mil cap hit.
2. The Blues liked the success they had using a larger, more physical line up.
3. Stastny, King, and Janssen are all “up” after the 09-10 season and would be potential targets to lose their roster spot to maintain team size.

You can be pretty sure that King isn’t a target. He has size, can play, fight, and is a RFA after 09-10. Leaving the Blues with Janssen vs. Stastny. Janssen has a clear role to be a fighter and isn’t needed in that many games. Janssen is also a RFA after 09-10, so if the Blues want to keep him, he is a cheaper buy than Stastny (in theory).

Now we are at Winchester vs. Stastny and our question is:

Does the size and production of Winchester equal more of a benefit than Stastny already being under a smaller contract?

Lets take a look at where both players stand in terms of being an asset to the team.

Big body to work the boards, corners, and get to the net.
Posses a pretty quick shot.
Willing to hit and take a hit.
Offensive production from the “bottom 6”.
Can play on the power play.
Has Playoff experience.

Small, quick skater.
Can play the PK effectively.
Has speed to fore-check.
Could play Center or Wing.
Responsible defensively.

Factors Against Each Player:

Winchester – Tkachuk and Crombeen Re-Signed. AHL depth under contract (Porter, Paddock, etc). UFA and could get bigger contract offers from other teams. Kariya added to power play likely pushes Winchester in to less power play time, therefore reducing his production. Giving a “grinder’ a raise and paying him more than someone else who could potentially do the same job for less.

Stastny – Blues have multiple effective penalty killing forwards in McClement, Steen, Oshie, Backes, and Crombeen. Patrik Berglund could also be thrown in to the mix next year. Must pass through waivers go to Peoria. Small size with limited offensive upside.

The wild card is the contract. Stastny is signed, done deal. Winchester would require the Blues to add him, at a higher rate than Stastny, and then move Stastny or Janssen off the roster.  At this point, this is where you “gamble” (I use that term loosely because losing Yan wouldn’t destroy the organization) and bring back Winchester at more money and find a way to move down or out Stastny.

There seems to be little doubt that Murray found the right buttons to push Winchester to the next level, to become a better player. Winchester has the size the Blues need to maintain till the team is better equiped to play the “Red Wing style” of quick transition and possession. You cannot win if you don’t score and scoring depth is a need in the new NHL. Winchester proving 12-15 or so goals from the bottom 6 is a huge bonus to the team. Certainly those extra goals and physical presence are worth an extra $500,000.

Now this could all be a moot point, Winchester could pass on the Blues offer and go elsewhere. However I think the Blues want his size back and Winchester wants to come back. I think this might be one of the few instances where you reward the “grinder” and give him the raise. Yes, his roster spot can be filled for cheaper, but what he brings back is worth the investment.

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

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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.

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?

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

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

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.


Thought of the Day: 04-29-09 April 30, 2009

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Once again the San Jose Sharks have flopped out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A Coaching change was made, key veteran additions were made, and sadly San Jose met the same outcome. Is it possible that it is not the periphery, but rather the core?

The question is, should San Jose entertain moving Marleau or Thornton? Both are capable #1 Centers, who have large contracts, but are not entirely unmanageable.

So where would those two go? Who needs a #1 Center and has the roster/cap space? One comes to mind.

So playing “computer chair GM” – what could a deal look like?
Columbus: Brassard, Torres, Chimera, 09 1st | San Jose: Thornton + 09 2nd or 3rd

Playing around with the cap figures:
San Jose is shedding Grier ($1.775 mil), Roenick ($1.1 mil), Moen ($912k) – totaling about $3.8mil. Adding Brassard ($1.246mil), Torres ($2.25mil), and Chimera ($1.875mil) would total approximately $5.3mil. Thornton dropping off would make the net loss of ($7.2mil – $5.3mil) about $1.9mil. Columbus would be taking on a net gain of approximately ($7.2mil – $3.8mil) $3.4 mil. The $3.4mil is easily made up allowing Malhotra ($1.2mil) and Williams ($2.2mil) to leave via free agency.

This would allow San Jose to replenish their depth/role players at a very similar price and free up money to purse another forward via free agency. Perhaps Gionta, Skyora, Sullivan, or Kozlov. This also gives Columbus a legit #1 Center to play with Nash and take any undo pressure off Filatov.

As a Blues fan I’m very glad we don’t have a question about our Centers…yet. If Columbus wants to improve and take the next step with their team next year, they need creator for Nash. That would certainly keep Columbus close to St. Louis and just under Detroit and Chicago.

Question to Blues fans: Would that make you fear Columbus? Having a legit, threatening scoring duo?

Question to Sharks/Blue Jackets fans: Feelings on the deal? Do Sharks fans really want Thornton gone? Are Jackets fans willing to accept a “big trade” to make their team better?

Blues Thought of the Day – 04-26-09 April 26, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Offseason, Thought of the Day.
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One of the Blues offseason goals is to shore up the back up goaltending for 09-10. Media coverage of the Blues seems to point to an UFA/Trade pick up rather than keeping Bishop in St. Louis or using Holt. If the Blues were to bring in a former starter like Khabibulin, Fernandez, Biron, Roloson, Gerber, Anderson, Clemmensen, or Kolzig, will it be a positive or a negative.

Experience in Regular Season and Playoffs.
Proven ability (especially in the case of Khabubulin, late season play by Roloson)
Someone to push Mason.
Injury coverage.

After giving the #1 job to Mason, he flourished. Will he regress if he is put in a position where he could be the odd man out?
What is the potential message to future additions? Will a prospective free agent want to sign here knowing its possible that their play may not be rewarded the next year?
There is a Potential to tie up $8-$10 mil in goaltending.

While I would love to add a proven goalie, what is really wrong with Mason? His play all year was solid, he just lacked goal support through the first half of the season. My personal pick would be Anderson, Valiquette, or Conklin. Anderson may not get a chance to start in Florida due to Vokoun and his contract and NYR/DET need to find ways to save money. All three have been back ups before to clear #1s and would be capable back ups.

Your thoughts?