Blues chat with Jeremy Rutherford

Bring your questions about the Blues and the NHL, and talk to Post-Dispatch hockey writer Jeremy Rutherford in a live chat starting at 1 p.m.




  • OK, I've already seen this episode of TD Jakes, so I guess we'll get started now. Anybody have any Blues questions? They've won nine of their last 10, so we probably won't hear from a few of a usual suspects today. Well, we've give them some time to wake up, then we'll probably hear from them. Anyway, let's get chattin ...
  • Any update on Statsny's injury and expected return? Same with Lehtera?
  • There's won't be an update on Stastny for a week or so. I'm not sure if you read the blog yesterday (six people did, so not sure if you were one of them), we attempted to spell out what happened. He left the game because he tweaked an injury. The team didn't believe the shot he blocked off the stick of Tarasenko caused any damage. But after further tests, the belief is that that's the injury that will sideline him. As far as Lehtera, Yeo said yesterday that's he's riding the bike, which is progress, but there's no timetable yet.
  • If the LV tells the Blues that they want Washington's first round pick in order to take Bouw or Lehtera, do you think Blues fans would be happy with that?
  • We could do an entire chat on expansion draft possibilities. Just about anything is possible. The draft will provide a whole new twist what we see in a normal offseason. So I'm not going to get into dozens of hypotheticals, but I'll say generally speaking that I can't see the Blues giving away such a prime pick to lose a contract, I just can't. I realize it's not a great draft, and Washington's pick will be late, but there has to be other ways to move on from a player than losing a first-round pick. Then you're essentially giving up Shattenkirk to get rid of someone else. Also, I don't believe the Blues have any interest in losing Bouwmeester. I think he's tremendously much more valued by the organization than some fans.
  • I'm extremely impressed with how Sanford has played since the trade - did you insiders expect this immediate impact? What was your original expectation of him down the end of the season stretch?
  • I had never seen him play. He'd been in the NHL for 26 games with Washington and there wasn't much chatter about him around the league. He's a lanky guy and 22 years old, so typically those guys are still finding themselves. Washington was fairly high on him, but obviously not to the point where they wouldn't part with him. I figured, probably like a lot of people, that it might take him some time to get comfortable here. It's not easy for a young player to get traded and jump right in, especially when he didn't have much experience with the Caps. I wouldn't say he's there yet, but he's made some big plays lately and I spoke with him on the road trip and he's starting to gain some confidence. The big key for him is staying in the lineup, and I think with his play the past few games, he's earned that.
  • I missed the game last night.We were at the Fox!! Did the Blues win last night?
  • I think I've been doing this chat for 10 years and this is a first. You couldn't find the score anywhere today? Well, I'm flattered. Thanks for coming here to get it. Yes, the Blues won 4-1 over the Vancouver Canucks. You can read what happened in the Post-Dispatch. So what was showing at the Fox? Or I guess I could look it up, right?
  • Are the blues as good as they look are they a deep playoff contender?
  • It's a great question. Obviously they're playing well, winning nine of their last 10. What I like is that they seem to have a calmness about them. They haven't played the greatest competition lately, but even when they've gotten down 1-0 to both Colorado and Vancouver, they've just continued to play. And they're getting back in the games with different parts of their game (PP, PK) chipping in and different players (Paajarvi, Brodziak, Edmundson, Sanford, etc). That's what you need. After saying that I think they're a team that is probably good for one round in the playoffs, maybe two, I'm not ready to say that they are a suddently a strong contender. But with the play they're playing, if you get in and have get some really good goaltending, which Allen and Hutton have been providing, you never know. They are playing better and in much better position with single-digit games left in the regular season than I expected. We'll see where it goes.
  • It seems like there's been a lot of changes to the lineup from game to game (Nail, Barbashev, Sanford, etc). Is this only because of injuries or coaches still not sure on players? How many teams are still tweaking the lineup this late in the season, and do you expect the lineup to solidify before playoffs?
  • Injuries. Barbashev got back with Lehtera out, Sanford has gotten some games with Jaskin out. Yakupov found himself in the lineup after Stastny went out. Who stays in the lineup as the playoffs approach depends on who's healthy. Tom Timmermann covered practice today and reports that Jaskin skated but appears to be a ways off from playing. Lehtera, as I mentioned, is still riding the bike, so nothing imminent. And we already discussed Stastny.
  • Connecting the dots...ii it safe to say the Blues locker room knew Shatty's situation as per Army's post trade comments. Do you believe that finally having that "shoe drop" to find out who they are without Shatty was looming over the group as a whole and that once the trade happened they were able to psychologically turn the page?
  • Yes. I'm not saying that is the sole reason the Blues are having success. But they were dealing with the coaching change, then the bye week, then the Shattenkirk drama. When the trade happened and they had some success without him, I think it gave them some confidence. They were able to say, OK, we got our coach, we know what we look like without Shattenkirk and we know what we need to do to get into the playoffs. I think having everything laid out in front of them, allowing them to have a clear vision, has been a big reason for the recent run.
  • I know its still early, and a lot can happen, but do you foresee a busy off-season for the Blues or a relatively quiet one?
  • I see it being fairly busy and even though Shattenkirk is gone, I would still not rule out some sort of deal with Tampa Bay. Doug Armstrong was at the Lightning game last night and Lightning assistant GM Pat Verbeek was at the Blues game. As we all know, teams scout each other all the time and nothing usually comes of it. But after the deadline, it's pretty interesting that these two teams continue to attend each other's games. I still the Blues have their eye on Drouin, but whether the Lightning are still making him available after freeing up some salary with the Bishop trade, who knows? But it's worth following.
  • Are you as surprised as I am at how good the offense and the PP seems to be even without Shattenkirk? I admit, I thought there would be a dip in production but guys seem to be stepping up.
  • I'm a bit surprised, yes, because Shattenkirk points didn't come by accident. He can skate the puck, pass it well and get his shot through, and on the power play he was a good QB. So when you lose a player like that, you probably expect a drop-off. However, we know the Blues have good offensive players and skilled guys on the PP. So if you're taking out one piece of the equation, you should be able to hang in there. But what I've been impressed with is how Pietrangelo has stepped in and provided just as much offense on the PP. Some might have expected him to step in and perhaps hold his own, but Pietrangelo is producing.
  • Did Paajarvi finally figure out the NHL after ~300 games at age 25? Or is he just randomly hot? Either way, he looks good at the moment.
  • I don't think he'll score seven goals every 20 games, like he's done since being recalled. But I think he'll be a player moving forward that you don't worry about. He couldn't stay in the lineup before because you could watch a game and see that he wasn't winning battles or using his speed to do anything effective. Now he is. It's probably a little too early to say you're going to pencil him into the lineup in the top nine every night and not worry about upgrading the position. But I don't think this is something that's random. I think he's discovered what he needs to do to contribute and he's doing it way more often than he did in the past.
  • Do you see the Blues re-signing Upshall after this year?
  • I think there's a decent. He's scored nine goals and been a valuable part of the fourth line and the penalty kill. I think it could happen as long as Upshall realize he's got a role on this team and he's not trying to look for the biggest contract. He's making $900,000 this year and I could see the Blues bringing him back for another year on something similar, maybe $1 million. Upshall deserves to look around, but sometimes veterans understands good situations are better than a few more bucks.
  • Allen is killing it. Hutton is killing it. How refreshing is it to not blame the goalies for everything?
  • Well, it's certainly nice to not have to write about the goaltending everyday. Also, I've felt for a year or two that Allen had qualities to be a really good goaltender and I've written that in the chat many times. So when he went through his funk, it was hard to explain. Not that I was trying to defend Allen, but I still believed he was a No. 1 goaltender and the contract the Blues gave him made sense. As somebody who goes to the rink everyday and hopes to be able to provide a intelligent eye, I'm going to lie, it was re-assuring to see that he still is that goalie.
  • Blues 4th line has a shot at getting 25 goals this season together. That's got to be near the tops in the league right?
  • I've never looked at it that way. That might be a hard stat to come up with, because there's so much line juggling and injuries that come into play. I would think that the Rangers' fourth line is toward the top, but yeah, I would think 25 goals is a fairly good amount of offense from one of those groups.
  • Could part if the Blues performance lately be due to not having Shattenkirk committing turnovers in his own end? I like him, but man that was frustrating to see.
  • I understand where you're coming from. He certainly made a few. But there weren't a ton that ended up in the back of the net. He would make them, and they were glaring but usually the Blues found their way out of the jam. Since the trade, the Blues have still looked a little sloppy at times in their own zone, so if eliminating his turnovers is a reason, I wouldn't call it a top reason. I think their improved performance has more to do with top players performing well, secondary guys contributing and good goaltending.
  • hey JR, Thanks for leading the best of the best chats! After last night's offside review do you really believe that the situation room thought it was inconclusive or do you think the league is using the inconclusive "gray area" as a way to tell the league this challenge was meant to get the blatant missed calls overturned but the plays like last night when you are talking about an inch or so close that they are going to stick with the original call on the ice? I guess my question is after some of these reviews I have seen it seems like the missed call has to be blatant in order to be overturned.
  • I'm not a conspiracy guy, so no I don't think the situation room is doing anything to make a point. That said, I'm confused too. I thought the call last night should have been offside. I thought the review in the Chicago-Minnesota game recently should have been offside. They don't really give us an explanation for why they're not overturning these calls. Yes, it does have to be conclusive, but what more do they need to see? I'm not in favor of these ticky-tacky calls, but if you're going to install the cameras and give coaches a challenge, then you can't avoid this. But much like they do with the illegal hit videos, they're going to have to do a better job of explaining why its offside or not offside because people, including me, are confused.
  • Good afternoon - hoping all is well - thanks for your efforts bringing the fans the info about the Blues! A quick question regarding the whereabouts and "what's ups" with Coach Hitchcock since his departure? Anything in his coaching future? Any future role with the Blues?
  • I wish I had a better answer for you. I believe he may be back in St. Louis soon and I'm hoping to catch up with him.
  • +- is a tough stat to relate to actual on-ice performance... it's interesting that with Shattenkirk (-11) and Fabbri (-16) no longer active for the 'note, we've seen a turnaround in goal differential. Any possible correlation?
  • I wouldn't put too much stock in that. Fabbri's injury came in Yeo's second game with the team. The Blues have turned around their defensive play since then, and his plus-minus would have gotten better like the rest of the team had he stayed in the lineup. With Shattenkirk, we mentioned a few minutes ago that he had his hiccups, but I've got his breakdown in front of me and it's pretty interesting. He was a minus-4 against Pittsburgh (Yeo's second game, taking him to a minus-16 on the season. But in he was a plus-5 in his last nine games as a Blues, so he was trending upward too.
  • When people talk about the recap of a hockey game, what stats are relevant to supporting the story?
  • I used to get caught up in using a lot of stats. But after doing it 12 years, I try to let my eyes tell me what the story in the game was and then let the stats back up what I saw. So for example, if Jaden Schwartz appeared to have a great game, I will do my best to paint that picture in the recap. And while I'm writing, I'll look at the stats and see that he had eight shots on goal, or he was a plus-3, or he was on the ice for all four goals, and then use that as support. Numbers are good sometimes, but I think for the most part, people like to read about people and not stats. If I'm going to write about stats, I try not to focus too much on hits or giveaways because those can vary from rink to rink, but stuff like scoring chances are very important. You also have to be careful about building up angles like blocked shots because the Blues might have 25 of them, but that just means that their opponent had the puck a lot. Stats are tricky and sometimes misleading, so you've got to watch how you use them.
  • It seems like many times teams, not just the Blues, try to force situations or dump the puck in, or engage in low probability situations where they might be better served pulling back and resetting the play. Are there any metrics that track the value of certain types of plays--dump and chase, carrying in 1 on 2, etc.--in various situations? If not, how are hockey teams and players determining what the best course of action is if they don't have metrics to support it?
  • This is an insightful question and I don't want to avoid it. I clicked on it because I want to let you know what I can tell you. First of all, if there are stats like that, they're not made available on a public website or media website that we can all go to. I'm sure there's some sort of variation of this measurement available to teams, but teams are very, very reluctant to discuss analytics and metrics with anyone, and by reluctant I mean they don't do it. So my guess is that there is information out there, but coaches have their systems already in place and probably tell players to make good decisions within the system based on that information. Sorry, that's the best I can do with limited information regarding your question.
  • Rattie has one goal and one assist in 13 games since returning to the Chicago Wolves.
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