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.




  • Some of you might have seen that I joked on Twitter this morning that the Blues have won 7 of 8 games, picked up a point in 11 straight at home, Jake Allen has won 7 straight games and Vladimir Tarasenko's hat trick gave him 18 points in his last 13 games ... so bring on the negativity. Some of you might be saying, 'Well, wasn't Jeremy the one telling us a couple of weeks ago that this was seemingly a dire sitiuation?' Yes, I did, and I still believe that it was. But give the Blues credit, they have turned things around have played really well lately. I still believe there are issues at center, closing out games and they'll need to play better on the road, but there shouldn't be too much negativity floating around today. Let's see what you've got, as it's time to get chattin' ....
  • By the way, as a little twist today, I'm asking you to include the best Blues game you ever been to in person along with your questions today. Perhaps we'll trigger some good memories with the others in our chat today.
  • I know it was only 1 game, but safe to say we may see those lines again barring health? Maybe rotate Jaskin for a Rattie or Yakupov?
  • It was only one game, but the lines did look pretty good. You can't break up Schwartz-Stastny and Perron right now, no way. I like Steen in the middle, but I don't know how long they can keep him there. Steen doesn't have a lot of faceoff experience, and Fabbri is the only other option on that line, and he hasn't taken many either. Steen was 2-6 last night in the circle and Fabbri was 4-2. As far as the third line, it looks like it could be different Saturday. Lehtera skated as an extra today and the Blues could put him in the pressbox against Montreal. The third line, if you haven't heard, was Jaskin-Berglund-Yakupov. Hitch said he'd sleep on that decision tonight.
  • Speaking of issues at center, are we just now realizing that Lehtera isn't what we hoped he would be? What can we do with him?


    best game in recent history would probably be when we beat lightning like 7-1 a few years ago
  • One thing I've heard over and over from NHL coaches in the past, and I tend to believe it, is that if a player has done it before in the league, he can do it again. I realize there are exceptions, or what we'd call one-hit wonders. But Lehtera came to North America and put up 14 goals and 44 points a couple of years ago. That's not a fluke. You don't do that in the NHL if you don't have talent. He had 34 last year, but it was nowhere near his rookie season. Did teams figure him out? I don't know if you can say that. Teams aren't game planning to shut down Jori Lehtera. Plain and simple he needs to be better. The Blues gave him a new contract that pays him $4.7 million for the next three years, and that will now become a focal point. I've written in the chat before that the Blues gave him the deal a year ahead of time because they wanted to be able to focus on Backes, Schwartz, etc. That has backfired on them because Lehtera have not come close to playing the way he did as a rookie. I don't know where this is going, but as I said from the start, Lehtera has already shown us that he has the talent to be a better player. Hitch and the coaches have to find it, and Lehtera has to work harder than he is.
  • JR,
    Not a criticism, just a question. Is there a reason you do not correct the grammar when you quote the foreign players whose first language is not English? I notice it a lot with Tarasenko specifically.
  • I do sometimes when it is blatantly bad and hard to read. However, I have received emails and tweets from foreign-speaking readers who thank me and other writers for not cleaning up the English of athletes such as Tarasenko. They say that it makes it sound like the athlete is the one really doing the talking and over the years it shows their growth with the language. When I received those messages, I thought about it and felt that it made sense, so I tend to limit the amount of editing I do with comments from those athletes. It's a good topic, and I'm curious how you guys feel about that?
  • Sorry, didn't see your intro till just now. I'm in your camp, things were looking dire a couple weeks ago - nice turnaround by the Blues. Best game I ever saw........ Mike Crombeen's winner in OT against Pittsburgh. That game was tense from start to finish with Liut and Millen standing on their heads to keep their teams in the game.
  • I think most people would agree with us. That start didn't have a lot of promise with it. But credit the vets, who I think brought things together with a chat after the Columbus loss .... That Crombeen goal was one of the best in club history. Millen was lights out that night.
  • Prediction for 91's goal total for this season?
  • My "bold" prediction on KMOX radio was 50 in 50, so I can't back off that. He only needs 37 in the next 26 games, right? Still possible eh? As far as his final goal total, I'd like to be realistic and say 44, but if he I stick 50-50, then I've got to go 61 for the season.
  • Is Parayko getting frustrated with all his SOGs and no Gs?
  • Not according to Parayko. Here's a chat he had with colleague Tom Timmermann ...

    No goals are no problem for Blues' Parayko

    stltoday.comHis work on defense, getting pucks out of team's zone, has stood out this season for Hitchcock
  • if Perron and Schwartz ever figure out how to finish a 2 on 1 break... look out! what was it 0 for 3 last night?
  • No kidding. I thought all three of those were going to continue their point streaks. I had my fingers to type it into the story on every 2 on 1, but alas, nothing. I think those two will finish a few this season.
  • Has the Road to the Winter Classic camera crew started following the team yet? Any info on when and where that will air? -- Jay McClement hat trick game :)
  • The camera crews were in for a few days, but I think it was to film the Classic jersey. They're supposed to rejoin the Blues next week in New York. The show debuts in the U.S. on Epix Dec. 16.
  • I'm sure this is an old question by now, but I still don't get the exact reason yakupov is not playing. I get jaskin is playing well, but rattie is just a guy. Does he just freelance and not do what he is supposed to do? is it hustle?
  • I think if we're boiling it down to one short response, he's just not where he's supposed to be, helping out how he should be. I don't think it's lack of effort or hustle, it has more to do with playing the system the way it's supposed to be played.
  • Who is the first to get scratched when Edmonson gets back? I'm thinking Gunnarsson because that has happened before. Me personally, I would scratching Bo because he hasn't been playing well, but I don't think Hitch would do that. Thoughts?

    Best game: either December 28, 2013 vs the Blackhawks, Blues down the whole game comeback and win in a shootout or game 7 last season vs the Hawks
  • Hitch said that Edmundson is a "maybe" for tomorrow. I think Edmundson is healthy enough to play and the Blues definitely want him in their top six, but with the way they're playing, I don't know if you slip him back in there tomorrow. I could be wrong, but that's my take. But obviously Edmundson is going to get back in there. If everyone is healthy at that point, who comes out? I think it would be Gunnarsson and I'm not saying he deserves to sit, but I don't know who else you'd sit. Bortuzzo is playing terrifically and I don't think you mess with that mojo. Bouwmeester is not in that conversation. Does he make mistakes yes, but we've been over this before. He plays a ton of minutes against other top players, and when he has sat before and the Blues put someone else less experienced in his spot, there has been a drop-off. So if they want to get Edmundson back in, I think Gunnarsson could sit.
  • Is it just me or does exposing Lehtera to the expansion draft seem like more of a must for the Blues?
  • I think it could be more of an option than we thought at the start of this season. For those unfamiliar with his deal, he's on the hook for $4.7 million for the next three years. He's got seven points this season and is not clicking in the top six. Obviously that's not an attractive situation for an expansion trying to compete sooner than later, but you never know. Some may point out that Vegas does have to get to the salary-cap floor, but I don't think you do that with under-performing players. So I could see the Blue possibly exposing him, but I don't see him getting picked up.
  • Do the Blues send a goalie coach to work with Husso down on the farm or at least check in with him now and then or is he pretty much on his own?
  • Ty Conklin is the Blues minor-league goalie coach, and while I can't say with certainty that he has visited Husso, I would be surprised if he hasn't, or least kept up communication with him. Tim Taylor is director of player development and I would bet that he's kept in touch, too, if not seen him as well.
  • How can the Blues fix their center problem? Steen up the middle doesn't seem like a permanent solution.
  • I don't think they have any solutions within the organization. You've got Schwartz and Fabbri, but Schwartz likes the wing and both Fabbri and the Blues don't seem keen on the idea of Fabbri playing in the middle. Looking in the system, they've got Barbashev, but he's not the answer, at least not anytime soon. You've got Tage Thompson, but he'll take a while too. They're going to have to make a deal or search for someone in free agency. Berglund's contract is up after the year, and as we mentioned Lehtera will have another two years. So you can't replace Lehtera unless you do something with his contract. But they've got to do something.
  • Back in 68 Blues vs Habs. Picard fought Harris and Bob Plager fought Ferguson. Ended in a tie. What can the Blues do to correct their top pair on defense.
  • A game that ended in a tie and you still got your money's worth ... As far as the top pair, I'm not sure if you mean Pietrangelo or Bouwmeester or the two as a whole. Certainly we're not talking about a replacement or an upgrade for Pietrangelo. We've touched on Bouwmeester in the past. We're talking about a guy who's played 1,000 games in the league. Sure he's seen better days, when he had younger legs and put up more offense. But he still gives you a ton of minutes and plays against other team's top players. Perhaps that isn't enough for some fans, and I get it. They want more. But what do you do? Play him in the third pair and bump somebody like Edmundson up? Does that make you better? I don't think so. Do you trade him? To who and for what? Right now, on this roster, Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester are the best option for the top pair. They give up goals and have off nights, but my belief is that we would see other defensemen on the Blues roster give up the same or more if they were in that position.
  • Who do you see the Blues protecting in the expansion draft and do they have to protect the UFA's or RFA's? The best game I've been to in recent years is the triple OT game one of the playoffs vs the Blackhawks.
  • Here's my protected list using both options (7 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goalie and 8 skaters, 1 goalie) PROTECTED LIST

    7-3-1

    forwards

    tarasenko
    steen
    schwartz
    stastny
    perron
    jaskin
    reaves

    exposed: lehtera/rattie

    defensemen

    pietrangelo
    edmundson
    bouwmeester

    exposed: gunnarsson

    goalie
    allen

    exposed: hutton

    8-1

    skaters

    steen
    tarasenko
    schwartz
    stastny
    jaskin
    perron
    pietrangelo
    edmundson
    allen

    exposed: lehtera, reaves, rattie, bouwmeester, gunnarsson, hutton
  • As far as free agents, you have to protect RFAs who are eligible but not UFAs.
  • Lehtera may be in Vegas.
    Best Blues game: any on the glass all inclusive for obvious reasons.
  • And what would those reasons be ... free soda?
  • Good afternoon JR!

    Best Blues game I went to saw Pierre Turgeon (childhood hero) score a hat trick.

    2 questions:

    1. Best way to get my copy of your book signed?

    2. Any chance that we are lucky enough to see Lehtera drafted to Vegas next year?
  • Turgeon was fun to watch. It'll be great to see him at the alumni game. As far as the book, shoot me an email (jrutherford@post-dispatch.com) and if you're in town, we can meet up. If you're not in town, you can send it to me and I'll mail it back.
  • JR, Hitch spoke about not liking things at the end of last night's game, especially in the defensive zone. Any reason for alarm or just "Hitchspeak" to keep the guys on their toes? -Game 7 winner against the Hawks last year
  • After what happened in the third period of the last three games, that's not coach speak. They've got some issues back there, especially holding onto leads. It's not all on the defensemen, the forwards are in the guilty party, too. They've got to play smarter and quicker and not be sitting around watching.
  • Jaskin sure made a turnaround from last years performance to this year! He is protecting the puck better, when Jaskin is on the wall or corner with the puck he is coming out with it not like last year, and he is an offensive threat! What did he do in the off season to be so much better? Who did he train with?
  • I would take that a step further and say Jaskin has made a turnaround from three weeks ago. Yeah, last season wasn't a good one for him. He got some (I stress some) ice time at the World Cup of Hockey, but I'm sure being in that environment helped even more than the few minutes he got. I was expecting him to come into camp and the preseason and show some of the flashes he had a couple of years ago, but that didn't happen. But lately, he just seems to be asserting himself more and, like you said, protecting the puck, not turning it over and making the right reads. Hitch said the other day that Jaskin is playing at another level compared to earlier in the year. I haven't had a chance to speak with Jaskin about any specifics that have led to this, but hopefully I can soon.
  • Hey JR, I saw your update about the possibility of Lehtera being a healthy scratch and agree that maybe he could benefit from the wakeup call. With that being said, do you have any idea why Berglund isn't held to that same level of accountability? After looking at the stats, Berglund's numbers are a bit worse than Lehtera's (+/-) and many nights just looks lost on the ice with turnovers galore. Fabbri, Jaskin, Yakupov, Rattie and now Lehtera are all being held accountable. Do you know what Hitch sees in Berglund that allows him to ignore/reward Berglund's mediocrity/poor play while at the same time punishing other players for theirs? Should us Blues fans be expecting a Berglund contract extension?
  • It has not been a good year for Berglund offensively with just one goal and seven points in 24 games. I would point out that he's not had the most productive linemates when you talk about Jaskin, Rattie and Yakupov. I realize that's not an excuse, but it's the truth. So offensively, no, Berglund hasn't done much and I agree that he looks a little lost. Not taking a shot on goal late in the Washington game was a snapshot of that. But when you consider the Blues' options for the top 12 forward spots, I think Berglund's play with the puck, protecting it, and skating, has not hurt the team and therefore he still gives you the best chance to win of the players you've got to choose from. As far as his turnovers, I've got him for five giveaways and six takeaways this year. Those stats are from the scorer's book, and they're not always full-proof, but they're not far off, so I don't think we can nail him for a rash of turnovers. Again, not trying to paint a pretty picture here, just saying that if Hitch is looking to put the best 12 out there, Berglund is in that group.
  • It's hard to reconcile the results with current fan anxiety. Do you have a theory as to why Blues fans continue to look for the negatives? Do you think there is anything to the anxiety? Do you think this team, as built, can be a force or will there be an eventual need to add at some point?
  • That is fans of every sport in every city. Believe me, I'm in 29 other NHL cities every season reading NFL, MLB and NBA coverage for the various teams, and the sky is falling everywhere. Blues fans are no different ... Regarding your Blues question, they are playing well, but no I don't think they can be a strong force without some re-tooling. A good team? Yes. A playoff team? Yes. But that is more of a reflection of they're not being a lot of strong teams out there than it is the Blues having all the parts to be among the elite. I don't think they're a team that can go two or three rounds without some attention to the holes.
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