Good afternoon from Carolina ladies and gents. A few minutes later here, as the Blues were wrapping up an optional practice. I spoke with Vladimir Sobotka after his first workout with the club in three years. Finally, finally, finally, we don't have to speculation on his situation, we can talk about him putting on the uniform. I know not everybody is happy about that, but we'll discuss that and more in the next hour. Let's get chattin ...
That looks odd, No. 71, doesn't it. For those that didn't hear, Sobotka will be wearing No. 71, which he flipped from No. 17 that he wore before. That of course belongs to Jaden Schwartz. Sobotka, by the way, will be the first player in Blues' history to wear No. 71. He looked pretty good considering he was in the air for about 15 hours and then met Doug Armstrong and Mike Yeo for breakfast this morning. It was an optional skate with six or so players, so nothing too in-depth. Sobotka said he was tired afterwards. Yeo wasn't sure if he'll play tomorrow night or not. My guess would be no, but we'll see.
Well, before I get to the last part of your question, let's say this: the Blues are headed to the playoffs and they're missing a couple of key guys in Fabbri and Stastny. Stastny still has skated to my knowledge, so I can't imagine he'll be ready for the start of the playoffs. The Blues need help up the middle, they need help on faceoffs, and I think Sobotka will provide that. So immediately, he gives you something. On the second part of your question, I asked Armstrong about giving a three-year contract to a player he hasn't seen much of in the last three years. I'll have his full response in Saturday's paper and on-line, but in a nutshell he said he did see him for the Czech Republic at the World Cup and they've kept up with him in the KHL as much as possible. In addition, neither the Blues nor Sobotka wanted a short-term deal. If they were going to do this, they wanted to make a commitment to one another. Again, I'll have Armstrong's full explanation and some thoughts on the three-year deal from Sobotka tomorrow.
It's a business and I think most people understand that. The Blues were looking out for themselves and Sobotka was looking out for himself and the worlds collided. He had the option of playing in the KHL, which a lot of players wouldn't consider, so he used it. Say what you want, but he made more money than he would have here and now he's back. As far as any ill will from players and fans, I can't speak for the fans. But I did talk to Yeo today and he said the players are excited to have Sobotka in the fold. I spoke to Jaskin, who also said teammates understand it's a business and they're not holding anything against him. I guess we'll have to wait for Sunday to see what the reception from fans will be.
The Sobotka chat continues. All good on the rash front ... As far as Sobotka upsetting the cart, this is hockey. Look at guys like Ty Rattie, who busted their tail all offseason and then the Blues brought in Nail Yakupov. He got a shot, didn't do well and the Blues started bringing up guys from the minors. No spot is safe, they're always going to be looking for somebody better, and that's the situation now. The Blues feel like Sobotka helps them and if you want to be in the lineup, play better than him.
I wouldn't say overrated. I would say he's a phenomenally gifted player who works hard to be good and could be great if he worked even harder. Tarasenko isn't the first superstar-type player to be described like that. We all know the story with Brian Sutter challenging Brett Hull and how that worked out for Hull's career. Players think they're doing the most they can, but sometimes get their eyes opened to the fact that they can work harder. I'm sure the Blues challenge him behind the scenes, but there will probably be a moment in his career, like with Hull, where it clicks that he can do more. I've heard hockey people say that he can be a 50-60 goal scorer when it clicks. So I think you can appreciate his talent and still be somewhat critical, but I wouldn't say he's overrated. I think he's deserving of the category people are placing him in.
I think so, yeah. Armstrong has liked him for a long time and unless Sobotka comes back and shows everyone that he's not the same player, then I would think the Blues wouldn't want to risk losing him.
No one. The roster is unlimited (within the salary cap) after the trade deadline.
We touched on Stastny's status early. My belief is the Blues would have brought Sobotka in even if they had a healthy roster. You could say the Blues are glad it worked out with Sobotka because they are banged up, but again I think they sign him either way. On the contract, keep this in mind: he wouldn't be here if the Blues just wanted him back for the year. He wanted an extension to come back, or else he could have stayed in the KHL. You can read that and say "well, tell him to go chew on a tire," but the Blues wanted the extension too. So they were willing to burn the year if it meant getting everything done.
I've never talked to Allen about this, so I don't know. I've noticed a few times where he's looking around for it, but I noticed that with Elliott at times too. Allen has let in a few where he seemed surprised that the puck was where it was, but I don't see it as a big issue. Like you said, he's played well, and like I said, a number of goalies including Elliott are always working on their puck awareness, etc.
Yeah, I don't know where the criticism comes from. He isn't going to drop the gloves, and he doesn't seem to me like the guy who's in guy's faces in the locker room. But I don't think you have to be that guy to be a good leader. He has a very professional approach at the rink and I think everybody notices that. He might not be the type of guy where the team takes on his personality like you see with some teams and their captains, but players do see him as a leader and look up to him.
THE BLUES HAVE SAID THEY SEE HIM AS A CENTER. I'M NOT SURE IF THAT WILL CHANGE, WE'LL HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE. HE MAY NEED MORE TIME IN THE AHL. HE IS ON THE WOLVES' PLAYOFF ROSTER. I DON'T THINK IT'S A GUARANTEE THAT HE'S ON THE OPENING-DAY ROSTER NEXT YEAR. HE'S GOING TO HAVE TO COME INTO CAMP READY TO EARN A SPOT. HE DOES GET KNOCKED OFF THE PUCK AT TIMES AND THEREFORE NEEDS SOME STRENGTH.
Thank you for not forcing me to hold down the caps button. Oh wait! There's a caps lock button!! I've never seen that. Anyway, I don't think they're upsetting the chemistry. I think more is being made about that among fans than in the locker room. Yeah, the Blues have played well, but I think we can all agree there's still plenty of questions about this team. Stastny's return? Inexperience of Barbashev and other young guys in the playoffs? More injuries? I'm not saying Sobotka is a savior, but he's an experienced player who has played a high level. To me, this is like trading for a quality player at the trade deadline. Nobody complains when you add a guy then, in fact people complain if you don't add a guy. No, there's not as much time left in the season compared to getting a player at the deadline, but this is a unique circumstance and the Blues are taking advantage of it.
I think they have a chance to win the first round and after that I don't know. My big gut tells me they'll put up a fight in the second round and fall short, but that's just what I'm thinking. If they play Minnesota, I don't know that they'd be overwhelmingly favored, but I think with the way the Blues are playing and the way the Wild are playing, there would be a lot of people picking them. If they won the first round, they would probably be a trendy pick but not against Chicago. The Blues' record the last 17-18 games has been good, but let's be honest they haven't been dominant and this isn't the type of success where you're saying they're the team to beat.
I'll get into the details in tomorrow's story, but Army turned back the time machine last night when I spoke to him about this. He said, in a nutshell, the cap stayed flat the year Sobotka left, so the Blues didn't have a lot of wiggle room. They had Jaden Schwartz to re-sign and you'll recall he missed 10 days of camp, so he was the priority and it took awhile to get that done. Sobotka was a restricted free agent and he didn't have a leg to stand on. Sobotka did have arbitration rights, but didn't use them because he probably felt he wouldn't be awarded what he wanted. The Blues did take him to arbitration, where an arbitrator selected their salary. So yeah, they weren't going to give him $3 million on a one-year contract at that time and then let him walk into free agency. But the landscape is different now, they've got their core guys signed, they have cap space and it makes more sense now.
I'm not sure where this situation stands, but they've got to have interest in him. Somebody will. He's a good player. Sometimes those AHL point leaders are 'tweeners and don't make good NHL players, but he looked like he can play. I'm not sure what Agostino think about the Blues and the chance he's gotten, so I don't want to guess what will happen. But obviously there has to be some interest.
Something's going to happen. I agree you've that the roster is a bit crowded with guys who could all be fighting for the same spots. Barbashev might end up being a guy that plays up the lineup and Berglund can too, but a lot of those other guys are third liners. Now it helps certainly to be versatile and a number of those guys can play center and wing. But I think we all know where they play best and that doesn't set up well for what you'd draw up as some good-looking lines. I think it's pretty understood that there's going to be some moving and shaking in the summer.
Anaheim is 8-0-2 in its last 10 and Edmonton is 8-2. I know there are some injuries in the division, but I'm not sure you want those teams.
I think he's a third-liner, penalty-killer who might get some time on the power play because of his faceoff ability.
Unfortunately I celebrated it last night.
Hard to say what's going to happen. The players are really ticked off and strongly believe the NHL is wrongly using the Olympics as a bargaining chip. It's unfortunate. Could the league continue negotiating and reverse course? Perhaps. But it's getting pretty late to do that and I think they'd still look bad even if they did that. No one knows how this is going to play out come next year and players like Ovechkin follow through with playing in the Olympics. I don't know if others would follow and how big this could get. But I do know that this can't be good for future CBA negotiations with the players.