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.




  • 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 ...
  • How was 71 looking at practice today?
  • 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.
  • So I get what Sobie brings to the table. I don't harbor any ill will. He made the decision he felt he needed to. But, here is a player that you haven't really seen for three years, you have all new coaching staffs, and you give him a three year extension? How many 3rd/4th line centers do we need?
  • 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.
  • One guess who my question is about... I originally thought this guy was just pulling the Blues organization around but after reading more in depth about his buy out and what I would take to return to the NHL, I have to say I would have done the same thing. With that being said will there be any easy welcoming environment for Vlad coming back or are we walking on egg shells with him... fans, teammates, organization? Secondly, it would appear to me that this was done out of filling a need. If there were not all of the injuries would this have happened? Please elaborate on that! Go Blues and Thank you
  • 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.
  • Hey JR - hope that Sobotka rash is calming down now. Glad he's finally coming back signed but I have to ask , do you think this is the right time to bring him back and insert him into the lineup? I can't help but think it doesn't sit well with the young(er) guys who busted their butt all season to earn playing time, and then this drama act comes in and takes it away. Do you think it'll disrupt the rhythm of this team, like any late season acquisition typically does?
  • 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.
  • Is there any argument at all for Tarasenko being overrated? I know that I am in the minority here... but if he wants to play a very one dimensional game he better be putting in 50+, not mid to high 30s. As an organization is there any concern for his style of play and getting more out of him as far as evolving as an all around player or are they happy with 35 goals and around the 70 point mark? I need more out of him to justify thinking of him as THE guy for the team
  • 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.
  • Is Sobotka an automatic addition to the protection list at the expansion draft?
  • 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.
  • Who has to leave to make room for Soboka?
  • No one. The roster is unlimited (within the salary cap) after the trade deadline.
  • Hey JR, Thanks for the phenomenal chats and for sharing your hockey wisdom! Was Army's motivation to give up that year of control on Sobotka have anything to do with the fact that Stastny might not be ready for the playoffs? I mean the extension is nice but the bottom line is we still had a full year of Sobi for 2.7. So we are essentially giving more of a raise than we he originally asked for. Seems like Army wouldnt do that unless he had a worry about the center position depth. thoughts?
  • 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.
  • Hey, Jeremy. After watching Elliott's entire stint with the Blues and Jake's this year I've noticed that Jake doesn't sniff out the puck as good as Elliot did. Don't get me wrong he's been great lately, it's just as in comparison it seems when Jake can't find the puck he freezes up, or goes still. When Elliott couldn't find the puck he was always looking from left to right very quickly to find where it went. Jake often thinks he has it but it's usually behind him or going around the boards. Do you think this is something that is trained, or does he just have to figure that out for himself?
  • 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.
  • I've been impressed with leadership from Pietrangelo lately! His play on the ice as well as some of the quotes from the locker room we hear.
  • 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.
  • JR: WHAT DO THE BLUES SEE SANFORD'S POTENTIAL AS? IS HE A WINGER OR A CENTER? COULD HE GET TIME IN THE AHL TO DEVELOP MORE NEXT YEAR? HE GETS KNOCKED OFF THE PUCK A LOT. I'LL HANG UP AND LISTEN. THX
  • 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.
  • the blues are 13-2-2 in their last 17 (or something close to that) -- why in the world would they potentially upset chemistry in locker room by bringing in Sobotka with one game to play!?
  • 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.
  • How far do you think the Blues will go in this years playoffs and do you think not being favored and being under the radar will have any effect on their success?
  • 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.
  • Sobotka left because we wouldn't give him 3M a season, now he's getting paid 3.5M. How does Armstrong justify that?
  • 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.
  • Hey JR - thanks as always! Not Sobotka related: What do the Blues do with Kenny Agostino this offseason? Leads the AHL in points, but is a UFA and the Blues are crowded next year...be a shame to lose the AHL points leader though.
  • 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.
  • I'm a fan of having Sobotka back, but it seems like we have quite a lot of guys and payroll tied up into guys who are basically 2nd and 3rd line centers (Sobotka, Lehtera, Berglund, Sanford, Barbashev). Sobotka's other position, LW, is also a position of depth for us (Fabbri, Schwartz, Steen, Paajarvi). Am I wrong to speculate we might see some of these centers moved?
  • 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.
  • Based off what's going on injury-wise in the pacific, I wouldn't mind taking the first wild card spot.
  • 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.
  • What kind of role do you think sobotka will play in the playoffs? Do you see him a top 6 forward or a role player, killing penalties etc...?
  • 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.
  • JR, Thanks for the great chats. IMHO the Olympics spotlight hockey every 4 years in a positive light to fans who don't regularly follow the sport. It also appears some players are against Bettman's edict. Your thoughts and/or thoughts of Blues' players?
  • 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.
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