We're back for a chat that could be the last before the NHL season wraps up. Pittsburgh went up 3-2 on Nashville in the Final last night and could win its second straight Cup on Sunday in Nashville. I think the Predators will push it to Game 7, but we can get into that over the next hour or so. The expansion draft is right around the corner, so we can talk about that, and we have the amateur draft as well, and I know some of you probably have a few players are your radar, so we'll try to address that as well. Let's get chattin' ...
I don't if they asked him to or it was just obvious that he would. I haven't spoken to Fabbri in a while, but I'm sure he'll get out of town at some point. But this is a big offseason for him, bouncing back from the knee injury. He has all the resources and attention that he needs here, so it makes sense.
I think Nashville can win Sunday, but can they win Game 7 in Pittsburgh? I don't think so. The Preds played well in Game 1-2 in Pitt, even though they lost, but they certainly got outplayed last night. It was like Crosby and Co. willed themselves to a victory last night and even if Nashville wins on Sunday, I think we're going to see the heart of a champion prevail again in Game 7.
I think we'll hear something shortly after the Final is over. Berube interviewed in Buffalo and Florida, according to reports, but I think one or both of those teams are set to interview Nashville assistant Phil Housley as soon as he's available. It doesn't look like Berube is considered a likely candidate for either one of those jobs, but he might as well wait until they interview Housley and found out which way they're going. But that said, I think it's a formality that Berube will be the Blues' associate coach and it's likely to be announced next week.
He could probably help, but he's a bottom-six guy and with Berglund, Lehtera, Brodziak, Barbashev, Sanford and even Sobotka in the fold, I don't believe there would be interest.
As you mentioned home ice has been the common denominator, but even with that, the play of the teams has to be a bit schizophrenic, especially Pittsburgh. Look at Crosby and Malkin, no shots on goal in one game earlier in the series and then Crosby looks like the all-world player again last night. Look at Rinne, who helped Nashville get back in the series then he's chased last night. He's allowed 11 goals on 45 shots in Pittsburgh. Is that connected to the home/road thing? Seems like it, but hard to say. Overall, we've seen a series between a couple of really good teams who have given us some big plays by little-known guys like Gaudreau and Guentzel and then we've seen the household names step up and deliver. Very hard to predict!
We certainly could see that. For those that didn't see the news, the Chicago Wolves have hired Rocky Thompson as their new head coach. The Wolves are now affiliate with Vegas, so Thompson is going to report to his bosses in Chicago and in turn Vegas GM George McPhee as the Wolves' parent club. The Blues are expected to put some prospects in Chicago next year, but the Wolves will have no obligation to them whatsoever. Doug Armstrong has admitted that it's not ideal, and he hopes the arrangement lasts only a year, but this is not good for the certainty of ice time, roles, etc., for the Blues prospects. Armstrong does have a good relationship with McPhee and feels comfortable that the situation will be tolerable, but that is not guaranteed.
The situations aren't identical, but they've been somewhat similar the past few years: a lot of regular season success and few extended runs, other than last year for the Blues. The Caps, though, have had Ovi in his prime and a very very good and sometimes underrated player in Backstrom. They stacked the deck this year with Shattenkirk and couldn't get out of the second round. I think the Caps may be in a situation where they really have to blow it up. I'm not saying they will, but it's just not working. The Blues seem to be a bit of a different boat, in that, they've been transitioning the roster the past couple of years and have some different players in place, so now, even though they've fallen short, they've at least got a different look to them.
They are. There are 31 NHL teams and 30 AHL teams, and the Blues are the lone wolf.
I can't imagine that Washington would decide that Backstrom is part of the problem - he's terrific. Something has to change and it doesn't sound like it's going to be Ovechkin or Backstrom. If Backstrom were somehow available, yes, the Blues would have to be interested and would have to be ready to pay a steep price.
I haven't heard anything differently, so I think you're safe.
I don't think it's headed that way. These guys (Sydor and Ott) are being given three-year contracts, so after Berube is hired, you're likely looking at three years before the Blues are hiring another assistant anyway. With Ott, I think they were just looking for a guy not that far removed from the game who already had a relationship with these guys, so they could avoid the getting-to-know-you stage. Mike Yeo told me that Steve Ott will be a guy who the players can go to and tell them their feelings and he can pass them along to the coaching staff. Will it work? We'll see. But I don't have any concerns about Ott being brought in because he's a buddy, or that we're going to see similar hires for reasons like that.
I don't think it makes a drastic difference. Army has been in charge for a while now and the Blues have certainly had success under him, but the pressure would be there regardless of whether the Ducks or Preds were in. I think where Nashville advancing to the Final hurts the Blues is that it's another team in the Central that has a very good chance at being in the same spot next year and eating up one of the playoff spots. This division is unreal. Other than Colorado, I think everybody's got a chance. So while you might not have included Nashville among the top 1-2 teams in the Central Division four months ago, you do now and it just makes the division look even more stacked.
People have asked this, and I get it, but regardless of whether Armstrong and McPhee are golfing buddies or haven't spoken in four years, McPhee is going to do what's right for the Golden Knights. If Lehtera doesn't make sense for them, McPhee is going to say to himself, 'Well Army did pick up the dinner tab that night in Fort Lauderdale, so I'm going to pull the trigger on the deal with the Blues.' Being cooperative with the Blues regarding ice time with American Hockey League players is a lot different than taking a bad contract off a team's hands.
Like who? They have to have more than two years pro experience. The guys you are probably thinking of are exempt. The players eligible for the draft who may not be protected are Jaskin, Reaves, Lehtera, Brodziak, Perron, Gunnarsson, Bortuzzo, Hutton.
I'm having a little hard time understanding the question. But if it's what I think you're asking, the answer is contracts. There are players on both rosters (Blues and Cardinals) that I'm sure fans would like to move, but their lack of production coupled with their contracts make them undesirable to other teams as well. If you could just pick up the phone and move a bad contract, they'd have done it already. So the problem is wrongly evaluating a guy, giving him too much money, decline in performance, etc. I don't think they're "must keep" players because the teams want to keep them. In the case of Berglund, I could see this. He's a guy that fans were ready to move on from and the Blues kept him with a new five-year deal. I don't really have an answer for that, other than if you move him or let him go, you must have something better ready to go. I think people would argue with the Blues that there was better options out there than bringing Berglund back for five years. So in a situation like that, I can agree, but I think it needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
I heard that around the time of the Olympics, when NHL players were getting ready to leave for Sochi, Halak was notified that he was going to start a particular game for the Blues. Well, he had a lot on his mind packing for Olympics and thought it would be a better idea if Elliott started. That didn't sit well with the club as you can imagine and Halak wasn't a Blue much longer. Whether Armstrong would have made the move for Ryan Miller had that Halak situation not happened, I don't know. But it didn't help his cause here in St. Louis.
First-round picks are very, very valuable. Obviously if you're talking top 10, you're talking about a guy who can hopefully play right away. When you get into the 20s, you're probably looking at a couple of years, but as the Blues have seen with a guy like Fabbri, they can sometimes help sooner than later. So to me, yes, they're assets and there's no such thing as having a bad first-rounder. Now if you're the Blues with two of them in the 20s this year, do you use them and bring in two quality players, or do you package them for a Top 10. It depends what is available to you. I don't think the Blues' financial state, which is increasingly better, dictates what the Blues do with the picks. They're going to be a team at the top of the salary-cap next year either way. Army has said whatever makes the team better 1-3-5 years down the road. If there's a situation in which the Blues can improve themselves next year by trading them, they will. If not, they've got no problem spending the picks. Either way, they're very valuable.
All that we know at this point is that Kovalchuk is attempting to return to the NHL, and because of Martin Brodeur, the Blues are reportedly one of the possible destination. It makes sense: Brodeur, making trips overseas in his job with the Blues, has been in touch with Kovalchuk the past couple of years. And Kovalchuk has played with Tarasenko in the past and the two like playing with each other. But I can't stress enough that a lot will have to happen between the NHL and New Jersey and then the Devils and the rest of the league if Kovalchuk is to get back in the league and then traded. It's possible, but with all the hoops that the sides still have to jump through, it's premature to discuss what it would even take to bring Kovalchuk here.
Even the Blues' biggest need is center, I think Eberle and Drouin are the strongest possibilities.