Good afternoon ladies and gents ... as always I appreciate you checking in every week and adding to the fun ... yes I said fun. The Blues, of course, are in Colorado and Tom Timmermann is there doing a fine job for the Post-Dispatch. I'm back in the Lou, ready to answer anything that might have popped in your mind in the last week. It doesn't have to be hockey related, though we like to keep in mind why we're all here. For the next hour, I'm here for you, so let's get chattin' ...
By the way, I'm chatting at a local deli in St. Louis and I see on the menu they have a "Colossal carrot cake." You have no idea what Bernie Federko would do to that thing! That man loves him some carrot cake!
No update. We did see Stastny hobbling through the locker room on crutches the other day, wearing a cast that on the foot that got hit by the Tarasenko shot.
That's a good question. Like you said, not a massive jump. A fair comparison would be my high school football career when I went from the third-string center to second-string, but it is a jump, right? I'm not sure who the Blues would go with come playoff time if everyone is healthy, but I can tell you this. Jaskin is healthy now, he's available to play, and the Blues are going with Yakupov. That obviously has a little to do with Jaskin coming off the injury, so we'll have to wait and see when all things are equal.
There hasn't been an update on Lehtera since the Blues left on their road trip ... Yeo said that Lehtera was riding the exercise bike, which doesn't mean much other than he's at least active. Will he be ready Sunday, will he be ready for the regular-season finale, or will it be the playoffs? The reason I'm asking is because if it's the playoffs and things are going well, I don't know that they'll just throw him in there. The Blues like what Barbashev is bringing and I don't think they'd have a problem at all moving forward with him. But if Lehtera is ready before the playoffs, I would be shocked if they worked him back into the lineup.
My apologies for the delay. I lost my connection and my answer on that last question.
I agree the word to best describe the Blues is "sneaky" when it comes to what they could do in the playoffs. You know what you're going to get in Chicago, and the Blues can play with them. I don't really include last year because the Blues have a different team, though the confidence some got winning at United Center last year should help. They have played with them this year, so that I really don't think the Blues would be overwhelmed in a series with Chicago. And then you look at the other teams and there's just hasn't been a lot of consistency, other than say Calgary. The others in the West have some holes and are beatable. The question I have is, 'Can the Blues keep this up?' They've been playing well but doing it against some lesser competition. That's not to take anything away from them, the schedule is what it is, but I don't think it's an honest evaluation when you're playing Colorado and Arizona six times in the last couple of weeks. But I think if the Blues can get the No. 3 spot in the Central, they could set themselves up well for a longer run that I anticipated.
As far as I know, the uniforms next year are supposed to look identical to the ones teams are wearing this year. There may be some semi-noticeable differences because its Adidas trying to recreate them. I believe there have been some problems with the Blues' uniforms, but there won't be different jerseys or a dramatic difference from the current ones.
I'll tell you what, the Blues' accommodating Ari's family on this trip and promoting it on social media and the broadcast is really something. There are other pro sports teams who do similar things, but this is more magnified than I ever remember seeing an organization handle a story like this. Add to that the Blues are in a playoff race and there are only a few games remaining in the regular season and it makes it even more impressive. If I may pass this along, Tom Timmermann is on the trip with the Blues and he's been documenting Ari's fun this week, and he'll have her story as the Blues Insider in Sunday's Post-Dispatch. So please pick up a copy if you can, or ready on-line beginning Sunday.
Correct, they are both RFAs. The Blues will definitely try to re-sign Paajarvi and I can't imagine that would be a problem. He may cost them a bit more than the $700,000 he made this year, but they've kept him around the past couple of years when it didn't look like there was a future there, so I think they'll pay him and perhaps even pencil him into the Top 9 next year. As far as Yakupov, I don't know what his thoughts are. If he plays like he has lately, perhaps there's some interest in the organization in qualifying. But $2.5 million-plus is a lot to qualify a player if you think he's going to be in the pressbox as a healthy scratch more often than not.
I'm glad you asked this. Someone asked me a few weeks ago which team I thought wouldn't make it. I went with the Flames. Boy was I wrong. They've come together and gotten a lot of help from Brian Elliott in net. I was curious like everyone else why LA added a goalie (Bishop) instead of some scoring help, but I thought with their Cup history and some of those veteran players, they'd figure it out. If I had to pick one, though, I'm a little more shocked by the way Calgary has put it together an LA's situation. The Kings haven't been very good all year, but the Flames really turned it around.
I remember when Mike Kitchen was in his final days as the Blues coach. I spoke with my editor and we agreed to write a story about whether the club was going to keep him or fire him. I wrote the article spelling out the situation and the editors put a headline on it that said: "Are the Blues Ditchin' Kitchen?" (For those that don't know, the writers don't write the headlines). Either way, he didn't like the article for obvious reasons and the next day wouldn't speak to me. Other media were asking questions and he answered all of them. I think I tried to ask one or two and he pretty much ignored me. Good guy, we've spoken since ... just a tough situation.
The NHL wants to be transparent, so I think it's the right move. Here's the thing: players are going to find out anyway through agents and media, etc. I think you'd probably rather all the names come out and everybody be in the same boat than for some reporters do some digging and only some of the names come out and those guys are the focus of everyone. Plus, there's going to be different reasons why guys are protected and why they're not. Just because a guy is not on the protected list doesn't mean their team doesn't want them. They might have had some hard choices, or they're leaving them unprotected because they don't think they'll get picked and it allows them to keep somebody who they think will get picked. If there's going to be hard feelings, they were going to happen with or without the public announcement. At least everyone is up front this way.
Fabbri will obviously be a big part of the team again next year, like you said. Among the other guys, like I said earlier, I could see Paajarvi being apart of things and perhaps Yakupov too. Then with the younger guys, I think Sanford and Barbashev have leads on jobs next year. It'll depend on what happens between now and then. Then there are guys like Tage Thompson, last year's first-round pick, who will have to come in and do a lot of proving to make the opening-day roster. As far as ceilings, I think Paajarvi (in a good way) and Yakupov are what they are at this point. Among those young guys, it's hard to say what the ceiling is because Sanford, Barbashev and Thompson have a lot of upside that's untapped as we sit here today.
I think it goes back further than this, but recently, Tarasenko attended the Casino Night at Scottrade Center, where people pay to mingle with the players. There was an auction that night and one of the items was a two-game road trip with the Blues, flying on the charter and staying at the team hotel. Tarasenko, again probably because of a previous relationship, bid on the item with Ari in mind and won it. So that's why Tarasenko has been involved in a lot of the social media and videos with Ari on the trip. He was the one who made it happen.
I think the overall atmosphere has been different since the coaching change. I think the players have come a little closer since that happened. I also think that having the Shattenkirk distraction behind them, seeing they could win without him, and then with the prolonged success of the team in the last month, it's all combined for a much better atmosphere.
Well, the Blues don't need anybody now with Jaskin coming back, and eventually Stastny and Lehtera. We'll eventually see some Black Aces come up during the playoffs, but I don't think a fourth call-up is on anybody's mind or even a concern right now.
I just got back from the last Arizona-Colorado trip and we decided to split things up. Yeah, I'll be headed to Florida, and with all this rain in St. Lou this week, I'll be looking forward to it. Of course, it will rain in Florida and be sunny here when we go, right?
Schwartz-Stastny-Tarasenko ... Steen-Berglund-Perron ... Sanford-Barbashev-Paajarvi ... Upshall-Brodziak-Reaves ... I've liked Yakupov lately, but he's better on the right and Paajarvi gets in before him. I like Sanford better on the left. Jaskin needs to show more when he gets back in to earn a spot.
Minnesota has an eight-point lead and the Blues have six games left with one in hand ... that's too much ground to make up, I think.
Players who are Blues' property will follow the team and be assigned to the affiliate.