I'm back from vacation this week and ready to catch up on your Blues' questions. For those who follow me on Twitter (@jprutherford), you may have seen my tweet earlier that I interviewed Robby Fabbri today. I spoke him about his rehab and potentially playing center next season. We can touch on that today and there will be an article in Monday's Post-Dispatch. Whenever I think there's not a lot to chat about, you guys always surprise me, so let's see what you've got today. Let's get chattin ...
He said that he was cleared about one month ago to starting in his gear. You might remember he went on the ice after Blues' playoff practices in April, but that was just to feel the puck again. Now he's actually doing some work. He said he feels good and he's on track to be ready for the start of training camp.
There a lot of options here when you talk about Stastny, Schenn, Fabbri, Brodziak, Sundqvist, Sobotka, Barbashev, Sanford (did I miss anyone?). Obviously Stastny will be one of them, and I think the Blues really want to give Schenn a good chance in the middle, so I'll say he's another. Then I'm going to go with Fabbri. They like his speed up the ice and I think they'll like what they see in camp and keep it for opening night. After those three, I'm going with the veteran Brodziak to center the fourth line. I think Sobotka will stay on the wing, and the other younger guys will get opportunity in the middle, but not opening night. So give me Stastny-Schenn-Fabbri-Brodziak.
We're going to have to let it play out. The way I see it, they've got a lot of players who "can" do the job. Will they? We'll see. We just discussed the candidates at center. There isn't a true No. 1, Schenn has played mostly right wing the past two years and Fabbri is untested in the NHL at center, so that's a concern. But as I mentioned, they've got a lot of good options. I think the concern for me is at right wing and not having enough right shots. I mean without Perron, you're looking at Tarasenko, Beau Bennett, Dmitrij Jaskin, Chris Thorburn and maybe Magnus Paajarvi ... and I guess you could put Steen over there. So me, yeah, there are questions about the middle of the ice, but the bigger question is on the right side.
I haven't been out there much, so I don't know. Fabbri, Edmundson and Sanford are in town right now. I've heard that Pietrangelo has been out there a lot. Other than that, I'm not sure. I want to see them as much as they want to see me, which is not much.
He can obviously play either position and regardless of whether he's at center or wing, he can take the faceoffs, as we saw in the playoffs. Steen played the middle and Sobotka took some draws. If the Fabbri experiment doesn't work, perhaps we'll see Sobotka at center a lot with Berglund out until December. I don't think the Blues are opposed to the idea of Sobotka in the middle. He was the one who said last year that he wasn't quite comfortable with it after being away for three years.
I was surprised to see that a 30-goal scorer signed a deal for $4.25 AAV. However, he scored eight goals in his career before this season. So the Preds are taking a big risk that Arvidsson can do it again. He's listed at 5-9, 180 and he was a fourth-round draft pick. He certainly looked good last year, but was he a flash in the pan? He had to take the seven-year, $29 million deal the Predators gave him and if does what he did last year, that's a huge bargain for the Preds.
Schenn is going to bring some tenacity. That's one part of his game that has been talked about enough. I spoke with Craig Berube, who had him in Philadelphia and he said that when Schenn plays tenacious he's really good. The other plus with Schenn, which has been mentioned a ton, is his power-play production. He tied for the league lead last year with 17 power-play goals. The Blues would like his 5 on 5 play to be more consistent and productive, but one of the league's worst PP units in the postseason last year will be glad to have a guy like that.
I've been doing a lot of homework on this story and will have a thorough look at the situation in the Post-Dispatch next week. I think the Blues will have about 7-8 prospects playing with the Wolves next season and others loaned out to a few other teams. There's really too much to get into here, but please keep an eye out for the story next week.
You have not missed it. We are still waiting for the official word.
I have heard that things are going well, but I have not been there to see it myself. This is another topic/story that I've been making plans to write and hopefully we can have something for you soon. And I agree, videos or pictures would do it more justice, so we'll keep that in mind when we make plans to take a tour.
My plan is to write about how popular roller hockey was in St. Louis at its height. Where were the big games, the best players, how many nights a week could you drive by and see people playing at rinks, in school yards, cul de sacs? I'd like to talk to the Average Joe's who lived it and breathed it but also talk to the Pat Maroon, Brandon Bollig's and Cam Janssen's to see what it did for them on their way to NHL careers. There are lots of ways to go with this story, so I'm still kind of putting my thoughts and ideas together. It's going to take some time, but I think it will be well worth it.
It'll be Steve Ott. I'm kidding. As far as I know, it'll be Yeo. With the new coaching staff coming aboard in the offseason, we obviously haven't had the chance to see any practices, and with the staff out of the offices I haven't had any meaningful conversations with Yeo about his plans to divide up the coaching duties. I promise to have more of that as we approach camp.
They do, but I believe that it varies from player to player. I don't know how much has changed from Nelson Ayotte, the team's longtime strength coach who went to Columbus, to Eric Renaghan. But in my conversations over the years with Nelson, yes, he supplied most of them with a plan and they did report back to him on their progress. He would even visit some of them in the offseason and others would come to St. Louis to check in. Again, I'm not as familiar with how Eric executes that.
You'd rather have the center take the faceoff, but it's not a big issue.
I would pick Doan as well. Hey Jagr is Jagr and he's going to score some points. But you probably need to play him top six and I think the Blues have enough potential with their top six. If you put a guy like Jagr in your bottom six, what good does it do? I think Doan, for one year, could come in and play there.
I write articles that are phrased oddly everybody, so no apologies. Along with Tarasenko and Allen, I'd go with Pietrangelo. After that, I'd go with Schwartz. The Blues need Jaden Schwartz in their lineup.
Well, it's almost like there's Nashville and then everybody else. I do like Calgary and on paper I think they can be Top 5. Hamilton came to Calgary with a lot of hype and he played pretty well. They re-signed Stone and brought in Hamonic, so as good as D unit looked last year it could even be better this year.
It's a good deal for both sides. If they got him for $5.5 to 6 million for seven or eight years, yeah it's a definite steal. I really like him but I don't know that he's going to play so well over the first years of the deal that people are going to be saying he's a $7-8 million player and the Blues got a whale of a deal. That may be the case in the last couple of years of the deal. But if it is, it's only a five-year deal and he'll be 29 and right in line for a raise. So, I think it worked out for everybody. I think anything less on five years would have been cheating Parayko.
I like Tarasenko's chances of getting to 80 points. He's had 73 points each of the three seasons and we all know he's capable of a few more goals, and after last season we know he's capable of more assists too. He really developed his offensive game and was using other players that were open because teams were focusing on him. As Hitch said, Tarasenko is underrated as a passer ... As far as Schwartz, I probably wouldn't bet on 30 goals next year. He's capable of that (he scored 25-plus twice early in his career) and I think he could get back there in his career. Injuries have slowed him up a bit the past couple of years, so he'll have to stay healthy to be that player again. But I think as long as he's scoring 22-25 and doing all the other things that he does, that's what the Blues need from him.
I think they're further along than most of us expected after they let a few veterans go and turned the team over to the young guys. The success under Yeo last year and the play of a few of the younger players bodes well. I'm not saying that I like their chances to win the Cup next year or even advance to the conference finals, but I like the way they're headed and I don't think they would be here if they re-signed some of the aging veterans and stayed the course. They may not be viewed as competitive of a team, or as the contenders they were a couple of years ago. But I think they've designed their roster with players who play the game the way it needs to be played now, and depending on how quickly they mature and produce, that will determine how fast the Blues get there.