Good afternoon friends and Cub fans ... I'm coming to you from the home front today. Tom Timmermann is in Columbus with the team, after he covered last night's game in Nashville. I did watch the game and read Tom's story, so I'm up to speed. One thing I want to say before we get started, I was fairly honest in last week's chat about the Blues' issues and the situation they find themselves in, and I had a few people comment that I was reacting like a fan. That's not true. I'm calling it like I see. I was glad to hear Hitchcock himself say during this recent spell that this is different. This is not a slump. This is a team trying to find itself. And there are reasons, of course, why the Blues are trying to do so, some of which we addressed last week, and others that we can get into today if you want. With that said, let's get chattin ...
You have not seen it, and from what I'm told, you probably won't see it again. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this in the chat or not, but it appears the Blues have moved on from them. Instead, following the Winter Classic on Jan. 2, they will be wearing their Classic sweaters a few times during the regular season. I don't know what that means for the future of a "third jersey" but that's what I know for now. Some people did like the third jerseys, but I think the current Blues regime was ready to move on from the Checketts design.
And that will do it for today. That's all the questions I've got in the hopper. I'm surprised no one wanted to take the Blues to task for their lack of offense, etc.
Kidding. There's plenty of them.
Ha Mike, I can't address the hot seat questions right off the bat. I've got to keep 'em reading right?
Well, it's nice to want to play faster, but you have to actually do it. Do they have the pieces? I think they do. Does it take some time to come together? Perhaps a little time. But to me, what we're seeing now isn't a reflection of a team not playing fast or not knowing "how to" play fast. First of all, let's say this: If the Blues finished more of their scoring chances, and won a few more games, we're probably not having this conversation. They've missed a ton of chances and it's costing them. I think we would be less concerned about the system if that were the case. But it isn't, so we're fair to criticize. I think the players know what is expected, but without a couple of the players who did the dirty work (Backes and Brouwer), I feel like they're looking around to see who's going to do it. Like "not me, not me." There's too much perimeter, too few second and third chances and not enough players saying, "All right, I got this." I know they don't necessarily have a lot of guys like that, but they have guys who could do and it's not getting done.
No. 1, because it's a tough job. No. 2, a lot of them didn't have to do it in the past because there was someone else to do it. Now they're being asked to do it and it's a different role than some of them are used to. That's not the case with everybody, but many. Should Fabbri go to the net? Sure. He did a little bit last year. But it was icing on the cake when he did because the team had guys to do that. Schwartz? he can too. But that's probably not his strong suit or the way he has to score goals. While the team approach needs to be taking the puck to the net, it generally seems to me that if you have a couple of guys who can do that, the rest of the guys will follow and do as much as they can. But as I said, it just doesn't seem like anyone is leading in that area.
Something just popped up that I need to take care of. It's Blues related, but nothing newsy or anything you'd be interested in. It'll take me a few minutes to take care of, so I will be back with you shortly. I apologize for what should be a short delay.
OK, here we go. Hopefully I don't have to step away again, but if I do, I'll make it quick. Thanks for sticking with me.
Lehtera hasn't been effective and I think that's why we saw Hitch swap him and Stastny two games ago and then say afterwards they got more energy out of that. Lehtera should not get a free pass because he's had chemistry with Tarasenko. We haven't seen any great chemistry between the two since his first season. The Blues are going to give Lehtera the benefit of the doubt because he's got some talent and they paid him to be a big part of this. But like you said, other than a few moments, we haven't seen it. The tough part is, they don't have a lot of options.
I'm told that Joseph is playing in the Toronto alumni game on that same day.
He's been hot and cold. At times, I think he's very noticeable even if he's not scoring. But other times, I don't notice him. I think the scoring drought got to him. I thought once he did score Sunday, it might jump-start him, but he didn't look that effective against Chicago. He didn't direct a single shot on net, not a registered shot, a missed shot, a shot that was blocked, nothing. We can say sophomore slump, but that's a little abstract. The team is not playing well, so it's going to be tough on a young player to rise about that. In other words, if the Blues were clicking, there would be less pressure on everybody. But it is what it is, they need him to be better and he hasn't been.
They're getting a ton of shots and you're right, they're missing a lot. I just looked it up for you and here's the stat: the Blues are tied for No. 6 in the NHL in missed shots with 176. Not all of those are good looks, of course. But you never know, put the puck on net and you get second and third chances like we've been talking about.
Ultimately, yes. If the system wasn't generating chances, then we'd look at the coaches. But the Blues are getting 29.1 shots per game. We've seen the scoring chances they're getting. Opposing goalies have been good, yes, but that's not the reason these guys haven't scored more. They've got to executive, they've got to finish, and that's what the top-paid guys are asked to do.
You can see it wearing on players. I think there was a sense after Sunday's game against Colorado that perhaps they had started to turn the corner. But in reality, it was one game, and it was against an Avalanche team that would have trouble keeping me out of the cookie jar. That's why I've been a little more critical of the situation than usual. As Tom Timmermann accurately wrote this morning, this isn't a slump, this is who you are. I'm sure the players still feel confident, but it seems to be getting to the point where some sort of change (trade, coach, etc.) will be needed.
Perhaps they have, we don't know for sure they haven't. Either way, what's it do. Make guys go to the net? If scoring one goal or fewer in eight out of 12 games doesn't push you to do that, what is a meeting going to do. Certainly they need to talk and hold each other accountable, but you find out what kind of players you have on the ice.
That's a tough one for me to analyze. I'm not a psychologist and I don't see anything that happens behind closed doors. But I will say this: players aren't competing any less hard for Pietrangelo than they did Backes. I'm sure that plenty of the same things are being said in the room, because Pietrangelo comes from the Backes mold. Steen is still here and he's the same presence in the room this year as he has been in the past. As far as going from 2 As to 4 As, I can't imagine that has a strong effect on the situation. They added Tarasenko and Shattenkirk to the leadership group and those guys aren't newcomers or unfamiliar with the landscape. So to me, it has more to do with the product on the ice than the leadership in the room.
I think it looks great. A lot of big names, several Hall of Famers. We could sit here all day and think of guys who aren't on the list, but we don't know why they're not involved. Obviously the Blues couldn't invite everybody but unless we knew the reason why some weren't coming (like Joseph playing with the Maple Leafs), then creating the snub list isn't that fair.
You're right, he definitely needs one of those. As we mentioned, Lehtera hasn't done enough recently to show that he's that guy. I like Stastny, more than most people, but he hasn't really clicked with Tarasenko. These No. 1 centers, though, don't grow in the tomato garden. Not sure who we should expect the Blues to find and put with Tarasenko.
Not going to argue there. Here's the kicker: he has NO goals, five assists and a minus-4 and he might be their best player right now. He makes wonderful plays defensively, keeping them out of trouble. Pietrangelo is right up there too in my book, but in the ice time he gets and considering the lack of stats, Parayko has been really good.
Yakupov had a nice bounce-back game. He was a minus-1 but he played almost 15 minutes and made a couple of nice plays, especially that back-check in front of the Blues' net. I thought he really hustled. That's what the coaches were hoping for when they sat him down. Now he's got to keep it going.
Such as? Coaching change, trading players? Something else? If you're talking about that type of stuff, I think the answer is no. I can't think of something Winter Classic related that would prevent the Blues from doing something now that needed to be done in their mind.
Unfortunately I didn't hear the radio broadcast last night. The Fabbri scratch was something that caught me off guard. I didn't think he had been that bad, but hey, the Blues are struggling and he's been handed some big minutes. Everybody is accountable, as the Blues have shown with other healthy scratches this season. So again, I didn't hear Chase, but I know he speaks his mind as much as he can and he is passionate about the team. That's what you want in an analyst.
I don't know that you can have a set lineup when the offense is atrocious. Some might argue that if you had one, perhaps the offense would be better. But you have to earn the ice time. If players aren't producing and you're just trotting them out there hoping that eventually there will be some chemistry, good luck. Yes, I do think Yakupov is one of the 12 best forwards and I do think he should be in the lineup every night.