We're about five minutes away from the earliest Blues chat in history. It's 6:55 on the West Coast and I'm up, so make sure you're up and bringing the questions.
Thanks for being with me today this early on short notice. I'm in LA and traveling to San Jose today and the Blues are scheduled to practice during our normal chat time, so we decided to move it up this morning. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Anyway, with the bad weather in St. Louis and in other parts, perhaps we've got some people off school and off work today and you guys can jump in. With last night's debacle, I'm sure they're are many people ready to vent, so let's get chattin ...
Before we do get rolling, though, I want to point out one thing: I am expected to get a phone call from Team USA coach Bob Motzko about 9:45 central time for a story I'm working on about Tage Thompson. So I may break for a couple of minutes for that interview and then I'll be right back.
I'm stating the obvious right now but they're not playing together. It doesn't matter what style they're playing right now, it's not going to work. They're not supporting each other, they're not coming together in the d-zone, we can go on and on. The situation is compounded by the fact that the Blues are constantly trailing, and especially early in games. So a bad goal happens, confidence goes down, and they're suddenly chasing the game. Not a good recipe. Hitch called it "losing hockey" last night.
I don't think they're beat up physically. There aren't guys sitting out practice for maintenance days. A smaller team, they may be getting worn down as the season goes along, perhaps a little moreso than usual. But that's not the problem to me. As I see it, it's a team that doesn't have a lot of speed, they want to play a fast game but can't do that necessarily. They need to check to be successful and they're not checking. We've seen them play well and it looks like they can compete with a lot of teams in the league. But I think it's gotten to a point now where they're doubt in the goaltending and it's creeping up all over the ice.
Goaltending is the glaring problem right now. If he makes a couple of these first-period saves against Boston or LA, perhaps the game unfolds differently. But like you said, I don't put all of the blame on him. There were a lot of issues in front of him last night, and as bad as the goaltending has been, I think this team needs to do a better job of rising above it and helping him out. To me, it just doesn't look like there's enough people saying: "OK these are the cards we're getting dealt in the net right now, let's help turn this around as best as we can." There's not enough fight.
There's risks involved in signing any contract, but here's the situation with Allen: the Blues drafted him, groomed him, gave him some extra time in the minors, brought him along slowly, placed him in a competitive environment with Brian Elliott for a couple of years and this summer felt that he was ready to take the No. 1 job. I know that there were still some skeptics based on his past playoff performance, etc., but goalie experts like Jim Corsi and Corey Hirsch who was here before Corsi have had glowing reports for years about what Allen's potential was. So once the Blues were ready to give him that shot of being the No. 1, they wanted to lock him up long-term and give him some security, let him know that he didn't have anything to worry about. In addition, if he becomes that guy, you've now got him at $4.35 million for four years, which could turn out to be a good deal for the team if he becomes the guy you think he is. Well, he hasn't performed like that, nothing close, and now it does look like some bad planning. I'm not going to disagree with people who said they would have liked to see more before dolling out the bigger contract. But being around everyday, I'm like a lot in the organization who felt that Allen had paid his dues and was ready to make that leap. He hasn't done it, but that doesn't mean that he still can't be that goalie that many think he can be.
Well as I've mentioned, Armstrong is safe as far as I can tell. I do there's a possibility that if the Blues don't turn the corner sooner, they could make the switch to Mike Yeo sooner than they expected. In terms of more immediate and likely scenarios, I do think we could see Hutton in the net Saturday. As much as you want to stick by Allen, I don't think you can at this point. They have back-to-back games this weekend and they perhaps were going to split them anyway, so you probably go with Hutton Saturday now. I honestly don't think that alters anything, or offers a boost right now, but you almost have to do it. Then as far as the trade front, I wouldn't be surprised. Armstrong hasn't been around the team lately, attending amateur meetings in Arizona, but he's expected to be back with the club in San Jose. Certainly any deals he has up his sleeve have been talked about and placed on the burner. I really do think this team needs a jolt. Like Armstrong says, he can't make a deal just to be making a deal, but at this point, the teams needs something.
I don't know if we can really attribute what the Blues are going through to a lame-duck situation. Hitch ha been on a one-year deal for a couple of years now and the team played well. Even after a summer in which he was almost fired, they came back and went to the Western Conference finals. So I get it, but I think it's a cop-out to say that the Blues are playing poorly because of the situation. I think there's a lot more to it. Having said all that, we've known all along that this could be a possibility, making a change mid-season. It does make it a little more convenient for the Blues, having Yeo in place, but even if he wasn't I don't think Armstrong would hesitate on pulling the plug if he felt it was needed. I'm sure Armstrong wants to give Yeo a full season to get his feet wet, but that may not be possible. I don't blame Hitch for everything that's going on. If the goaltenders were stopping the puck and the team played with some confidence, things might be different. But as we know, sometimes it's not always the coaches fault and he's the one that gets let go. I don't know how close we are to that, but it seems like it could be a possibility soon.
Yakupov has played better this time around and that's good. I personally thought Perron was better than the rest last night. He seems to be trying more than most.
Armstrong has had Shattenkirk on the block long enough that he knows what's available. So whether he's actively shopping him, that's a matter of somebody's he's spoken to in the past picking up the phone and wanting to make the deal, or Armstrong coming down on his price and calling them. I don't see how let the deadline pass without re-signing him or trading him. I still am of the belief that they don't want to pay him what he's asking, so I think they'll trade him. I don't know how on God's green earth Armstrong would think that it would be wise to keep Shattenkirk for playoff run and risk losing him for nothing in the offseason. Sure he makes you better and enhances your chances, but this doesn't look to me like a team that's going a couple of rounds, so I think it's a no-brainer that you trade him if you're not going to re-sign him.
It's a good question, but a tough one for this reason. The Blues are still in third place. I realize they're clinging to it, but they're still in third place. We're two months from the trade deadline, and this thing can go either way, but obviously they're not of the mindset to be sellers right now. Would Armstrong like it if he could make a couple of the contracts he signed disappear? Sure, but that ain't happening. The players teams might want are the players the Blues are trying to build around, so I can't see guys like Schwartz, Fabbri or Parayko going anywhere. I think the Blues are going to have to move forward with some of those stale players and try to help themselves by trading a guy like Shattenkirk, along with top propsects and/or picks to help themselves.
That is the story right now and no one can shy away from it. It's not a fun part of the job, but I wouldn't be doing my job if we weren't asking about it.
As I mentioned Army hasn't been at the past couple of games and hasn't been available. I plan to catch up with him in San Jose. He picks and chooses when he wants to say something, like a lot of GMs, but I hope he sees the need in speaking to the fans at a time like this.
Well, as I said, I know there were people like you questioning the deal and right now you look pretty smart. But I'll ask these questions ... now that at the Blues are in this situation, who do you get? What do you do with Allen's contract? Do you really think a veteran goalie who might make a few more saves is going to fix the Blues? I'm not saying that Allen will turn out to be a No. 1. But these are the lumps that a lot of teams took with goaltenders who eventually became better. Some, not all. There are some that it just doesn't work out and you have to move on. But with a team that's in transition, and with a goalie who's signed long-term, I think the Blues probably feel that that decision is down the road, not now. I think they would have to honestly evaluate the situation and say to themselves that a different goaltender right now isn't going to drastically change the complexion of this team.
OK, I'm going to break away here for a few minutes to do that interview. I'll be back ASAP. Thanks for being patient.
I'm back, sorry about the delay. That was a quick interview with Team USA coach Bob Motzko, who had a lot of good things to say about Blues prospect Tage Thompson. The article will be our Blues Insider in Sunday's Post-Dispatch.
I have about 30 more minutes this morning before heading off to San Jose, so let's get cranking.
I understand your thoughts on Shattenkirk, but don't forget this: he has tremendous offensive skills and teams need that. The Blues don't have that. You'd like him to better defensively, but if he was as good defensively as he is on the offensive side, you'd have a No. 1 who would be making a ton. They're not all like that. In addition, Shattenkirk is a player with his head on right and very good for the Blues' locker room from a professionalism standpoint. Could he bring the Blues top a top 1-2 center? As I've said, it depends on whether he's signing an extension with that team and what else is involved in the deal.
The overall scheme isn't different, but Hitch has said that they've made some tweaks in the past few weeks to help clean up some of the issues they've had keeping the puck out of the net.
I can't see that happening. If this continues, perhaps they bring up a third goalie to let Allen take a break and work on things in practice, but I haven't heard anything about that.
I don't think what the Blues are going through is the expected roller-coaster of the schedule. This to me is more problematic. They were winning games before much in thanks to their many home games and they got on a roll at home, especially Allen. And they were winning with their special teams, which have been great up until late. Now they're not playing well at home anymore and the special teams have been down. But all season the five on five play has been marginal and the defensive zone stuff has been bad. So I think some of the Blues' issues were being masked. Certainly they've had nights where they played well and deserved the Ws, but by and large, this is who they are right now. Everything is fixable, but with the way that this team is built, I think more needs to be done to the roster before they could get to the level that we're expecting.
Husso had been playing the best with the Wolves and while he's made some progress, I don't think anybody thinks he's ready. I suppose he or Copley could give you a reprieve, but that's all it would be.
They do have him at the point on the second unit. He lets it loose sometimes, but not as much as people would like. Of course, he's had the stick issues, too, so you wonder how much that enters his mind when he's deciding to shoot or not.
We'd have to know what deals are available. Also, if it's a trade, it has to be the absolute right move(s) because if they don't work, eyes become more focused on the coaching staff and yourself. You might say, "Make the coaching change already." I really do think he'd like to get through the year with Hitch and let Yeo have this season and the summer to prepare. It might not work out that way, but I think that's what he's hoping.