Good afternoon ladies and gents ... What a week with the NHL truck Winter Classic truck pulling into town yesterday and the Blackhawks heading to town. And we're not even talking about how the team has played the past week. Lots to talk about, so let's get chattin ....
Now here's the pessimism that I was waiting for! Hunt has been good and he's got a chance to stay in the lineup Saturday against Chicago. Gunnarsson skated today and said he's ready. Hitch says he's ready too, so they're going to have to make a decision. I think Hunt's ability to play on the power play is going to help his cause, but they're going to want to get Gunnarsson back in there at some point. But to your point, can Hunt keep this up long-term? It seems like it would be tough, especially when the Blues play a few more physical teams. But Hitch and others have said, it's not always about physicality. He does the things like moving the puck that allow him to play the game without having to worry about that much, and he has some bigger guys around him that help. We'll see, only one way to find out is playing him.
I don't think so. They're playing Hunt out of necessity and he's done well. But I don't think Army or anybody is sitting up in the office thinking this allows us to move a 50-point defenseman.
Well it's not that easy. Whether or not Gunnarsson is expendable isn't the question here. The question is who can you afford? There is a different between the production of Shattenkirk and Gunnarsson, but there's also a difference in their price tag. If you're a cap or near-cap team like the Blues, you can't get rid of a $2.9 million player like Gunnarsson and sign a $6 million player like Shattenkirk and stay under the cap. In the new cap world, you have to have players that don't make a lot. Chicago has them, everybody has them. Gunnarsson is one of those for the Blues, a fairly steady guy who fits the payroll. You can still try to keep Shattenkirk and move somebody but I don't know if the answer if moving an inexpensive veteran.
I'm not here to tell the Blues how many times to use Allen or tell Allen if he's tired or not. This is their goalie and that goalie knows his body. But six in 10 seems like an awful lot. It's hard for me not to believe that Allen would have been fresher and played a bit better if they had sneaked Hutton in their once in that stretch. I'm all for making Allen the No. 1 and playing him the bulk of the games. But five games in eight and six in 10 seems a little rough.
I honestly don't have any sense on that yet. It hasn't been a topic. It's something that I'm sure we'll be getting into soon, but I haven't had any conversations on that. I agree that Stastny is probably going to come cheaper than $7 million. No. 1, he got that contract as the top center on the market when he signed. That will probably be different this time around, and No. 2, he'll be close to 32 years old when it comes time to sign the new deal.
If I did my math right, he's on pace for 98, so you're right on the line. I can't really give you a reason why he wouldn't be able to do. He's doing it right now on a line that doesn't have a center (Lehtera) really producing. So I'm going to say, 'Yeah, he'll do it.' And the main reason I'm saying that is that his assists are up. Each of the past two years, he's had more goals than assists, but this year he's got 15 goals and 22 assists, and I don't see that trend stopping, so I think he's going to be able to keep the pace.
I think the Blues are going to have address the position. Whether they will or not, I don't know. The season is still young, but as you mentioned, the Blues have already had to try three or four Band Aids, and I don't think any of them have really worked or will work in the future. What can the Blues do about it? Can you trade a guy like Lehtera who's not producing that contract and push him down? I don't think so. And then who are getting? I realize it's easy for me to say that every week "who's available?" but it's the truth. You just don't know. Also, while I understand why we're using Shattenkirk as the trade bait here, I don't think you make that trade because you feel comfortable with the depth of Hunt, Bortuzzo, etc. Shattenkirk is a different player. He's a unique player. If the Blues trade him, it will leave a hole, regardless of who you get back. If it's a No. 2 center, I think you definitely have to make the move. We just don't know who that player could be right now.
Duchene is a name that could be interesting. He doesn't seem like a guy that Colorado would make available, but then again if you're the Avs, who isn't available. I'm not sure what that would take, but certainly he would seem like a guy the Blues would have to be interested in.
Well, they've done it with Lehtera, Jaskin, Fabbri, Yakupov ... I'm not sure which veterans you're talking about: Berglund? We've dissected a lot recently, so I don't want to get into that again. If you're talking about others, let me know and I'll chime in again.
Hockey management types have said that 300 games is usually the number that they look at when deciding whether a guy can play in the NHL and what kind of player he's going to be. That might sound like a lot, but it's not. Look at Nail Yakupov, he's played 271 and people are still trying to decide on him. That number can vary of course, as everyone knows that Tarasenko can play and he's at 290. But by and large, 300 is the number.
They like him. Every time I've asked about Barbashev this year, whether it's been asked of assistant GM Kevin McDonald, Ken Hitchcock or a player who comes up from the Wolves, they all like how he's progressing. But most think it's going to be next season at the earlier when Barbashev is going to be able to make a dent.
He can be sent down. But yes, he would have to clear waivers.
Johnson is a good player. Is he a No. 1? He had some good numbers a few years ago, but they've been down a bit since. Still young, 26, and he'll still be restricted when his contract expires, so you have some leverage. Not a bad name to throw out there.
Lots of challenges when you're playing the Blackhawks. No. 1, is they've continued to win without some of their top guys, so they've built some confidence. It's necessarily that they're drilling teams, but like they always do, they find a way to win in the last five minutes. So the Blues have to play a full 60 minutes. They can't have any lapses or sit on a lead, or anything like that. As everybody knows, this is too good of a team. As far as who's playing, I think we'll see the same forwards Saturday that we saw Thursday against New Jersey, which means Yakupov will be in. Hitch liked him against the Devils. I think I mentioned this already, but we'll probably see the same defense, depending on what they decide with Gunnarsson.
You could definitely make a case for both. I don't think the Blues have protected him very well as far as limiting the quality chances, particularly on the road. But in the same breath, Allen has given up a couple of whoopsie-doozies.
The faith comes in this form: 4 years in the minors, 2 years playing in a tandem in the NHL, and 48 wins the past two years. He's 26 years old and according to veteran goalie coach Jim Corsi has all the skill sets you'd ever want in a young goalie today. Has he proven it yet? No. Will he? Who knows. But if I'm the Blues and I invested the resources and money into that they have, I'm not turning my back on a guy after 30 games in his first year as the No. 1. He's had a tough go on the road and he's been brilliant at home. He's not the first goalie you could say that about.
I'm in the boat that Rattie hasn't really shown you enough to put him out there every night or even three out of every four games. But he has to play. Dressing four games is nobody any good. I realize the Blues know that, but it's not helping the situation. I get it, this is the NHL, it's about winning. But the dude has to play somewhere. Send him down and play him in Chicago. Sure they're worried about whether he'll clear, but it doesn't appear that they have a lot of faith in him at the NHL level anyway, so why would they be worried. Yes, he's a young player and could still sprout, but sitting in the pressbox is not going to help make that happen.
The Blues are focused on the future, but they have a good enough team to win now. There aren't many teams in the league who can throw players out there and just let them play regardless of how they respond. You have to treat it like it's a reward and create a competitive environment. That's how you get better, now and in the future.
I like it. I haven't been to one, so I can't comment on sight lines or whether. But I do know that the people I've spoken with all agree that until you experience one, you can't say that they're getting old. The novelty might have worn off and they may be watered down for the teams that have played in a few, but each time there's an outdoor classic in a new market, it's an unforgettable experience. That's my take.
It's a bit of a busy day today with practice, chat and my Blues Insider, so I'm going to stop here. Be sure to check out the Insider on Sunday. I had a chance to talk with Mike Yeo and his family about the Blues' next coach. I also spoke with some players today and got their thoughts on the guy who will be taking over next season. Should be a fun read. Well, if will be if I have somebody else write. Thanks for your questions today and your understanding about the brief chat.