Blues chat with Jim Thomas

Blues chat with Jim Thomas

Bring your Blues and NHL questions and comments, and talk to Post-Dispatch hockey writer Jim Thomas in a live chat starting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

    Hello again to everyone. First off, I want to thank all who participated in our crowd-sourcing article on how Blues fans are coping with no hockey. As it turned out, we highlighted only three fans, but we got feedback from fans as far away as Australia, from all over the U.S. and of course the St. Louis area. It never ceases to amaze me how widespread Blues fandom is: I saw it all over the U.S. and Canada during Blues road games. Blues fans seem to pop up everywhere. Thanks again, and let's get at the questions. . . .
    Good afternoon and thanks for the chat. Good article on Pietrangelo co-parenting at home. I had forgotten that he and his wife have toddler triplets.... yikes!
    Thx. Appreciate it. Hats off to the NHL for setting up these video conferences. The format, as you know, included Roman Josi of Nashville and Jonathan Toews of Chicago. The Blues captain clearly stole the show with his tales of  home life with the triplets. It also provided a rare glimpse at a hockey player's life away from the rink.
    Why doesn't the league just come out and say it instead of just stringing us along: There won't be any hockey until next season. New York, home to three teams and the broadcast/media center of North America, is coming apart at the seams. They won't proceed when there's chaos on the mean streets of Manhattan. The same goes for baseball and the MLB. Over.
    All signs certainly point to just what you're saying, but the league doesn't have to be in any rush to reach a decision. It sounds like they could be willing to go into July, August and even September to conclude this season. So why make a decision now?
    How about NHL one-time conversion to roller-blade hockey for summer restart?
    That would solve the problem of creating ideal ice conditions at rinks during the summer, wouldn't it?
    Hi Mr. Thomas,

    I liked reading about what Alex Pietrangelo has been up to the past few weeks. Am I correct in assuming that workouts for the players do not involve ice time? What do they do to keep their skating legs strong and their other hockey skills sharp? Is there anything?

    Any stories on what the other players and staff are doing with this down time would be interesting, too. Thanks!
    Unless you have a rink in your backyard _ and have a way to keep it refrigerated _ you're out of luck in terms of on-ice work. So that's not happening. It looks like most if not all of the NHL players either had home workout equipment (weights, stationary bikes, treadmills, etc.) to begin with or have purchased such equipment since shelter-in-place, self-quarantine _ whatever you want to call it _ began nearly 3 weeks ago for the NHL. In a video chat with Joe Vitale, Colton Parayko said he has taken up yoga and takes 10 to 20 mile bike rides regularly. Blue players have received both general and personalized instructions from their training staff on a workout regimen. I'm you can do stick-handling drills in your back yard or even indoors with tennis balls, etc.
  • I have a solution for the playoffs. Take the teams that are in and test everyone that will be involved (players, coaches, etc). Now move them to Lake Placid and they all stay in the dorms. Start the playoffs with no fans and they can play at the Lake Placid arena. Great tie-in to 40th anniversary of Miracle on Ice. Televise the games and can play to have a true SC Champion!
  • The problem with this is no fans. The NHL needs the ticket revenue very much in terms of its overall economic model. The league is much more dependent on revenue from ticket sales, concessions, etc., then the NFL, NBA or MLB. I've heard estimates that if the season were canceled where it currently stands with no conclusion to the regular season and no playoffs, it would lose about $1 billion in revenue or 20 percent of its annual revenue pie. Among other things, that could result in a lower salary cap when the 2020-21 season begins. The players have a 50-50 share of revenue, so they don't want that. And the players, the coaches, the front office _ I'm sure everyone _ would rather have these games played in front of fans even without the $$$ considerations.
  • Did the Blues ever consider KC for an AHL site?
    This came to a head right before I came on the hockey beat 3 years ago. My understanding is that the Blues wanted a KC farm team. But Lamar Hunt Jr. _ of the KC Chiefs Hunt family _ and who owns the Kansas City Mavericks ECHL team, would've had to play a fee to the ECHL to get out of that league and pay a fee to join the AHL. It was more money than he was willing to shell out for minor-league hockey.
    Afternoon. My GM text group was discussing playoffs and how teams might be affected depending on if they are four rounds of seven, hypothetically shorten to first round to best of three, second round best of five, and only last two rounds best of seven. Blues built for four full rounds. Do you see them built for shorter series? Possible teams like Avs, Oilers, and TB mighty benefit more from shorter series. Thoughts?
    I think your scouts have a good point. One of the benefits of playing a heavy, physical style like the Blues is that over the course of a long series you can wear down the other team. A prime example last year was the Western Conference Final against San Jose. I don't think the Sharks have been the same since. So I don't think a shorter series favors the Blues. Also, I wonder if it might take the Blues a while to build up to what not only is a physical style but also a structured style of play after a long layoff. As opposed to a team with a more free-wheeling style where _ and I oversimplify here _ the coach says, 'OK boys, go out and skate.'
    Mr. Thomas,

    Have you been to all 31 NHL arenas? Do you have any most or least favorites? Which do you think provide the best fan experience?
    Yes, I've been to all the rinks, although there are some that I've been to only once so far. There are good fan atmospheres in a lot of places. . . In no particular order, starting west and working east,.Vancouver, Calgary, Colorado, Vegas, Winnipeg, Minnesota Nashville, Chicago, Tampa, Montreal. They're all fun places to watch a game. If I'm giving short shrift to the East it's because those are the rinks I have been to less frequently. The Vegas pregame experience is fun _ like a mini-Vegas show on the Strip. Montreal, obviously, is a more traditional atmosphere. (They don't need a pregame sword fight on the ice to get them fired up). I guess my least favorite atmosphere was the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for an Islanders game last season. Extremely cold, even by hockey rink standards, press box was a makeshift area in the stands, and access to the locker room areas from the press box was far from ideal. Ottawa's Canadian Tire Centre is down on the list in large part because the arena is located way out in the burbs, and with the team so bad the fan support isn't great which obviously hurts the game-day atmosphere. The same could be said about the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., home of the Florida Panhters. Remote location, and less-than-ideal fan support.
    Mr. Thomas,

    You took over the Blues beat without a lot of hockey writing experience. Did you have a decent amount of general hockey knowledge prior? Did you do any sort of "homework" to prepare for covering a different sport?
    As a teen-ager in St. Louis, we were all struck with Blues fever as the expansion team went to the Cup Final in three consecutive seasons as it began play. Went to games in the nosebleed section at the Arena with friends. Played street hockey in South City. But then as I got busy with my sportswriting career that changed. When you cover a beat _ for me, first Mizzou and then the NFL/Rams _ it's all-encompassing. So the time I spent following hockey waned dramatically. (Plus, you get married, have 3 kids and start attending and in some cases coaching all kinds of youth sports.) It was mid_ to late-August in 2017 when I found out I was switching to hockey, so I didn't have much time to prepare for the switch. I was actually sending out credential requests to cover early-season NFL games in places like Kansas City, Indianapolis and Chicago the day I learned hockey was in my future. So you just jump in and get at it, and ask a lot of questions. To everyone. It was a steep learning curve. Three years in, I know just enough to be dangerous. It's a fun game, a fast game, and covering a Stanley Cup champion was the experience of a lifetime.
    Hey JT: Hope you and yours are staying safe. IF we have an NHL season, how do you think it plays out? And would that favor the Blues, who are a more positional, physical team versus finesse, passing precision team... I think it would.. Thanks!
  • I would scrub the regular season and select the field (and do the seeding) based on the regular-season standings at the time the season was suspended using winning percentage (and not points) as the final determinant. I'd go best-of-5 in the first round and then best-of-7 in the final three rounds. I think you'd have to get started with playoff games no later than late July for this to be realistic, with the season ending in late September. You don't restart the next season until November and condense 82 games into that period to play a full 2020-21 season  (Maybe you push back the end of the regular season by a week _ but no more than two _ to make this happen. The bye/all-star period probably would have to go by the boards under this scenario.
    I think shorter playoff series would work against the Blues as I mentioned in an earlier post.  
    The other problem with restarting the NHL -- any solution would have to include Boston, the current points leader. That's another city that's been hard hit. You could reduce the playoff participation level to keep the NY teams out, but there's no way to do this right without the Bruins.
  • Yes, I get all this. That's why the only scenario that might work would involve pushing back the start of the playoffs until late July. And quite honestly, that might not be enough. If I had to bet, I'd say the season's cancelled. But the NHL doesn't have to make a decision this week or this month. Maybe not even next month.
    Long-term on the Blues -- hard to know how the Petro thing plays out, but if he goes, the Blues have an acceptable contingency plan in moving Parayko to the top pairing, letting Faulk be the RH on the second pairing, and keeping Bortuzzo for the 3rd RH. With Petro/Buow money, you re-up Scandella (LH with Parayko), play Dunn with Faulk, and let Mikkola/Gunny pair with Borts. Not saying this is the same quality we have now, but it would seem acceptable for a contender ... particularly if Mikkola develops well. AND the extra Petro money can be used to extend Schwartz and/or Thomas.
    How about this for any post-Petro pairings:
    . . . .and then some combination of Bortuzzo, Gunnarsson and Mikkola on the third pairing.
    Keep in mind also that the Blues want to give Perunovich a long, hard look in terms of making the 2020-21 roster.
    Would it be as good as a D-corps with Petro? No.
    Am I advocating that the Blues part ways with Petro? No.
    Like you, I'm saying it would be acceptable for a contender.
    Any updates on John Kelly? Hopefully he is doing well!
  • Not really. He seems to be doing well. I texted him over the weekend and he said he's doing much better.
    Happy Hump Day Jim. Thanks for the chat.

    The NHL has a tremendous opportunity to showcase their sport if they reopen the season mid-summer. It appears all other sports with the exception of baseball, will be shut down. Do you think they Bettman will resume the season?
  • Trust me, Bettman, the players and basically everyone associated with the league wants to re-start the season for financial reasons if nothing else. But would only do so if they were convinced it would be a safe, healthy environment for players, fans, coaches, etc. But if the NHL is back that means the NBA probably is back as well. So there would be more competition than just baseball.
    What do you think of all the cost over-runs associated with Kroenke's new stadium in Los Angeles?
    I'd be a liar if I said I felt sorry for the guy. I do feel sorry for the construction workers, however. Sounds like it's a crowded construction site. Don't kid yourself, this stadium is as much a monument to Kroenke's ego and desire to be regarded as not just another NFL billionaire owner, as anything else.
    Hi Jim. How much will the NHL be in lock step with the NBA when it comes to deciding to resume? The teams share facilities in a lot of cities and other events like concerts may be booked. Do you sense there is communication between the two leagues? Thanks
    Wouldn't be surprised if that's the terms of communication and cooperation between the leagues.
    The arena issue with respect to the NHL and NBA is a little overstated in my opinion. For one, summer generally is a slower time for arena use in terms of concerts and non-sporting events. (A lot of people would rather be outside.) For another, 19 of the 31 NHL teams play in arenas with no NBA tenant. For another, if you resumed play just with the playoffs, you'd be starting with just 16 venues, then go down to 8 after one round, then 4, then 2.
  • I would think that a lot of businesses that are shut down now are not advertising in newspapers for the time being. Has this impacted your job, or the Post-Dispatch in general?
    Our parent company announced yesterday that there will be either pay reductions or furloughs in the third quarter (not sure if this is third quarter of the calendar year or third quarter of the company's fiscal year _ if different.) But have no other details at this point.
    Does the NHL shut down in any way impact the scheduled start of the new Seattle franchise?
    At this point, I think the answer to that is no.
    I have heard that the Corona Virus will probably come back in the fall. Doesn't this put the start of the 2020-2021 season at risk of being delayed.
    Obviously we're dealing with a lot of unknown at this point. Not just the sports community, but the governmental community and the medical community. But if that's the case, and without a cure in terms of a vaccine, etc., at this point, sure, the start of the 2020-21 seasons could be at risk.
    Being stuck at home, I have watched a bunch of movies on TV recently. I saw Slapshot again last week. Do you know if the current NHL players love that movie as much as fans do?
    Interesting question. I haven't heard of any players saying they've watched it during the coronavirus shutdown.
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