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 everybody. With my gray hair getting bushier by the day, I'm coming to you from the comfort of my backyard deck in SoCo. So with a light breeze blowing, plenty of battery power remaining on my laptop, trusted canines Wal-i and Whiskey at my feet, and the buzzing of a neighborhood lawnmower in the background, let's do this. . . .
    What's the plan from Blues management to ensure that the players will stay in shape during this long layoff? Are they using Zoom or some other type of technology to monitor their players?
    Players receive regular individualized instructions from the team on workout regimens. Don't know how they're monitoring it, but this is a highly-motivated team. They wouldn't be defending Stanley Cup champs if they weren't.
    Any more where are they now articles coming? Have really enjoyed the past ones. Thanks
    Thanks for asking. We had planned to have one every week, but there was a lot of Blues news late last week with the signings of Blais, MacEachern and Scandella, that spilled over to this week. So no Where are they Now? this week. I will be on furlough next week, but the estimable Tom Timmermann is working on one for next week.
    Sooooooo....I heard from someone who knows about these kind of things that Stillman is aggressively looking to get out of the NHL ownership business due to the pandemic. Are you hearing this?
    When will the expansion draft for Seattle be held? Which Blues do you think are most likely to leave via the expansion draft?
  • It's scheduled for next summer _ after the 2020-21 season. In general, I don't like to engage in speculative stories. So I'd rather wait until next year's roster is relatively set. In other words, when we know what happens to Petro, Dunn and if there are any buyouts, etc.
  • I’ve really enjoyed your “where are they now” stories on former Blues. I particularly enjoyed reading about Chuck Lefley. The Sunshine Boys are one of my all-time favorite lines. It was great reading of some of the antics of Turk Sanderson.
    Compared to other NHL owners, how do you think Stillman would be impacted financially due to the COVID-19 crisis. Will it be worse or better than most? Considering the significant losses that are expected, how do you think this will impact future spending relative to other rivals.
    The Stillman ownership group doesn't have the deepest pockets but at least they are coming off a profitable 2018-19 season due in large part to their Cup run. So other owners are better equipped, but I think the ownership group can survive this.
    I assume there's nowhere for the Blues players to skate these days, so what kind of workouts can be used to take care of that part of their conditioning?
    I think many are rollerblading. Blais told me last week that he and Dunn rollerblade in Forest Park. (They live in the Central West End.) Colton Parayko mentioned on a Blues Happy Hour videoconference Monday that he had just purchased  some rollerblades. They will at least use some of the same muscles. And if there is a return to hockey this season, players aren't just going to jump into games. They will have a couple, three weeks of practice on the ice as a team before that. And perhaps some small group skating as well.

    Greetings. I question why the league would even start up and try to play remaining 10-12 games and balance out the season. In a normal downtime (off-season), the players are still working out and skating. Training camp is for those new players to show their aptitude, and not to get in play-shape. The players come to camp in shape. With training centers and rinks closed, players are doing their best to maintain a fitness level, but nowhere near hockey shape. Training camp normally has players show up and within a week they play first preseason game. If camps started up, players would need weeks to get in hockey shape. If not, injuries would be major impact, both in this short season, and especially for play-offs. My recommendation has been to stop season, have final standings determined on a points-received based on games played, and start the playoffs. Thoughts?
    You raise an interesting point. But as I mentioned in a previous post. if hockey returns there will be two, three weeks of practice and possibly small group (on ice) training before that as well. By going straight to the playoffs, would you then use the extra time (by not playing regular-season games)  for extra skating time?

    How do you anticipate the league dealing with the nearly ½ of teams mathematically eliminated from post-season and trying to convince them to have a mini-training camp? What is incentive for players from Detroit, Ottawa, NJ, SJ, and other teams to even try and get in shape when their season will be over after meaningless games to them are played? Those teams that are fortunate to play these teams would benefit greatly. Would seem fair to everyone. Thoughts?
    I don't think you reach this level of hockey, without wanting to play the game. The thing they love best is playing hockey games. There are young players hoping to impress their organizations and earn a job, veterans trying to show they deserve another contract, etc. And if you're finishing the regular season, there's another half-dozen teams (beyond the 16 currently in playoff position) who are contending for the last wild-card spot or two and think they have a chance to get in. So I don't think it'll be much of a problem.
    What do you think is the most likely future for De la Rose
    I think it's still possible he returns to the Blues. He's making a modest $900K this season. He's scheduled for restricted free agency, but is arbitration eligible. So he could possibly be back at a modest price. The Blues obviously liked something they saw in him and have had good success generally when they've been patient with players. (Sundqvist and Sanford are good examples.) There are still some unknown factors _ the exact salary cap, for example, or Petro's status. But he's obviously not a high priority.
    Speaking of the Blues ownership, I think that are about 20 owners. Do you know how much of the Blues Stillman actually owns?
    Are there league mandates as to when the salary cap for next year has to be determined?
    It's based in large part on revenues from the preceding season. So it's hard to set the cap for '20-21 until you have a firmer grasp on what the revenues will be for this season.
    Mr. Thomas,

    I enjoyed the piece on the “Petro Puzzle.” You present some likely scenarios that would have to happen to make a new contract for the captain fit. The problem is, I don’t really like any of them!

    I would hate to see Jake Allen traded. He has been excellent in his role, and combined with Binnington, he gives the Blues one of the best tandems in the league. I am not comfortable with Husso as the backup and even less so as the starter if Binnington misses time.

    Buyouts haven’t been Doug Armstrong’s M.O., nor is it in the budget for the Blues, especially with less revenue. If it happens, Steen makes the most sense, but I would be disappointed if he was bought out. He is still a useful player (a bit highly paid now, but valuable) and he has been a hockey warrior for St. Louis. He does not deserve to have his tenure with the team end that way. I know it’s a business and not a charity, but if anyone has earned a “scholarship” year, it’s him. I feel less opposed to buying out Bozak, but that alone of course won’t get it done.

    A participant in a chat a week or two ago suggested trading Schwartz. As much as I am not a fan of that idea, it makes a lot of sense. It frees up significant money. The Blues have some quality depth at his position. He’s a good player other teams would want, and the Blues would be more likely to get something of value in return than for some of their other trade candidates.

    The move I would support the most is trading Faulk. That is difficult because of his contract term, length, and no trade clause, and doesn’t seem too likely. This was a bit long winded, so thanks for hearing me out. Is there a scenario that seems most likely to you, either in terms of who goes/what happens so the captain can stay, or that Petro is gone?
  • In my mind, I would say the scenario that seems most likely is trading Allen and buying out Steen. Keep in mind, this works only if its a compliance buyout _ the kind last used after the 2012-13 lockout year. I don't think a regular buyout _ the kind that's available to every team, every year _ would free up enough money. If I'm correnctly understanding the compliance buyout language provisions from '12-13, Faulk wouldn't be eligible for a buyout because he would have been with the Blues only one year. Even if you could buy out Faulk, that would be adding a lot more money to the organization's overall "bill" than merely buying out a year of Steen or a year of Bozak. Maybe this all means you're not re-signing Pietrangelo. One other thing to keep in mind. If I've learned anything from nearly 3 years of covering the Blues, Armstrong is unpredictable. He could have several other potential scenarios that he's working.
    If the season does not resume, do you think any of the Blues will be in contention for any awards?
    I think O'Reilly's always a contender for the Selke and the Lady Byng; Pietrangelo should be a finalist (top 3) for the Norris. But of all the Blues, I would say Berube should be a top contender for the Jack Adams as coach of the year. Maybe the leading conteder. I'm surprised he wasn't getting much play as a leading candidate around the league prior to the pandemic pause. 
    He has a goalie in Binnington, who had yet to do it on a full-season basis. This is Berube's first full season himself as Blues head coach (granted, he did have NHL head-coaching experience with Philly). In Tarasenko, he lost one of the NHL's top 3 goal-scorers over the prior five season, and in Bouwmeester, he lost a top 4 defenseman on Feb. 11. Plus you have all the factors that go with being a defending Cup champ _ hangover, getting tired down the stretch, teams gunning for you, etc. Yet here the Blues are, first in the Western Conference and second overall in the NHL.
    Is Klim Kosten NHL ready in your opinion?
    I think so. This is his third full season in the AHL, even though he's only 20 years old. Statistically, he's had his best season in terms of goals (13) and points (30). This came in just 48 games; he still had about 15 games left in the AHL season. Production-wise, he was strong over the second half of the season with 10 goals and 11 assists over 28 games since Dec. 27. The Blues would like his penalty minutes to go down, and of course, would like to see more overall consistency in his game. The thought also was that he will benefit by the more structured environment and style of play in the NHL. He's a power forward, with a good thing.
    California is signaling that they will not permit any sports games in the near future. And the feds seem to say, 'Let's get back to business soon.' With this mixed message how will NHL play any games in California or any other similarly-minded state? It wouldn't be fair for the Cal teams to play all road games. Would that lean more toward a neutral site scenario for all teams?
    I think if the NHL returned this season, it will be with no fans in the stands and at neutral sites. Now the latest talk is that places like Edmonton, Minnesota and Carolina _ locales with low coronavirus cases _ could be used to play games. But again, with no fans in the stands, would there really be a home-ice advantage to playing the Oilers in Edmonton? And you could always have Edmonton play in Minnesota; Minnesota play in Edmonton, etc.
    Is the entire Blues coaching staff signed through the 2020-2021 season?
    If the season resumes with all the games played in neutral cities, and all team personnel quarantined, would you cover the games and be quarantined as well?
    Mr. Thomas,

    It seems to me that the opportunity to cover important stories would be something a journalist would find highly desirable. In your relatively short time on the Blues beat, there have certainly been some unprecedented events. On the plus side, the Cup win was unbelievable. The interactions between the team and Laila Anderson were heartwarming. On the sadder side, there was Jay Bouwmeester’s life threatening collapse and now the world altering COVID-19 catastrophe. These are things never before seen in the history of St. Louis Blues hockey. Do you have any reflections on what they have meant for you as a journalist?
    I've covered a lot of amazing things in my life. At Mizzou, the 5th-Down game with Colorado and the Norman Conquest against Oklahoma to name a couple. I once covered a Missouri state wrestling championship meet where the father of a Maplewood athlete died while watching his son wrestle for third place at the Hearnes Center. I was covering an NCAA Div. II national championship in track and field when a runner from New York University collapsed and died while crossing the finish line in a race. (I believe it was an 800 meter race.
    In 1984, then a preps writer, I was shagging quotes for the late, great Neal Russo of the P-D at the national Golden Gloves finals at Kiel Auditorium. One of the boxers he asked me to interview was a heavyweight named Mike Tyson. (Pretty good quote, I thought at the time.)
    In football, I covered the failed effort to lure an NFL expansion here; the arrival of the Rams; the Greatest Show on Turf; the departure of the Rams.
    Certainly covering the city's first Stanley Cup championship was one for the memory books. I'll never forget the look on the faces of Blues scratches, extras, and front office personnel in the press box after Schenn scored to make it 3-0 in the third period against Boston in Game 7. One of them was Robert Thomas, out for the game with a wrist injury. They knew, at that moment,, they were going to win the Cup.
    Thinking of that night in Anaheim with Bouwmeester still brings a knot to my stomach. The agonizing uncertainty down in the locker room, as players, coaches, parents (it was the Dads' trip) waited for news. Any news.
    And then Anaheim II, the makeup game a month later, and the night the NBA announced that one of its players had Covid-19. The NHL shut down operations the next day.
    A part of me is going to dread the next trip to Anaheim.
    Hi Jim. I skate on synthetic ice in my backyard - yep, hockey skates and all. I get them at HockeyShot.com. On their website, Clayton Keller claims to have them and is using them. So maybe some of these guys are skating after all.
    Interesting. I hadn't heard of this. And I'm not sure if any Blues players have tried this.
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