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. As you may have noticed, I'm back from my second furlough week. And there's a lot going on in the NHL, which is moving closer and closer to a return to play. So let's have at it. . . . . . . .
    Happy Hump Day JT. I see hockey on the horizon!

    Any nerves about tonight's first ever "STL on Tap"? Which one of you will be working the keg? To be serious for a moment, will this be interactive where we can submit questions/comments in writing or interact verbally? I submitted a question and its lame, I would like another question for $500 Alex, I mean Jim.
  • I believe our moderator _ my "son" BenFred _ looks at the written questions/comments, brings them up to the panel and then we answer them verbally. My only nervousness is what I will do about my hair which hasn't been cut since late February.
  • Illinois and Chicago each is under virtual dictatorial rule when it comes to lockdowns. So, how in the world does the NHL pass over a hockey hotbed (and not a Covid-19 hotbed) like St. Louis and consider Chicago as a "hub city"?
    Glad you brought that up. The entire process seems confusing and disjointed. For one, the 3 Canadian cities. Maybe it will change by late July or early August, but right now there's a two-week quarantine period for international visitors. The NHL concedes this is a problem, but they're working on it. I'm also a little bit confused about Vegas. Hey in normal times, sure. But by late July, early August, the casinos on The Strip could be teeming with visitors. Do you really want players and staff from 12 NHL teams so near to those crowds for several weeks? What's to prevent them from saying: Let's take a stroll on the strip. or I'm just going to go play a little roulette or a while. I think the potential for exposure to the coronavrius could be greater there.
  • Good to have you back, Mr. Thomas, I hope the furloughs end soon for everyone.
    I have a long question, please bear with me!

    While I’m not sure how the layoff and subsequent jump right into the playoffs is going to effect the league’s best teams, I’m pretty sure the expanded playoff field has let some also-ran teams in that were on a sure course to miss. The Coyotes and Blackhawks were more than likely not going to pass four teams to squeeze in with a dozen games left, and the Canadiens didn’t have a snowball’s chance in a warm climate of making up a ten-point deficit and climbing over five teams in just eleven games. Why so much generosity with “bubble” teams who weren’t really bubble teams? If they’re allowing so many teams in, why not just let all 31 teams have a free for all? The Ducks are out, but they’re closer to Chicago than Chicago is to Nashville. Same for the Sabres and Devils to the Habs in the East.
    You raise some good points. Obviously, no system is perfect. But there's no way Montreal makes up 10 points over 11 games. I don't consider them a bubble team. Chicago was closer to the No. 8 seed in the West _ six points back of Nashville _ but with Vancouver, Minnesota and Arizona ahead of them (and Vancouver and Minnesota having a game in hand over the Blackhawks) that wouldn't have been an easy task, either.
    On some levels, having 10 teams per conference in the playoffs made more sense to me. The qualifying round in each conference could've had the No. 7 vs. No. 10 seed and the No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed in each conference play a best-of-five series to claim the final two spots. That format would've left No. 11 Florida out in the East (just one point behind No. 10 NY Rangers, and with a game in hand).
    But by going to a 12-team format you get one of the largest TV markets in the U.S. (Chicago) and one of the largest in Canada (Montreal) in the qualifying round. I would think that factored in.
    Has the players' union fully signed off on the resumption of hockey as outlined by the NHL? Despite the testing protocol, it won't be perfectly safe due to the limits of the testing. If you take a false positive test off the bench it affects the competitive balance, but if you put a false negative on the bench we won't have hockey for long.
  • Not entirely. There are still a lot of details to be worked out. What happened Friday, to my knowledge, was that the NHLPA simply approved the 24-team format.
    Jim, with the AHL coming to an end sooner than expected, and probably a later start to next season, do you see the Blues making room for a few key prospects sooner rather than later? Kostin, Perunovich, maybe a couple others need to be playing somewhere.
    Yes, rosters will be expanded for the playoffs the league said Tuesday, although it's to be determined how many extras can be added to the usual 23-man roster. And we're not talking about "Black Aces" here, the playoff extras who practice but don't play in games. It was either Gary Bettman or deputy commissioner Bill Daly who said on the videoconference yesterday that these roster additions would be available to play. Keep in mind, there will be a 50-person maximum limit per team once the postseason games begin (players, coaches, training and equipment staff, etc.), so that could also put a crimp in how many extra players you want to bring along to the playoffs.
    I would think Kostin certainly would be one of the callups. Here's a link to a story I did a while back on possible callups from San Antonio.
    As for Perunovich, that's murkier. Right now, the NHL stances is that college players from this season should not be allowed to play this season. But I believe that's still to be negotiated with the NHLPA. You may recall, Perunovich agreed to two contracts _ one if play resumed this season and one if play didn't resume until next season. If he's blocked from joining the team this season, I would think he'd sign the contract that doesn't kick in until 2020-21.
  • Yeah, a three-game round-robin to determine seeding, with the Blues playing one game each against Colorado, Vegas, and Dallas. The Blues finished 4-0-1 against Dallas in the regular season, went 2-2 against Colorado and 1-0-2 against Vegas. If teams finish round-robin play tied in points, the points percentage from the regular season will be the determined playoff seeding. So the Blues could fall as the No. 4 seed in the West.
    As I mentioned in an earlier tweet, yes, rosters will be expanded for the postseason _ the exact roster size is to be determined. Again, here's a link to a story I wrote a while back with Armstrong providing a good overview of potential callups.
    What's your opinion of the round-robin competition for the top four teams? Was that step really needed?
  • I think it would have been a great disadvantage for the top 4 seeds in each conference to sit back with a bye while the eight other postseason qualifiers in each conference knock the rust off in a win-or-go home best-of-five qualifying series. We're talking a layoff of more than four months since play was suspended March 12.
    So this was a way for the top 4 seeds in each conference to knock of some rust in a competitive situation. But I'm not sure how much this round-robin will help. Sure, it will be nice to get the juices flowing and play some games. But without a home-ice advantage _ remember, you're playing in a hub city with no fans _ how intense will these games be? It's not a do-or-die scenario. And again, without fans in the stands and a chance to play in your home arena (unless you happen to be the hub city), does it really matter if you're the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 seed? Maybe there's a matchup you'd prefer, but given the long layoff and the ability of some once-injured players to return, you won't necessarily be playing the same team in late July or August, that you might have faced in March. I think that will make these playoffs even more unpredictable than usual.
    It's been a hot minute since we talked about this: how do the lines shake out now that Tarasenko is back?
  • OK, I;ll take a stab. (Any other suggestions welcomed.)
    (The only reason I have Steen on the fourth line, instead of the third, is because that Steen-Sundqvist-Barbashev line was so effective down the stretch last season. And of course, Sundqvist and Barbashev are pretty much interchangeable at center. I could see a case, though for dropping Blais to the fourth line and elevating Steen.)
    Thanks for the chat. How about your round-by-round prediction for the Blues in the 24-team Stanley Cup playoffs, starting with the goofy round-robin for the top teams?
    OK, I'll take a stab.
    Blues finish second in the round-robin to Colorado, so they're the No. 2 seed in the West. For the sake of argument, let's say the subsequent rounds are bracketed (and there's no re-seeding). So the No. 2 Blues would face the winner of the No. 7 Vancouver vs. No. 10 Minnesota round. I'm saying Vancouver wins this round and that makes for a tough opponent for the Blues, who need seven games to dispatch the Canucks. In the next round, they beat Vegas in six games, then lose to Colorado in the Western Conference finals in seven games.
    Any new intel on the Petro Puzzle?
  • Haven't heard of any new developments. And with the potential for the season _ assuming it resumes _ stretching out to September or so, this could take a while.
    Mr. Thomas,

    Have NHL officials received any pay or assistance during the shutdown? Will the league choose officials for the playoffs the same way as always, or will more officials be chosen because more teams are in this year?
  • Good questions. Don't have any answers on this. But good questions. I will try to look into it.
    This is a pretty motivated and pretty mature team. And defending the Cup is important to them. So I wouldn't expect anybody to return to practice grossly out of shape. They have received regular workout instructions from the strength and conditioning staff. Granted, some players might put more into working out during the quarantine than others. But I think the small group workouts will help the players fine-tune their game. As for the family men, I'm sure Pietrangelo got enough time away from the triplets to get his work in.
    Do you sense there would be teams interested in one year of Bozak? There seems to be a lot of talk about buying out Steen or trading Schwartz, but moving Bozak may be the best way to free up space for Petro. I would think a package of Bozak and Allen would be appealing to teams like New Jersey or Columbus with a lot of cap space and not much in terms of reliable goaltending and consistent veterans.
    Yeah, I would think Bozak would have some trade value. He is an all-around player who works well with younger players. Isn't great at any one thing but does a lot of things pretty well. But he's 34 and counts $5 million against the cap in 2020-21 (the final year of his deal with the Blues.)
    I am certain this will be a recurring theme toady, but seeing Chicago essentially gifted a spot in the playoffs is galling. I read your earlier comment regarding it being a big TV market. Do you think that more than simply "factored in"? Is it not possible that is pretty much the only reason? Much needed dollars?
    I feel you. Could very well be.
    Okay JT, take us back to the press box after game 1 of the Stanly Cup Playoffs where the Blues had just blown a 2-0 lead and looked fairly dominated by the Bruins. What were your thoughts after the game about how the Blues might fair in the series that maybe you didn't share in the paper at the time and what area did you think needed to improve the most for the team to have a shot in game 2?
    I remember hearing at least one member of the Boston media saying that the Bruins were going to sweep the series. As I recall, the Blues looked a little out of sorts in that game. But I didn't come away with the impression that they were rattled or over-matched. I also thought they had played better, for example, than they had in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against San Jose. But mostly, I had seen the team do a lot of amazing things down the stretch and in the prior playoff games, overcome a lot of obstacle, develop a mental toughness.
    So I came away from Game 1 thinking they had some work to do, but there was no reason to be alarmed. That's about it.
    And FYI, I found it amusing as the series progressed that some out-of-town writers (not necessarily from Boston) suggested that Perron should be taken out of the lineup after he had I believe taken a silly penalty or two. (Not gonna happen, I thought.) Or suggest that the Blues had a goaltending issue after Binnington got shelled in that 7-2 Game 3 loss (Nope, I thought.)
  • Bettman said Tuesday that the 2020-21 season could begin as late as Jan. 1 if needed and still get in a full 82-game season. Not sure how the math works on that, unless you're playing past the following June. He also said that the players had talked about needing at least two months between the end of 2019-20 and the start of 2020-21. But again all this is to be further discussed and decided.
    I'm sure the same holds for free agency.  
    For hub cities do you think there is consideration how north the city is and therefore would be cooler during the summer with lower humidity?
    Maybe. But how does that explain Las Vegas, Dallas, Los Angeles and even Columbus? Yes, I know it's a "dry" heat, but it's currently 101 degrees in Las Vegas.
    With all the signings Army did right after the stoppage, do you really see the team sign Petrangelo to a new deal? Seems like they may let him walk and take that money to sign Dunn to a bridge deal and (down the road) Parayko to a monster deal.
    What you're saying is certainly possible. I don't think this is the case, but maybe Pietrangelo doesn't want to be in St. Louis. With Scandella re-upping, maybe Armstrong feels the club can remain a Cup contender without Pietrangelo, especially with defensemen like Mikkola, Perunovich and Walman in the pipeline. Obviously not having Pietrangelo on the books in future years would help the cap picture but the Blues are actually in pretty good shape cap-wise for 2021-22.
    In the just-announced format, it seems like an advantage might go to teams with high skill but not much depth as opposed to teams like the Blues that are are talented AND deep. A long season and a deep playoff run requires depth. Now, teams have had time to recover and heal without having to fight through a 100-game slog. Some teams might be able to get away with thin rosters.
    Agreed. And I've pointed that out, at least to some degree, in past chats. Look at how the Blues wore down San Jose in the Western Conference finals a year ago. Maybe that doesn't happen this year, because as you've mentioned, teams have had 2 1/2 months _ and counting _ to freshen up. Depth pays off more, I think, over the long haul. There wont be much of long haul when/if hockey returns.
    How will the nhl and mlb rationalize using ppe supplies, testing materials and lab time to test perfectly healthy athletes? If there is that much testing capacity and equipment I wish we could use it in our schools so they can open sooner and monitor children and educators .
    Fair point. Bettman has said on more than one occasion that the league doesn't want to administer tests at the expense of frontline workers, the sick, or the symptomatic. It appears the testing situation has improved somewhat in the U.S., and maybe that will be even more the case come July and August. Bettman said under the current return to play plan, you're talking about 25,000 to 30,000 tests.
    Mr. Thomas,

    What a time for Petro to hit UFA. His guaranteed major payday has become somewhat dicey with the league shut down and uncertain landscape. What would you do in his situation? Sign a shorter term deal with the thought of getting a better salary when the league returns more to its baseline, or sign longer term now for the guaranteed money and no worries about future cap numbers, injuries, and whatnot?
  • It depends on how much Pietrangelo wants to stay in St. Louis. At the very least, maybe you look around and see what the market looks like. As I've pointed out previously, there are more teams with cap room for 2020-21 than you might think (including Colorado) even with the reduced revenue of the pandemic.
    I'm glad Yip Dog used the phrase "Much needed dollars" re Chicago being gifted a playoff slot. It made me realize that's just fine with me. I love hockey and want a strong league and this situation is weakening the league badly, with possible impacts lasting years. So if gifting the Hawks a slot is the price to pay to get a bit of a cash infusion, so be it.
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