Blues chat with Jim Thomas

Blues chat with Jim Thomas

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






  • Jeff Gordon, who has a much better feel for the league is a whole, is always a good source for trade questions during his Friday chats. And you're right about the cap limitations. As for Bouwmeester he was benched. And were it not for Bortuzzo injury he'd have been benched against Winnipeg as well, don't you think? Until Gunnarsson comes back _ and as long as Bortuzzo is out, which may be for a while _ your only real option to replace Bouwmeester is Jerabek. Would you rather have Jerabek?
  • JT, which athletes were easier to cover? Stereotyping here, but I see football players as being primadonnas, and egotistical, but NHLers probably have a harder language barrier at times.
  • Not that it is a characteristic totally foreign to hockey _ because it's not _ but there was more of a sense of entitlement among many NFL players. The media access to players in the NHL is better overall than it was in the NFL. Thankfully, the language barrier isn't too much of a problem. Although sometimes it limits the ability to quote a player whose English isn't all that good. But overall, the overwhelming majority of Rams football players were good to deal with, even during all those losing years.
  • JT - thanks for hosting another chat - look forward to them! Question - knowing rebounds are shaped by a number of different factors, only some of which are in the goaltender’s direct control and only a few more that he can account and adjust for, why does Jake seem so clueless when he blocks a shot and where the puck is going to end up. Not once or twice a game, but often. Are there any plans to work with him on that?
  • I'm sure he's working on it. And I do agree that sometimes he could do a better job of controlling rebounds.
  • I really have a tough time holding any of the top 9 forwards responsible for the terrible start so much as just continuous turnovers and lack of positioning by the D. I'm sure forwards could come back and help more, but that didn't cause the loss in Montreal or Winnipeg. Can you tell if the D are getting extra coaching or work in the practices? It's not just Bouwmeester, as a group they've struggled. Any talk of going back to the zone defense?
  • I agree that that the play of the defense overall hasn't been up to standards. Keep in mind there is a new defensive coach this year in Mike Van Ryn, so there could be an adjustment process going on. But let's not totally let the forwards off the hook. A turnover by Tarasenko led directly to the Chariot goal that started the Winnipeg comeback in the third period. O'Reilly's inability to clear the puck on the PK led to the first Jets goal _ the one that bounced off Bouwmeester's skates.
  • The guys I like right now are O'Reilly, Schenn, Perron, Edmundson, and yes, Allen. I'm very patient but a lot of the other guys I like just aren't getting it done. How does Yeo fix this?
  • I like that you added Edmundson, I should have included him. I don't think the team is too far off. Obviously, Bouwmeester's hurting the team in the lineup right now. Maybe that changes _ it's a long season. But when Gunnarsson comes back from conditioning assignment, or if Bortuzzo's injury turns out to be short-term (which looks doubtful) one of them needs to be in over Bouwmeester, right? The other more general thing, and Perron alluded to this today after practice: This team needs to relax a little, have some fun with hockey. That doesn't mean they quit working hard, etc. But they're playing tight right now, especially in the third period (which feeds into Allen's postgame comments in Winnipeg). Maybe the pressure of expectations are weighing on them some. But just relax, play hockey.
  • Does this team need Hitch back? Every time they go to a "softer" coach the team melts down.
  • 1.) Hitch isn't coming back. 2.) I don't think I'd call Yeo a "soft" coach. Just ask some of the players about the conditioning test.
  • Do you root for any teams? Or do you proclaim neutrality? Maybe that is how you put up with 6 wins in 3 NFL seasons? After watching the Blues since the 70s it could do one well for your mental health.
  • Obviously, it's better to work a happy locker room, one that's winning and having success and fun. But one of the fundamentals of sports journalism is you have to leave any rooting interest at the door when you enter a locker room, a stadium, a press conference. And you can't be every player's buddy, either. You have to keep a certain amount of professional distance. And yes, as unpleasant as they are, I do have plenty of experience covering losing locker rooms.
  • I thought Schmaltz looked poised and confident playing along side Parayko. Do you think he might just be a late bloomer?
  • Schmaltz just turned 25 (on Oct. 8), so I don't think I'd call him a late bloomer. Although that is kind of the age where you start changing from "prospect" to "suspect" if you're not progressing in your career. I thought Schmaltz looked more settled when he returned to the Blues' roster (from the AHL) the second time last season (before his upper-body injury). And I think he looks more confident this time around. I'm not saying he's a future superstar or anything, but I think he has another level to his game in terms of puck-moving and a little offense if he gets even more settled in.
  • While I'm in a complaining mood what's going on down on the farm in San Antonio? Only one win to date. Whatever is ailing the Blues they caught the bug on the farm.
  • I appreciate the question, but I'm not sure there's much more I can add to my earlier answer on this topic, the main two points of which were: 1.) Most of the Blues' top young talent is on the "varsity" here in St. Louis; and 2.) In having their own AHL affiliate once again, basically starting from scratch, San Antonio is pretty much an expansion team.
  • Mr. Thomas, I'm glad to see we're not piling on Bouwmeester in this chat. He's been a good player for us and a character guy. It's always kinda sad when you start to see really good players start to become the week link in the chain. If his play continues to struggle do you wait for another team with defense issues due to injury come knocking at your door?
  • Actually, it has been surprisingly civil on the Bouwmeester front here. Yeah, it can be tough to see a highly-accomplished veteran _ regardless of the sport _ near the end.
    And in my brief time around him, he's always been a consummate pro in how he handles himself, and you have to respect that.
    At age 35 and with a salary of $5,4 million, I just don't think there will be much of a trade market for him.
  • I thought the Blues played pretty well against a faster, quicker, more aggressive team the first two periods. Everybody knew going into the third period that Winnipeg would turn it up a notch, yet the Blues stood around watching. I understand that the coaches can't play but it was like men against boys starting the third. The Blues were not ready. How does this happen?
  • I know. I know. And that's one of the toughest buildings for visiting teams. The Blues rebounded temporarily after the Yeo timeout with the  Perron goal. But as we saw, that didn't last long enough.. I think worse yet, it's not the first time that's happened: The Blues are 0-2-3 in one-goal games. They've squandered third period leads four times. Overall, they've been outscored 15-8 in the third period, and if you count OTs, outscored 18-8 after the second period. That's gotta stop, or it's going to be  l-o-n-g seson.
  • Regarding your transition to covering hockey, what have you found to be the best resources to get a better understanding of the strategies of the game?
  • A lot of things. I bought "Coaching Hockey for Dummies" right after I took the beat. ("Hockey for Dummies" no longer is in publication. I ask a lot of questions _ Tom Timmermann, Jeremy Rutherford, Jeff Gordon and Lou Korac have helped a lot. Occasionally, i'll pick up something from Yeo or Armstrong during the course of an interview. If I'm working at home, I keep the NHL Network on in the background, and stop writing (or stop transcribing), turn up the volume and listen if something of interest comes up of interest.
  • Can the Blues technically assign Bouwmeester to San Antonio? If so, why not to do that? I doubt he will get claimed because of his salary.
  • Yes, they could assign him to San Antonio if he clears waivers. I think he'd probably get claimed though, even at 9/10ths of his salary. (Blues have played eight games, or 1/10th of the season.)
  • Before the season, on your chat, I mentioned that I didn't believe the Blues had done enough to address potential depth issues on defense considering two of the top 6 d-men were coming off of surgery. Seems like I may have called this correctly. Do you see the team making an effort to address this now?
  • Maybe you're right. But if Gunnarsson's back, then I don't think it's an issue even if Bortuzzo is sidelined for a while.
  • I like the 3 on 3 format for the 5 minute overtime. But it is unfortunate that the Blues skilled players are not up to the skill level of a lot of teams in the league. Allen did not have a chance on the last two OT goals scored on him. Very pretty plays that I do not believe our guys are capable of. I know it is only 3 OT games but there are probably only a few teams with a weaker line up to put on the ice. It will have to be addressed next off season.
  • Yeah, it kind of looks that way doesn't it. But that really wasn't the case last year, when the Blues were 8-6 in OT and 3-0 in shootouts. And I think we'd all agree they have more offensive talent this year. I think Kyrou and Thomas have the ability to be effective 3-on-3 players in the future. Obviously, though, the more open space there is on the ice _ as is the case in 3-on-3 _ the more skill, creativity and skating ability play a role. So I think you make a fair point. And even as  good as the Blues looked skating and moving the puck early in Winnipeg, I'm still not sure that they have enough team speed.
  • Would you agree to trade Allen + someone (with the pay of 3-4 million) + possibly some peaks for Bobrovsky if the Blues convince him to sign here?
  • That's a lot of contingencies. And Bobrovsky is making just under $7.5 million this year. You'd have to pay him more than that on his next contract, don't you think? Is he really worth $9-10 million a year?
  • For as good as Perron and Scheen have looked, Schwartz appears to be less active or effective. Is there an issue with his health? It seems like he used to make more steals, get into the open more, score more before.
  • I agree he has been quiet. Wonder if he's fully healthy after taking that puck off the foot.
  • It seems like in sports coaches give fading players a chance in the first part of the season to define their role, if Jaybo can’t make the plays in the top two pairs then they will shift him to the third. After that feeling out period the young guys take more of a role, maybe a schmaltz gets more ice time, a Koryu gets some top six minutes. Is that analysis correct and is it largely what’s happening now?
  • Certainly a veteran with a long track record gets a longer leash. But again, you can't under-estimate the randomness of the injury scenario in terms of playing time. What happens, for example, if Carter Hutton didn't miss 9 games last March with that neck injury and Jake Allen doesn't get the chance to come back and play well? Hutton was getting most of the starts then. What if Hutton had stayed healthy and played the Blues into the playoffs? Would he be here now and Allen gone if that were the case?  Similarly, had Bortuzzo stayed healthy, Bouwmeester might still be on the bench. And certainly, as you point out, it takes younger players longer to establish trust with the head coach.
  • Maybe you will cover this in today’s Net Front Presence, the scintillating podcast on the plight of the Blues, but how many things can a coach be held accountable for on a hockey team. Traditionally, I have heard about special teams, to some degree ice time though stars always seem to lead with their performance, and who is on the ice at key moments like late in a game, but how about the ability to get the team to play through adversity? Right or wrong it seems like this team has been riding waves last year and this year, and having a hard time stopping losing streaks or losing trends like giving up goals in the 3rd.
  • You cover a lot of ground here and I'll hit on a couple. For one, ultimately the head coach is responsible. Whether right or wrong, that's just the way it is, Also given the team's injury situation and lack of overall depth, I think last year's ups and downs are easier to understand. This year's team, on paper, is much more talented.
  • Do the Blues need add a physical guy to the forward line. A few more hits, a bit more tone setting, not really fights, some energy to maybe get the momentum to turn, or is all of that just old-time hockey? Maybe Shos flanking Thomas and Barbeshev could bring some energy while keeping the skill high. Blais was one of the few guys who actually occasionally ran into someone, he was almost Jaskin like except for the defense.
  • Well, Blais was leading the team in hits through eight games (26), and he got sent down. In theory, I agree that another player or two like that would be beneficial, but in today's game, you've gotta be able to have some offensive skill to go with it. Soshnikov does bring energy and skating ability. He can be a pest. But he must stay healthy. Injury problems plagued him in Toronto and so far have continued to be an issue here as well.
  • do you think if Gunnarson was ready to go that the blues would consider cutting bouwmeester loose ? If hes healthy (which he says he is) how can we expect his play to improve ? He is not going to get suddenly faster !
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