1 through 6, or 1 through 7, you could make that case; when you're healthy scratching Gunnarsson or Edmundson or Bortuzzo, that speaks to some depth. 1 through 4 you might get some disagreement.
Sundqvist seems to have cemented his position, and Barbashev has done well on the fourth line and has the potential to move up. The Blues would like to see Fabbri with a full year under his legs and see what he can do. Blais seems to get hurt a lot, though he provides some oomph when he's in. And Sanford's season has been an ordeal with the death of his father during camp. And don't forget there's MacEachern as well, though he has plateau-ed a bit lately. I would think they would all be in camp next season and they'll see what happens then. Blais, Sanford or Fabbri aren't going to get you a real high return in a trade, and who knows? If one of them has what we can call a Sundqvist Summer and improves his game substantially, that will change the dynamic. We all thought that Sundqvist was going to be sent down to San Antonio at the start of the season; he proved us wrong. I can easily see all of them being in camp next season.
Steen played on both the power play and the penalty kill yesterday, wins battles along the boards and I don't think Armstrong has ever bought out a contract. Steen has more value to the Blues than any other team and because of his age and the years he has left on his contract, he would be very hard to trade. He also has a no-trade clause through February of 2021. So I'm thinking he's going to be around.
If the numbers look good for that, maybe. The Detroit game tomorrow would be a candidate, with Binnington playing against Tampa and Vegas in the next two. Ideally for the Blues, they would be locked into second or third with two or three games to go and they could play him against Philadelphia or Vancouver to close the season in games that are relatively stress free. Despite how he's played at home this season, I think Allen could play a game at Enterprise Center without any special prep. One game isn't going to make the fans start loving him more or less.
Not if Calgary offered 2 years and $5 million. But while it might keep him, I don't know that the Blues will want to offer that when they could be playing Reinke or Walman or Mikkola for less than $1 million. As good as Bouwmeester's playing, they have good young defensemen waiting in the wings who come a whole lot cheaper and there's money that they'll need to spend elsewhere.
Better, but still with room for improvement. Dunn acknowledged after the Pittsburgh game that he had a couple of mistakes that Binnington bailed him out on with saves. (I asked Dunn about that today and he said, well, that's Binnington's job.) The Blues have kept him away from the other team's top line whenever possible, but Berube expressed pleasure today with Dunn's progress in an increased role, so either he really believes that or doesn't have any options. The Blues still don't use him much on the penalty kill, but then with the current crew, he's probably behind everyone except Del Zotto in level of defensive play because the other guys are really good. And don't underestimate the importance of being able to skate the puck out of your own end when there's trouble. Dunn can do that.
I'd say C+, maybe B-, though the fourth line has dropped off a bit from the really high level they were at during the team's win streak. Berube really liked how they fourth line played last night, with Steen, Barbashev and Sanford. The Blues still think Barbashev can center a higher line if he continues to develop.
Bortuzzo signed a three-year extension with an AAV of $1.375 million this season, which is a good price. The three-year deal is designed to make him a defenseman the team can expose to the expansion draft when Seattle comes into the league. So while a trade is always an option, and that price and term would make a deal possible, and Bouwmeester and Parayko have been playing great together, I think they'll be keeping him. Again, I think some team is likely to offer Bouwmeester either more money or more years than the Blues want to.
See below, or above, depending. Unless Bouwmeester wants to stay in St. Louis and really offers the team a discount, he's probably going to get a better deal elsewhere. He would be almost 38 by the end of a two-year deal. Though the way he has turned his game around after his poor start shows that you can't count Bouwmeester out. He's an incredibly hard worker, so maybe he can play very well at 38. The fact we're even having this conversation is something. In November, most fans would have given him away for nothing.
My only gripe with the current format is that, and this is a problem in the West, a possible first round series between a Midwest team and a West Coast team is a logistical nightmare for travel. In the East, where the teams are much closer together, it's less of a problem. Now, I fully acknowledge that this is mostly a problem for me having to get from St. Louis to Calgary or something like that. But it's annoying, especially when you get to Games 5, 6 and 7 and every other day you're on a plane. But I can see the benefit of having the wild cards so you don't have teams that come in fifth in a real good division staying at home while the fourth place team in a crappy division goes. And it's nice to get to different cities now and then. The biggest difference I would like to see is a 2-3-2 format, rather than a 2-2-1-1-1. Having covered baseball playoffs and hockey playoffs, the baseball playoffs are an awful lot easier on the body.
I forget if it was last year or the year before when Bouwmeester said to me, "The ice isn't good anywhere." The ice tends to be more of an issue later in the season when the humidity goes up. (To make good ice, you just don't crank up the cooling equipment.) The NHLPA released its annual player poll today and the top three ice surfaces were Montreal, Edmonton and Winnipeg, followed by Minnesota and Vegas. The last time the Blues were in the playoffs, they brought in big dehumidifiers to make the ice better and it seemed to help. There have been a few gripes about the ice this season, but both home and away.
Right now, I'd say the team to avoid in the West is Vegas. Last season in the playoffs, the Central Division pretty much wiped itself out with a string of grueling series. Winnipeg was pretty wiped out after beating Nashville while Vegas had an easier path through the Pacific. That may not be the case this season where the third place team in the Pacific could have about as many points as the first team in the Central, where teams were tripping over each other to get out of the way. I'd be curious to see what Winnipeg is like in the spring. Every time I've been there it's been in single digits.
There's a break in the action here. If you've got a question, now's a good time to ask. No lines, no waiting.
None of the games tonight in the NHL have any impact on the Blues, unless you think the Blues have a chance to catch Winnipeg (which plays at Anaheim). Thursday is a different matter: Winnipeg at Vegas, Nashville vs. Pittsburgh, Blues vs. Detroit, Dallas vs. Colorado, Arizona at Florida. And then this weekend, when the Blues are playing Tampa and Vegas, Dallas is playing Pittsburgh and Winnipeg. Dallas is being a dogged pursuer of the Blues, and they've got four straight on the road coming up as they head west through Canada.
The Blackhawks have a lot of money tied up in very few players, but they still provide a pretty solid nucleus to build around. The challenge for them will be fielding a full roster with their haves and have nots.
No, it hasn't been the season they hoped for Kostin, who's a 19-year old playing against much older guys which isn't easy. He could well be a year away, but he'll have had two years of North American hockey and the Blues will give him a good look in camp. Even if he doesn't make the team out of camp, they'll be expecting him to be someone they can call up in a pinch if needed next season.
Reinke's having a great year. Walman now holds the distinction of being in the organization the longest without making it to the NHL. It's his second full year pro, so there's still time for him.
When the Blues were struggling, people wanted him called up right away. He's still adjusting to life in America.
Not at first. The NHL seems to not like the 2-3-2 format; teams apparently fear splitting the first two at home, going on the road, and then never coming back. The 1-8 seems to have a better chance, I would think.
I think 20 is a good upper limit for him. It will be tough for him to get beyond that unless they start using him on the power play more, and with their current configuration, that will be hard to get. But gosh, he seems to be a magnet for cheap shots.
Though with Dave Tippett on the job in Seattle, I don't know that Quenneville gets total control. I was talking to a writer in Buffalo who suggested Toronto for Quenneville. If the Maple Leafs lose in the first round to Boston, is Babcock in trouble? Then Quenneville has a franchise with deep pockets and a bunch of young stars. Quenneville would probably prefer a ready-made team to a long rebuild.
OK then, until next week, when either Jim or I is here for the penultimate regular season chat. (This was the antipenultimate, if I'm counting right.) This week's podcast is up, so there's no shortage of stuff online. Take care and I'll see you somewhere soon.
If I had my act together, I would. We can all learn from Derrick.
Yes, the Blues did, though that was a decade ago. So it's been a while.
And Larry Pleau was the GM.