Blues chat with Tom Timmermann

Blues chat with Tom Timmermann

Bring your questions and comments about the Blues, their Stanley Cup championship and their offseason, and talk to Post-Dispatch hockey writer Tom Timmermann in a live chat starting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

    Hello there everyone. It's one week later and we're back, and I'm told we'll be here next week and the week after as well. So that's good news, I suppose. Anyway, not much has changed Blues-wise. As for me, one of the lenses fell out of my glasses and has vanished, necessitating me getting a new pair, and the road work on Big Bend has shut down the water at my house for a few hours, presumably while they work on the water main. But enough about me. It's hockey time. (Then again, if you have questions about me ...)
    I’m curious how much input Berube has on team signings. Example: Maroon. If Berube says to Armstrong, hey I want to retain this guy, does it get done? Do they work jointly on this stuff or is it pretty much like 90% Army?
    Berube has input, but that's it. Armstrong makes the call, and he's the guy who has to weigh all the factors, like salary cap space or young players they think can do a similar job for less or analytics that say Maroon's game is apt to drop off. (I don't know that the analytics say that, but that's just an example) Even if Berube were to say, I really want this guy, Armstrong would take that under advisement but that would be about it.
    Do you expect Allen to remain in St. Louis for the final two seasons of his deal?
    I'll give you one year for sure. Two years is a long way to look down the line in hockey. For next season, the Blues need a quality backup for Binnington, whose numbers are bound to come down because, well, he played an incredible season and it would be hard for his numbers to go up. If Binnington proves himself with another quality season, then the Blues can look at moving Allen and Allen would likely want to be moved if he's clearly become the No. 2. But there are so many factors in play. What does the rest of the goalie market look like? Who needs a goalie? What are the Blues looking for in a No. 2 (or a No. 1B)? Right now, as I've said before, the kind of replacement the Blues would need for Jake Allen would cost about as much as Jake Allen, so why make extra work? Right now, the Blues need a backup with Jake Allen's experience, not Chad Johnson's.
    My chief surprise at the NHL Awards was that Sweeney won GM of the year over Armstrong. I realize the voting occurred before the playoffs, but you cannot discount Armstrong's moves during free agency a year ago, his moves to change coaches last November, his non-moves at the trade deadline, and bringing up Binnington. Shoot....Armstrong should have won over Sweeney when looking at the Backes contract alone...which literally could have been the difference in who won the Cup. Having $6M sit in the press box for the final 2 games? But, again, voting occurred b4 the playoffs. Your thoughts on the GM award, and the Backes situation please!
    The GM voting is different in that it is done at the end of the second round of the playoffs. It is the only award that is not based entirely on the regular season. And the voting is not done by one block of people; it's by GMs, NHL executives (whoever that is), print and broadcast media. (I didn't vote on this one.) I thought Armstrong had a good chance of winning. Looking at the voting, Sweeney, Armstrong and Lou Lamoriello all got eight first-place votes and Don Waddell of Carolina got nine. So that's probably the most even distribution of votes you'll see. Looks like there was no clear favorite. Had I had a ballot, I'd have probably put Armstrong on top, and Waddell would have figured highly. Armstrong certainly made the right call on Backes. I wondered at times what the Blues roster would have looked like had they kept Backes. Someone on there wouldn't have been on the team this season. O'Reilly? Bozak? Though with the timing of how everything played out, the Blues signed Bozak before they knew they would get O'Reilly.
    Just curious, was Brian Sutter at any of the Stanley Cup games or parade? To me he is the true Mr Blue
  • Not to my knowledge. And I think someone would have pointed him out.
  • Tom - How much of what we saw after Jan. 3 is repeatable? In other words, what areas might be expected to regress this season?
  • The Blues played awfully well after Jan. 3, and some regression is inevitable. As I said before, Binnington's numbers almost have to come down. If they stay up, the Blues are in great shape going forward in goal. Bouwmeester played great in the second half, but can he keep it up? You'd like to think players like Tarasenko, O'Reilly and Pietrangelo would be fairly constant. But there are players who did poorly who you would expect to get better. Schwartz will be better, for instance. The foundation is pretty strong right now on this team. A healthy team should contend again. And the power play has to get better.
  • Tom, I don’t see Fabbri making the team this year with Sanford and Blais improving their game and the San Antonio studs waiting in the wings. Do you see Army trading him or simply keeping him for injury fill-ins?
    Wait, North Georgia?
     
    I don't think there's much of a trade value on Fabbri. A year ago, I'd have given you a low certainty that Oskar Sundqvist was going to make the team. He had San Antonio written all over him. We know how that ended up. This is clearly Fabbri's year to show himself. The Blues were accepting of the fact that last year was going to be tough for him after two knee surgeries. Next season, he'll have to prove what he can do. There will be strong competition in camp. Fabbri can win a spot; we've seen it happen before. If Fabbri outplays Sanford or Blais or someone else, they'll give him his place. The Blues also will likely feel better about keeping Fabbri around as a spare than some of the others, who they would rather get time in San Antonio. But if it looks like he's not going to make the team, I'd point you to Dmitrij Jaskin. 
    Mr. Timmermann,
    I feel the Blues overpaid Sanford. It's not a huge amount of money, but as close as they are to the cap, every dollar counts. The Sharks just signed Kevin Labanc for 1 year and one million. He's 23 years old and had 17 goals and 39 assists last year. He has 214 NHL games. Sanford is 24, has 99 career games, and only 12 total goals. Obviously, Doug Armstrong knows more than me. Maybe the Sharks just ripped off Labanc?
    The Labanc deal raised a lot of eyebrows, considering the numbers he had, but it looks to be a case where Labanc was willing to take less for a one-year deal in hopes of getting a better deal afterward, though he's still an RFA after this deal is done. It's the betting on himself situation, which could come up in Binnington's negotiations. This would have been a great time for someone to throw an offer sheet Labanc's way.
     
    I don't think the Blues overpaid for Sanford, since the dollars are so low, but it does show a level of belief in him. Sanford has had some good stretches with the Blues, but also some stretches where he fades into the background and isn't much of a factor. So the Blues apparently have some confidence in him. 
    Who made\makes the decision to dress the non-roster blues for the end of Game 7, thus being able to hoist the Stanley Cup on the ice? However it was decided it was class!
    I'm not sure, but it was a good call. I'll always appreciate the fact that Ville Husso put on his goalie pads, though, of course, if he didn't, he'd look silly since his uniform is different from everyone else's.
  • Mr. Timmermann,
    You reported the Blues filed for arbitration with Husso. Any idea why? Given that he didn't play much last year because of injuries, and didn't seem to play that well when he wasn't injured, how much different could his new contract look?
    I haven't asked anyone about it. I think Husso will be a UFA after this season (he would seem to meet the same Group VI levels that Binnington would have reached), and maybe the Blues want to get him a two-year deal so he would be around after this season if Allen moves on and Husso wants only a one-year deal. (I confess I've forgotten who gets to choose the term in this situation.) They clearly can't be far apart on dollars, and even if Husso gets the required raise, it's not that much.
    The Blues broke a lot of franchise, and even NHL records this year. Would it be possible to write an article or something listing all of the team achievements this year?
    Not only is it possible, it's something I've started, though I wouldn't expect to see it until closer to the start of camp.
    Fabri and Blais,(DOB 1996), Kyrou (1998), Kostin and Thomas (1996) would seem to be a good young forward core even if only 3 of the 5 make it. How much ice time do they get, do the Blues trade out a forward to get them NHL ice?

    Also, I didn’t realize until I wrote this question that Thomas and Kostin were born just two months apart, implying that the Russian is still young.
    You must not have been taking notes from my Kostin story, where I noted how close he and Thomas were in age. (I expect everyone reading my stories to be taking notes.) Kostin is still very young, something I think a lot of people forget. These last two season have been more for him adapting to North America. This season will be his season to show what he can do and start to make a case for playing in the NHL. With the way the numbers will work, I would think this would be another AHL season for Kostin, with maybe some up and backs to get his feet wet at the NHL level as injuries warrant. Fabbri, as noted before, has a lot to prove. Kyrou still has to prove he can play in the NHL. He hasn't gotten much ice time when he's been up. If Kostin's in San Antonio, Fabbri, Blais and Kyrou (and Sanford)  are all pretty much chasing two spots on the game-day roster, unless someone gets hurt. So there should be room for all four on the 23-man roster, though two of them won't play as much, though I think Blais is at a point where the team would be content with him being a healthy scratch rather than needing him to get games in San Antonio. He knows what he's doing. Oh, and there's MacEachern. 
     
    This is not my best crafted answer, style wise. 
    Assuming no marroon, one of Fabbri, Sanford, Blais, MacEachern and Kyrou will start in minors correct? Who do you think it will be? On defence I suppose we will bury the $700K one way contract of Shmaltz right? OR was my math wrong?
    At forward, the Blues have: Tarasenko, O'Reilly, Steen, Schwartz, Schenn, Bozak, Perron, Thomas, Barbashev, Sundqvist. Those are 10 guys who would seem to be locks for the lineup.
     
    At this point, I have to think if Maroon was going to sign with the Blues, he'd have done it. So with the forwards the Blues have, if healthy, you can't fit Fabbri, Sanford, Blais, MacEachern and Kyrou among the 14 forwards. I suspect the Blues would want to keep Kyrou playing, and they would be OK with any of those other four being healthy scratches as long as needed. 
     
    With the seven defensemen the Blues have under contract, plus Reinke and Mikkola in the wings, it's sure hard to find a place for Schmaltz on the roster. Though Larry Pleau always preached you can never have too many defensmen, I think the Blues will no doubt be looking to trade Schmaltz. Or hoping he takes big steps forward at San Antonio.
    Besides Schenn and Petro are there any other players entering their walk year? I have a feeling Schenn will be dealt, Petro...I'm not sure he is going to be worth the money that he will be commanding. Do we also deal him for salary relief and get a #1 draft pick and a couple of NHL ready players?
  • Bouwmeester is, right now, the only other player whose contract is up after this season, and I don't think this qualifies as a walk season for him. This is a team built to win right now; last season marked the start of a window where winning the Stanley Cup was a possibility, and the Blues did it. The window remains open, but Pietrangelo is a key to that window. Same with Schenn. Schenn is probably slightly more replaceable than Pietrangelo is -- there are more players like him out there than there are like Pietrangelo -- but as I said last week, there's something to be said for the chemistry this team has and it wouldn't hurt if you had to overpay to keep that together. Removing one or both from the equation would affect that window. If you trade them, you don't need NHL-ready players. You need high-quality NHL players. I also think that the Blues would be willing to go an extra year on Pietrangelo more than they were willing to on Backes. I think the dropoff in Backes' game was not much of a surprise. I would be more surprised to see that level of drop in Pietrangelo's game.
    Would you rather move steen to the third line wing and thomas play center on the 4th next year? He clearly proved he can play in the NHL as the season went on, but I would rather have him be getting his minutes at center, Or is having him get 4th line minutes worse than having more minutes as a wing on a higher line?
    I think keeping Steen on the fourth line keeps his minutes in check and keeps him fresher over the long season. (It probably wouldn't hurt to give a night off every now and then as well, though Steen would definitely not like that.) At this point, you want to give Thomas more minutes than Steen, wherever you find them, and the fourth line, as constituted, works pretty well.
    Tom, I think the Blues missed the boat signing Jordan Szwarz to a minor-league deal (he went to Ottawa). Now who knows if they'll ever be able to complete Jaden Schwartz-Jordan Schmaltz-Jordan Szwarz bingo?
    I know. I wanted that deal too. I saw someone on Twitter referred to him as Jaden Szwarz.
    By the way, big shoutout to P-D for sending Jim to Craig Berube's hometown. What a great story. I know you can't do that with every player or coach, but that one was special. Hope you have a few more stories like that this summer. Thanks again.
    Thanks to the bosses for being willing to spend the money on that and kudos to Jim for pulling it off. As you might imagine, we kind of had to go a little over on the travel budget this year.
    Tom...I feel if the NHL would shorten it's season by only playing 4 pre-season games, and then eliminating what's left of fighting by going to a Major/Game Misconduct rule, with no corresponding suspension, it would by giving everybody more of an off season break, and would get rid of the issue the league has always been sharply criticized for. What do you think? Also, hear anything on how the new national TV deal may look?
    Preseason hockey games serve some purpose, but there certainly are a lot of them. The Blues, however, apparently like them. This is the second time they're going to the Kraft Hockeyville game, which they do so they get another preseason game. I'd be fine with the regular season being shortened by a few games, but that's not going to happen, because the owners want that money. 
     
    Fighting is down so far I don't know that the league is going to take it much lower. I'd be fine if fighting vanished all together, but I don't see that happening. 
     
    I haven't heard anything on the national TV deal. I would imagine it would look a lot like it currently does. 
    I've always been a big fan of Jay Bouwmeester. People forget that the Blues' D was awful in 2013 until Army traded for him and Jordan Leopold. Bouwmeester calmed the entire D down when he got here and paired with Pietro. Army traded Mark Cudara and Reto Berra for him - one of his most underrated trades. I know Bouw had his issues when not healthy, but he looked great in the post season. How many years do you think he could stay in the league assuming he wants to? I say 2-3. Whether it's all with the Blues is another matter
    It's a year to year thing for Bouwmeester now, and as good a shape as he's in, if he has another injury like the hip injury he had in 2017-18, that's going to be it. It's not that he couldn't do it, but that I don't think that he'd want to and I don't know that the Blues would be waiting. Based on last season, if he stays healthy, I could see him playing another two seasons. Though at the start of last season, I strongly campaigned for him to be on the third pairing to limit his ice time. That looked good at the start of the season, not as good in the second half.
    I was looking at the cap numbers and with Binnington,Edmundson and the others,I'm afraid there won't be anything left over for Maroon.Is that about right?
    The Blues have $12.4 million of space according to capfriendly.com (if you don't go this site regularly, you're missing out), though that includes Schmaltz and Pouliot, and they have to sign Binnington, Edmundson, Sundqvist, Fabbri and Barbashev. That probably fills out that $12.4 pretty well.
    Tom -- As always, thanks for the great coverage you and Jim provided throughout the season. Two quick questions: 1) Is Mr. Thomas on a well-earned vacation? 2) It is hard for me to imagine Armstrong having the exact same team back next season, so I suspect a deal still could be made later this month. I think Joel Edmundson might be expendable because of the depth on defense and they need to save some big dollars for Parayko and Petro; and Brayden Schenn, who I have so much appreciation for, but I see no way the Blues can afford to keep him after next season because of cap issues. I am not saying you trade him must to trade him, but if Armstrong can find a player or two to fill that role at a more economical rate, you have to consider it. Am I on to something, in your opinion?
    1) Yes. 
     
    2.) I don't think Edmundson is expendable because who knows how long you have Bouwmeester and Gunnarsson, and it would be foolish, in my mind, to give up on a guy with a lot of years ahead of him while playing guys who don't. (As I said last week, think of everyone's career as a stack of poker chips and take one away after each season. Edmundson still has a good-sized stack; Gunnarsson and Bouwmeester don't.) Now, if the Blues internally think Niko Mikkola is ready to step into the NHL next season, maybe that changes the thinking on Edmundson, but I think if they felt that way, it would be a lot more likely to change the thinking on Gunnarsson. 
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