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.




    So a week ago at this point, I was looking at the Atlantic Ocean and, guess what?, not thinking about hockey. But it left me empty. Something was missing. All that scenery and grandeur couldn't replace the pure pleasure that comes from a weekly hockey chat. So the first thing I said when I got back was, bring on the next chat! So here we are. It's 85 degrees outside according to the little clock/temperature thing on my table, it's the beginning of August, but it's time to talk hockey.
    Tom, we have heard about Tarasenko’s shoulder, O’Reilly’s ribs, and Thomas’s wrist. Are there any other significant injuries, repairs or surgeries with the Blues that we haven’t heard about yet? Do we expect the entire team to hit camp healthy (although a bit tired and perhaps hung over)?
    Owing to the chaos around the end of the season, parades, trips to Las Vegas, things like that, the Blues didn't have a traditional "locker clean-out day" where we talk to Armstrong and Berube and players and find out all those kinds of things about who needs surgery. So we don't have an exhaustive list of what went down. The Blues announced the conditions of Tarasenko and Thomas, and that's it. O'Reilly implied no procedures were necessary. Vince Dunn likely had corrective surgery on his mouth to get things fixed there. 
    Armstrong told my colleague Ben Frederickson on Monday that he expected everyone to be back in time for camp, though at the same time, the veterans are going to take it very easy in camp. 
    You have the cap space left at $2.7 mil in your article after Edmundson's signing, but CapFriendly lists it as only $1.9 mil. Not a huge difference, but could be significant with Barby yet to sign. Which number is right and do you foresee any moves before the season to gain a little more space?
    Both. Capfriendly's number includes eight defensemen, including Derrick Pouliot for some procedural reason apparently. Since I'd say he's not going to make the team out of camp, that $700,000 that he's down for won't count against the cap. So there's an extra $700,000 not reflected in the current number. And if he were to make the team, something else has happened.
    I realize Army said it only takes one phone call to get Barbashev signed. Are there issues? Barbie not happy? Will this go on until December 1. Is he entertaining thoughts of playing in the KHL?
    Barbashev no doubt wants more, in terms of years or dollars, then the Blues are offering. He would likely point to Oskar Sundqvist's four-year deal with an AAV of $2.75 million and say, you know, we both scored 14 goals; I should get more than two years at $1.5 million per. So while no one has told me, that is likely the hangup. The dollar gap ultimately isn't that big. As for the KHL, that's his only option and the only leverage he has, and it's a little easier card to play if you're Russian than if, say, you were Zach Sanford. But trips to the KHL don't always work out as planned; just look at what it did for Sobotka.
    When the blues sign Barby, will the blues be done with their roster? Do you know if they will invite anyone for a tryout?
    When the Barbashev deal is done, that should be it. A PTO would seem unlikely since the chance of a player winning a spot on the team is pretty low. If you were a player in that situation, a Scottie Upshall type, your chances of going to camp on a tryout would be a lot better elsewhere. So the interest on both sides in a PTO would be slim.
  • The NHL salary cap rule state that a team can be 10% over salary cap but must comply by opening night what's the chances they sign maroon and Barbie and work it out through camp and cut some players or put them in the minors
    Considering the dollars involved, signing Barbashev and Maroon wouldn't put the Blues that far over the cap, easily under the allowed overage, but the question on Maroon is as much roster space as salary cap space. Would you want to be spending $1.75 million on Maroon and have him be a healthy scratch frequently? Or would you want to be spending that and not playing Jordan Kyrou? Maroon is going to make more than any of the guys who might get sent to the minors. The Blues want to get Kyrou into regular action. That as much as anything makes signing Maroon difficult. 
     
    The good news for the Blues, and the bad news for Maroon, is that we're a month into free agency and he hasn't signed with anyone. 
    What did you enjoy most during the Blues playoff run? I have to think there’s a few great personal stories that came from covering the team during the 2 or so months of playoff hockey.
    It's fun when you've been covering a team from beginning to end and they have a finish like this. I've covered the Cardinals in the World Series several times, but I don't go to spring training with them and don't go on the road with them during the season, so the relationship is different. I've covered SLU going to the NCAA tournament four times, which is always something, but the Billikens never get past the first weekend, so that's different. So it's fun to think, I was with these guys in Ottawa in Ottawa in March or running through a thunderstorm with Larry Robinson on that same trip.
     
    The NHL playoffs are a grind, and there are plenty of early plane flights and things like that that make it a chore. The moments to me that stand out were at the very end. After the decisive game of the Stanley Cup Final, interviews with the winning team are done on the ice, amid the celebration. So about 20 minutes or so after the game is over, they open the Zamboni gate and out you go to find players, which isn't always easy amid the crowd, and find who you need. It's suddenly a 200-foot long locker room. But it's very cool, and seeing the looks on the faces of players like Steen, Bouwmeester and Thorburn, was something. That's what I'll remember most.
    Happy hump day Tom and Blues Fans everywhere!

    GM Doug Armstrong certainly looks like "the Sage of the St. Louis Blues" in the way he has handled Blues personnel the last 3-4 years. Army obviously has learned his lessons of signing the wrong guys and paying them too much. He knew to let go of Backes, Brouwer, Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart (remember him?). Unloading Lehtera on the Flyers for Brayden Schenn was grand theft. Finally Army loading up last summer with great signings and what I call "the burglary in Buffalo" for Ryan O'Reilly. The only misfire beginning last season was going with Allen in goal and not realizing what he had in Binnington. I would grade his batting average at .750. What say you?
    I'd say that the ability to trade Jori Lehtera and get anything in return, let alone Brayden Schenn, is something to be appreciated. And to turn Berglund and Sobotka into Ryan O'Reilly is a neat trick too. Not every move has worked, and my email over the course of the season reflects that some people think the deals to Allen, Bouwmeester and Steen were mistakes, but there have clearly been more wins than losses for Armstrong.
    Any word on when the official move-in date for the new practice facility is? Or will the Blues have to practice at least part of the season out at the Mills? Have you seen the new place yet? Is it just me, or does it seem just like yesterday they moved out to the Mills? Remember all that promise? Talk about bad timing. It was just when the entire mall business model was collapsing.
  • The new rink opens officially opens Sept. 1, and camp starts about 10 days later. So that means we're done with the Mills, except maybe if there are some players who in the next few weeks want to go out and get in some skating on their own. (One question that may never be answered: Why did everyone keep calling it the Mills long after that was no longer the place's name?) So there will be no more organized Blues activities in Hazelwood. I don't know if the plan is to have camp at Enterprise or Centene, which is what I guess we'll call the new place. With renovations at Enterprise, I would think camp might start at Centene, also so they can show the new place off.
     
    The Mills has become one of the most depressing places on earth. 
    What could the Blues get in return for Joel Edmundson? It seems he wanted more than he was awarded in arbitration.
    Here's a valuable lesson for anyone in a job situation: If you're asking for a raise, ask for more than you expect to get. That way, when the boss says, we can't give you that, how about this?, you still come out ahead. So yes, the money in Edmundson's bid was high. But the Blues arbitration offer was also very low. Why did both sides do that? Because they know the answer is somewhere in the middle. If the Blues offer $2.3 million, and Edmundson's counter is $3.1 million, chances are he's getting less than $3.1 million. And if the Blues' offer was $3 million, then that's the least Edmundson is going to get. No one really expects the arbitrator to go to either extreme.
    Chances Edmunson gets traded?
    I suppose that chance is there, and he's the most trade-able commodity, but what happens a year from now if Bouwmeester retires and Gunnarsson gets hurt again. All of a sudden, you've traded away a young defenseman with a bunch of years ahead of him and you have a hole on your blueline. So it's another case, like with Jake Allen, where if you trade him, you need to get someone like him in return because that's the hole you need to fill. So unless the team's scouting says he's on a downward slide, why not keep him? Last year was not a great season for Edmundson, but he's been consistently been better in the past. This wasn't his second or third year in a row like that. 
     
    I was looking at some NFL numbers yesterday that said the most cost-efficient way of getting talent is by retaining your own free agents. I don't know if that applies to the NHL as well, and the NFL has a lot more categories for acquiring and retaining talent, but it's worth considering. 
    Thanks for the chat Tom! In my mind, the only two big question marks are Blais and Sanford. Looks like they are both going to be counted on as top 9 guys (one being top 6). They both were great towards the end of the playoffs but have lacked consistency in their young NHL careers. Thoughts on this being a major concern or no?
    Well, I'd say the biggest question mark is whether Binnington can do what he did again. He rode a wave there and the Blues stuck with him to keep that momentum going. It will be different next season. He won't play almost every game for three months straight. And once you got to the playoffs, there were some ordinary performances in there. 
     
    As for Blais and Sanford, they will get their chances to be major players and both have showed they haven't quite hit peak consistency yet. Both of them would kind of plateau after a while, need some time off, and then get back to where they were. Young guys are going to have to play; that's how the NHL is nowadays. Both of them still have lots to prove. They are not guys right now whose name you would put in ink. But both will get their chance. The fact that both played in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final says the team has a certain amount of faith in them. They are on that part of that roster where there are still a lot of interchangeable parts. 
    My question, I now know I love hockey but don’t understand the rules. Where can I find a “hockey for dummies” that can help me?
    Well, the book Hockey for Dummies would be a start. (It was co-written by John Davidson.) You can find it online. And if you google Hockey for Dummies, you can likely find some other explanatory materials.
    Following up on my comments on Army and his success, how many years does he have on his contract? I can see a team like the Toronto "Make Believes" offering Armstrong BIG bucks to sign him.
    He's signed through 2022, with a club option for 2023. He got a four-year extension during the 17-18 season, which was the last year of his previous contract.
    Apologies if this has been covered but are you surprised by all the rfa’s that have not been signed league wide? I realize a team signing a player to an offer sheet must have their own picks that would serve as the compensation and of course the salary cap plays into it also among other factors.
    This was one of those years where people thought for sure there would be offer sheets and, once again, there weren't. Most of those unsigned RFAs are stud players coming off entry level deals, and the salary cap not going up as much as expected may have put some teams in a bind. It may be a domino case; once Marner or someone like him gets a deal, the rest may fall into place. But right now, most of the good teams in the league are close enough to the cap that not many of those guys can get a huge offer.
    I have alwYs been a casual fan since coming to the area in the 90’s . Been to the barn and to the new home a few times. I don’t know hockey but I followed Tony Twist,Brett Hull Bristol Pronger etc. The Stanley Cup Tunis first time though I watched a game from opening
  • Warning: It can be addictive
    My saddest thought is that the best thing that could happen to the Blues moving forward *might* be Steen deciding he wants to go out on top, and retiring. I try not to discount his value, as he found a role last year that really fit what he has left in the tank. But having that salary depart would mean Barby stay with a happier salary, Maroon might be able to come back, and there's room for a trade if we need one at the deadline. Am I reading this right, or just being too dismissive of Steen's value/too frustrated with his salary?
    The Blues clearly value Steen more than anyone else in the league and most of the fan base. They also know him the best, know what he can do on the ice and what he can mean in the room. Yes, him retiring would open up a good deal of space. Yes, he may be overpaid considering the role he now has on ice. But the team sees him as value-added. With the space the Blues have, if they don't re-sign Maroon, they should have the space for a trade at the deadline.
    We’re all aware of the lack of power play success this past season. Do you think the system the Blues play of cycling the puck, winning battles down low has filtered into the power play? Instead of getting shots off quickly they’re too used to passing/grinding?
    I think for whatever reason, they were reluctant to shoot on the power play, preferring the perfect pass that would allow someone else to shoot. Winning battles down low is good no matter the manpower situation. Cycling the puck is good. But on the power play, how often did you see the Blues make a pass that ended with someone shooting a puck into an open half of the net? Seemed like other teams did it all the time; the Blues, not so much. Those are the two challenges for Savard on the power play: make passes other than ones around the perimeter, and get players to shoot (and take shots that are a) on target and b) don't hit the player defending you up top).
    Tom -- I agree that Alexander Steen gets paid a lot for his role, but I don't understand all the hate toward him. He's been a good Blues player for a long time and was one of the best all-around forwards in the game at one point. Even now, he plays an important role. Everyone saw how that fourth line was terrific in the playoffs and that didn't happen until he dropped down to it. I just don't understand why people want to run him out of town It's not their money and he can still play. Yeah, he struggled early last season, but almost the whole team did. I hope he's back and gets to play out his contract. Your thoughts?
    Steen isn't that concerned with his public persona; he cares entirely about the team, and his teammates respect him. When you look at the numbers, they may not be eye-popping, and that certainly influences a lot of fans. He was doing well at the start of the season before he started getting hurt. Alas, Steen doesn't really have a half-speed to dial it down to, and his play takes a toll on his body, so fourth line minutes are best for him to limit his chances to get hurt. He's a player whose game is made for the playoffs, so the Blues have to find a way to get him there. But when you're on the fourth line, and are the third-highest paid forward, that's going to be a perception problem.
    I hear Calgary is having some cap issues ... any chance that some combination of Sanford, Fabbri, Blais, and Edmunson plus a draft pick could net us Matthew Tkachuk? I know he's awfully valuable to give up, but if they can't guarantee to resign him once he hits FA, wouldn't they rather have some value now ... and get some cap relief to keep other values?
    Calgary would get rid of a lot of players before parting ways with a 21-year-old who scored 34 goals.
    Watching reruns of Blues playoff games this summer have shown me you have to have a lot of luck along with talent to win it all. Some of Binnington's stops along with the timing of incredible goals in critical moments is nothing short of miraculous. Watching these games knowing the outcome has also allowed me to grow my stomach lining back.
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