Blues chat with Tom Timmermann

Blues chat with Tom Timmermann

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

    Good afternoon hockey fans. Chat time. Turns out when I did that poll a few weeks ago on who would end up being the third player on the line with Schenn and Schwartz, I should have included Nathan Walker as a choice. Anyway ... Blues are in Pittsburgh, Jim will be posting a blog from there shortly, and if you have any questions, I am at my keyboard. Let's go.
    It is so interesting that the Blues have no one among the NHL scoring leaders, yet the team is playing excellent, dominating hockey. They're doing it with great goal tending and suffocating team defense. How far back do you need to go to find a team that played a similar game with this much success?
    Well, Tarasenko was 34th in goals last season. Does that count? O'Reilly was 32nd in points. Perron is 19th in points right now.
    But yes, it's impressive what they can do without a dominant type forward.
    Tom - this team appears to have significant organizational depth. How much of that is due to Bill Armstrong and his influence and what would you consider his greatest contribution to that success?
    For a team that doesn't usually draft very high, the Blues have done a good job of identifying talent in the draft and getting it. Kyrou -- who had two goals through two periods for San Antonio today the last time I looked -- was 35th. Klim Kostin was 31st. Vince Dunn was 56th.Sammy Blais was 176th. It speaks not only to Armstrong, but to the entire scouting staff, because once you get past a certain point, the scouting director hasn't seen all that much of them and it's on the regional scouts. And the draft picks that haven't been great, Tage Thompson, Jordan Schmaltz, Ty Rattie, Dmitrij Jaskin, they've been able to trade away. You got to have young guys who can contribute -- it's the only way to survive with a salary cap. Armstrong took over the scouting in 2010. In 2011, they took Binnington with the 88th pick. Do the Blues win the Stanley Cup without that happening?
    Do you see Walker staying up with the team the rest of the season?
    Two weeks ago, I'd have said no, he's not here the rest of the season. Today, I'm less sure. Three games is only three games, so I'm not totally convinced, and when Sundqvist and Steen come back, which looks to happen soon, we'll start seeing some roster movement. They're at 22 right now, so they only have to send one out when those two can play, so Poganski will go down. Then how does that affect the lineup? De la Rose can come out, Brouwer can come out. The Blues probably see having Walker as a healthy scratch different from having Kostin as a healthy scratch. So he can stay around and not play. But at some point, you'd think Kyrou has to get in. A lot will ultimately depend on injuries. Someone else will get hurt. They always do. But I think everyone agrees Walker has done well in his short time here. He's done more with his chance than I expected.
    Why do you think the players respond better under Berube whereas they didn't under Hitchcock and Yeo?
    Because they started winning. They started winning right away under Hitchcock too, but that eventually ran its course. That may well happen to Berube too. It happens to every coach really. NHL job stability is not high. 
     
    The Blues needed something to change. Berube called them out, Armstrong called them out, in a different way apparently than Yeo did. A conversation that I had with Mike Yeo in Las Vegas not long before he got fired always sticks with me. He said that the Blues weren't that bad back then, but the optics -- having played fewer games, which put them further behind in the standings than the really were, for instance -- looked bad. With the talent the Blues had, they were going to get better. We will never know if that would have happened under Yeo. Berube gave them a jolt when he took over, changed some things, was a different voice, and the team responded to that. Had the team been winning all along under Yeo, would they have been responding to his voice? Maybe. The Blues heard Berube's voice, started winning, and learned to like that.
  • I know Allen has been phenomenal on the road, but do you think Jake will ever get to play in front of the home fans again? By not playing Jake at home, is there any risk the Chief only further sets in Allen's mind that he doesn't play well at home, and what would that mean for Allen's confidence should Binnington go down?
  • I was just checking the schedule to see if the Blues had a back-to-back with both games at home. They don't. In fact, the Blues have only four back to backs left this season. 
     
    Yes, I think Allen will get a home game at some point. A home-road platoon is tough and, in January for instance, the Blues have five straight at home. If they don't give Allen one of those, he'll go two weeks without playing. But if they have a choice, like the back-to-back home-and-homes vs. Nashville in February, why not play Binnington at home and Allen on the road? Why tempt fate? 
  • Have you ever seen a team play with one fewer player because of the salary cap like the Blackhawks did?
  • I think the Kings were in a similar bind that same night, though I didn't look at the box score to see if they ended up doing it. I think the Kings did have to do it a few years back when Voynov got suspended and they couldn't get under the cap.
  • With the Devils clearly not in contention, do you think there's a chance for trading for Taylor Hall? Understanding the cap situation, this should be a priority IMO
    There's a chance, but several things work against it. One, of course, is the salary cap. If there's any chance of Tarasenko playing in the regular season, the Blues can't make the move because while they can fit him now, they can't fit him when Tarasenko comes back, unless they trade someone with a big salary, which would seem to defeat the purpose of acquiring Hall to win now. 
     
    Two, the Blues aren't the only team that would be interested in him, so they're not going to get him with a low offer. Bidding will be high. So you can't think a draft pick and a prospect will do it.
     
    Three, any draft pick the Blues trade likely won't be a high one. A 20th pick or worse in the first round is not going to be too appealing to the Devils, when not when other teams will be offering better ones. So you're going to be talking more than one pick, and the players you give up are going to have to be better.
     
    Four, with that the case, do you want to trade a Kyrou or a Kostin and give up years of their playing for four or five months of Hall? Because I don't think you can get him for less than a real high-profile prospect who is ready to be in the NHL. 
     
    So sure, he would help, but there will be a bidding war for Hall and it's going to be a tough one for the Blues to win. And if the Blues acquire him as more than a rental, if they agree to a multi-year deal, that lowers the chance of bringing Pietrangelo back to close to zero. 
     
    But most of all, if Tarasenko is going to be back in the regular season this season, you can't do it anyway.
    I would like to respond to Todd's question. I believe the team won under Chief because of Binner the Winner as well as Chief being a different voice in the room with a different attitude. The team didn't start winning until mid-January '19 then went on their 11 game winning streak the last few days of January. I still believe Binnington is the team's MVP...he made the team AND Allen better. Chief gets credit for keeping the team believing in itself come the playoffs and during each series. Chief's not bad at line combinations either!
    Probably because the team was struggling, Yeo's line changes always smacked of desperation. Berube's don't, though ultimately the motivation and reasoning behind them was the same. It shows how winning colors the perspective of everything.
    Kyrou actually got his first hat trick after the game was over today. The scoring of the first goal was changed crediting him thus making what he thought was his second goal his third. Too bad he missed out on the on ice celebration. That has to be a great memory for players that achieve it seeing hats rain down from the stands.
  • It cost Niko Mikkola a goal, but everyone got to keep their hats.
    Walker hasn't had much nhl experience before now. Do you have any insight as to why he hasn't gotten much time until now? It's only been 3 games but it has been a great 3 games showing potential. What are his flaws that might bring him back to earth?
  • His size certainly doesn't work in his favor. I think his style of play identified him more as a grinder than a skill guy, which usually limits your minutes. I don't know what Washington didn't like about him. He works for the Blues because he's fast, can win puck battles and then get it to teammates. He has to keep doing those things, and if opponents take some of those things away from him, he'll have to find other ways to contribute.
  • Do you think now that Faulk has scored that he will get some more PP opportunities?
    Much will depend on how the power play goes. If they keep scoring a goal a game, Berube and Savard will stick with who's out there. If they hit another dry spell, he may get a chance. Hockey coaches are such creatures of habit. They're reluctant to make changes until forced to.
    No comments yet about Pietro? Let me be first. Thoughts on the lack of contract? I feel if nothing done in December, January will start to become a distraction. Any rumors and/or on-going discussion?
    Actually, a lot of comments on Pietrangelo, I just hadn't gotten to them yet. 
     
    I saw numbers this morning, I think from @evolvingwild, that had Pietrangelo in the top 20 in goals above replacement this season. He's making a big contribution on both sides of the puck. I think he was at plus-6 in GAR, which usually points to a win or two. If he keeps up at that rate, the Blues will take the distraction. I have no insight on any contract discussions. Both sides have said they aren't going to talk about it. Ultimately, it's a negotiation that could end in a few minutes. Will the Blues pay him $x million and how many years does he want? The Blues will want to keep AAV down. Pietrangelo will want the dollars. There aren't a whole lot of options here. 
     
      
    Is there any chance that Parayko makes the All-Star game?
  • He certainly could, in part because the league would want to see him in the hardest shot competition on skills night too. (I think they're still having that on the list of skills events; I know they were talking about changes to the competitions but I think the passing competition was the one on the block.) If he gets in, he would be getting in for his defense, which has been excellent. So much of All-Star Game selection is on who else is getting in, since they'll be taking someone from each team. The Blues are presenting some candidates: Schenn, Perron, Pietrangelo, Parayko, Binnington.
  • Berube said Walker actually made the team out of camp but there was no room at the Inn. He will stay with the club. Brouwer can go down he signed a 2 way contract. Walker is just what the Doctor ordered!
    Well, Brouwer could go down if he signed a one-way contract. I asked Brouwer how he would feel about going down and he said he'd think about that when it happened and was planning to stay the whole season, which wasn't the most ringing endorsement of being willing to go down to the AHL. 
     
    The interesting thing I thought about Berube saying Walker made the team out of camp but there wasn't room for him, was if that was about them liking him more than Fabbri but having to keep Fabbri. It's always a matter of least resistance. There was a risk of losing Fabbri on waivers if he got sent down, less so on Walker, who the team had less invested in. In the present, that means the Blues have a month or 10 games on Walker before they would have to send him through waivers to go back down. That's another thing that might lead the Blues to send him down just before that. 
    If the Blues send Walker down when Sundqvist and Steen come back, do you think he will clear waivers?
    As long as it's within a month, he doesn't have to go through waivers, and the Steen and Sundqvist timelines should allow for that. Most players get through waivers, but if Walker keeps playing well, he'll obviously attract attention. (Waivers note: It's a cumulative 30 days, so if he was here for 20, then got sent down, it would only be 10 days the next time he got called up. That's probably one of the reasons the Blues waited on calling him up as long as they could, so it wouldn't start the clock.)
    With Pouliot having flamed out, who would be the next defenseman to come up from San Antonio if the Blues need one?
    Walman and Mikkola were next last time I talked to someone. But a lot would have to do with what the need was. If it was like before, where it was someone to be a healthy scratch, Pouliot or Borgman could be the guys. They won't call Walman or Mikkola (or Reinke, when he's back up to speed) up to watch. Out of camp, Borgman looked like the guy.
    Thoughts on Faulk? Is he starting to come around? And playing devils advocate, if Pietro doesn’t sign, is Faulk ready to be the #1 D we need? What does he still need to work on?
    Berube has raved about Faulk's defense every time we've asked about the newcomer's play. So taking him at his word, it's his offense that needs to come around. Just as Pietrangelo was in the top 20 in Goals Above Replacement, Faulk was as of a few days ago in the top 20 in Goals Under Replacement (but around 20th), and most of that was because he just wasn't scoring personally. His shots on goal have been up slightly in recent games, so he's getting more shots through, and the hope for players and teams is always that once a player stops being at zero in goals, more will come. His career points to the fact that he will score goals, and there's no reason to think anything in his game or in the Blues system compared to the Hurricanes system has changed that. He's not washed up. Is he ready to be the No. 1? Faulk isn't as good as Pietrangelo, who's one of the top defensemen in the league, but he's been around for a long time and has been pretty good himself, so there's no reason he won't be ready.
    While not a salary cap specialist, there's no way the Blues can afford to bring both Petro and J-Bo back next season, right?
  • I think they can bring both back. Bouwmeester's salary is only going down. He's at $3.25 million this year. At 37, which he would be at the start of next season, he could get the same salary, but it seems unlikely he would be getting a raise.
  • I believe even with 2-way contracts, if the player is up for something like 10 games or 30 days they still have to pass through waivers to go down. Do see them rotating players before those limits (Walker, Kyrou, Kostin when healthy and others) to keep giving them experience, but not have to expose anyone to waivers from staying up too long?
    First off, let me clarify a point: two-way deals have nothing do with players and waivers. It just means you get the same salary regardless of where you are. That's why players like one-way deals. 
     
    But yes, the rule is after 30 days or 10 NHL games, cumulative, since you last cleared waivers, you have to go through again. So that could be a factor in Walker going back down. Kyrou and Kostin are both waiver exempt this season. The Blues can bring them up and down as much as they want without fear of losing them. (Poganski is also waiver exempt.) So if Kyrou is ready, he could take Walker's place as they close in on that 30-day mark. If Walker survives 30 days, chances are he would stay around longer. 
    Re:Tarasenko coming back. Isn’t his cap hit prorated? With 1-2-3 weeks left in the season we can’t be talking millions of dollars.

    JR has a nice analysis of going after Hall with expectation that Devils would keep some salary as there’s many strapped teams, helps to open trade partner options.
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