Sanford has played better of late, much better. And I think he's doing much better on puck battles. The Blues seem to be going in heavily on him, and he probably has as much at stake in the current state of affairs as anyone. He's one of the guys most likely to come out of the lineup when players are healthy again.
Allen played in a timeshare arrangement with Brian Elliott, so he's been through that drill before. I think he can handle that. Allen has been a Blue is whole career, so there's obviously some comfort here, and if the team is a threat to win the Stanley Cup, that's also a good reason to stay around rather than going to, say, Ottawa. From the Blues side, much will depend on where they feel Ville Husso is in his development and if he can be a regular backup/competent fill-in if needed. If that's the case, then the Blues can see about a trade of Allen, but the goalie market is fickle, and also a house of cards. One move somewhere can set in motion a whole chain of events. But going into the last year of his contract would be the time to move Allen.
This is a tough call, because, as one of the early chatters pointed out, there's no big scoring star on this team. A year ago, Ryan O'Reilly was the obvious answer. This year, it's tougher. On the season as a whole, Pietrangelo has probably played the best on the team. The start of the season would have been a lot rougher without Schenn and Perron playing the way they did and winning them games. I'll go with Pietrangelo,but I would fully accept a case being made for Schenn or Perron.
Very possible the Blues fourth line does that. Early in the season, when it was Barbashev-Sundqvist-Steen, those were all guys who had played higher in the lineup at various points and while they could grind and bang, they had other skills as well. MacEachern is probably the only prototypical fourth line guy out there right now, and when this team gets back to health, barring other injuries of course, he's a guy that could come out. MacEachern brings a lot to this team, but not as much as a lot of the others.
The Blues' defensive corps is pretty darn good. For a six-man unit -- or a seven-man unit -- there are few if any better. Pietrangelo, Parayko, Bouwmeester and Faulk are all excellent defensive players, Dunn is still learning and getting better, and Gunnarsson and Bortuzzo don't drag anything down. The Blues have a lot of good two-way forwards, but Mike Van Ryn can use most of them in a shutdown role if that's what's needed.
I don't think anyone else can make that claim. Though I don't know how many people in Australia are watching NHL games.
This is, as has been noted, hockey's MeToo moment. The floodgates have been opened. Players will feel free to comment on what they have seen. Hockey and football are the sports most likely to have this because of the tough-guy attitude in the sport and the need to be secretive about it. Had Bill Peters been fired in Calgary because the team stunk, he would have gotten a job somewhere else. Now, I don't know that he will.
I have a friend from Buffalo who still thinks trading O'Reilly was the right thing for the Sabres because he had quit on the team with his comments after his last season there. O'Reilly is second on the team in points with 26 (six goals, 20 assists), so he's made a definite contribution. But he'd be the first to tell you he hasn't played as well this season.
Dollars. The Blues have to convince themselves too: If we pay Pietrangelo what he wants, how does that affect everything else that happens down the road? If we sign Pietrangelo, can we keep Schwartz? What does that mean for Dunn? There are a lot of moving parts.
In camp last season, I thought Bouwmeester would be best off on the third pairing. After a while, even that looked too high. I don't know what led to the Blues using Bouwmeester the way they did early last season, but it was costly. Though the decision not to get rid of him proved wise, since Bouwmeester looked sharp at the end of last season and so far this season.
There's a very real shot that Hall ends up in the West, and in the Central. Colorado could take him on without having to free up any salary cap space.
There's also a new podcast out there, and you can listen to that after the chat.
A personal Bryan Burwell story: When I was covering SLU basketball, we were at the A-10 tournament in Brooklyn and were walking back to the hotel to write. (The Nets had a game and they kicked us out of the building.) As we walked back, people driving by stopped their cars, rolled down the window, and were shouting hellos at Burwell. I was suitably impressed.
For a lifelong baseball guy, Strauss took his columnist duties very seriously and took great pains to learn more about hockey so he could comment on it intelligently.
Good, but not great. All but one of his games have been on the road, so I haven't had the chance to scrutinize him as much and see him away from the puck. Only two shots on goal in five games, which is something he'll have to improve on. He has been physical: 11 hits in the past three games. At the start, he looked like a guy whose most recent action had been with a junior team. He's getting there, though he might see ice time issues coming up as Steen and Sundqvist return. Not sure if the fourth line is the best place for him, but there may not be any other options.
The Blues seem a good match of players with coach. You need to play a certain way in the Blues system and right now, everyone seems bought in. And with how the Blues talent is right now, that's how the Blues have to play. They are not going to dazzle anyone with the beauty of their offensive playmaking. That they have scored as many goals as they have in recent games is quite surprising, at least to me.