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.

    Well, here we are. It's Wednesday, we're officially halfway through the week. Chatting seems appropriate. Let's go.
    OK, Tom, jump right in: What's the latest on hockey coming back?
    The NHL really wants it to happen. Really, really wants it to happen. And they will wait a long time, right up to the point where someone says it's just not possible.
    The latest plan making the rounds is, two venues, one quite possibly in Las Vegas, another somewhere in the east, 12 teams in each venue. A round robin series of games within the division to determine your 16 playoff games and placement -- they're unlikely to be able to get to 82, or even get every team to the same number of games -- and then go from there. Whether early rounds of the playoffs would be something less than seven games, that may depend on when they're able to get started and how much time they have. 
    It's looking more and more like they will hold off on the draft until the season is over. There was thought we could know about that this week. 
    But the situation is very fluid. The first step will be getting teams able to open up their training facilities. Then they could think about the next step. Deaths and cases will have to go show consistent signs of going down before those things happen.  
    So, with Jaskin fresh off a KHL mvp nod, think he'll get an NHL gig next year?
    I don't think so. The timing will be tricky this offseason and boy would that be a leap of faith for a general manager to sign Jaskin. All the NHL analytics said he was a good defensive player, not a good offensive player. So that would be staking a whole lot on one season in the KHL. If he was a youngster, maybe, but at this stage of his career, he's not coming on an entry level deal. If he did it another season, maybe. But right now, no. 
    But good for Dmitrij to have that kind of a season. 
    There was an announcement yesterday that the Canada - US border will stay closed for nonessential travel for an additional month, until June 21. How much will that affect the NHL plans? About how many Blues players and staff are currently in Canada?
    I know Jake Allen and David Perron have gone back to Canada, but I'm not sure on everyone. Bettman said Monday that 17 percent of the league's players were outside of North America. That's going to be a problem, though I would also suspect that if the NHL was cleared to start up, they would find a way to get those people back. And then there will probably need to be a two-week quarantine when they get back to their teams. It's all going to play out slowly. The first step will be opening up team facilities. When that starts happening, I think we'll see players start working on repositioning themselves. When small group practices are allowed that's when it will really get going.
    In any case, the NHL isn't playing before June 21.
    Can you envision Bouwmeester taking a front office position somewhere in the near future?
    He could. Jay would probably be best as a skills coach, working with players on technical areas, because he's really good at that. It will be a balance for him of how much he wants to be around the game vs. how much he wants to be around the players. Being in the front office with a team would obviously keep him around a squad more, and much of that would depend on where he wants to live, if he wants to stay in St. Louis or go back to his offseason home in Canada. Doug Armstrong's MO is he would make Bouwmeester an advisor or assistant general manager -- he's big on that kind of thing -- and Bo certainly knows the game. Being a skills coach could keep him around the sport but not tie him down to one team and give him more family time. Jay likes family time.
  • Thanks for chatting, Mr. Timmermann.
    Baseball has several levels of minor leagues, but hockey basically has only the AHL (for most prospects anyway, not a lot of guys go to the ECHL, and almost no one goes lower than that). Do you think the high level of play in Major Junior leagues is the reason why hockey doesn’t seem to need lower level minor leagues to develop players?
    There certainly aren't as many players around as you'd have in baseball, so it would be tough to fill out those rosters on lower teams if you had more minor leagues. The route from juniors to the NHL is much more streamlined. Not many players even go through the ECHL. Most quality players go Juniors-AHL-NHL. The OHL and the Q and the WHL and USHL fill the roles of those baseball minor leagues. And with the protections in place for juniors, that you can't play in the AHL until a certain age, that keeps those leagues strong. They are a way of life in Canada.
    Have you weighed in on these yet: Trade Jake Allen? Trade Jaden Schwartz? Your thoughts?
    I think I have weighed in, but it's been a while. Salary cap necessities may put both Allen and Schwartz on the market. Trading Allen could be the easiest way to get the cap space needed to re-sign Pietrangelo. Allen's play has likely driven up his value to where other teams would be interested. And Husso seems like he's ready to go, though the team really wishes he got some in-season NHL experience.
    Schwartz's situation could be similar to the one they had with Kevin Shattenkirk. If he's looking at getting a raise in his next contract, that might be difficult to accommodate under the cap. If so, you can get more for him the earlier you trade him. A team will pay more for a full season of him than a few months, and depending on how next season plays out, trading him at the deadline may not be an option. (Just like trading Pietrangelo at the deadline this season wasn't an option.) Where is Schwartz's contract likely to go? He's at $5.35 million right now. How much is that likely to go up? As the salary cap era has made clear, you can't keep everyone. Teams have to part company with good players to make it fit. You can't have too many guys making $7 million plus. 
    In both cases, the Blues wouldn't be trading Allen or Schwartz because they don't like them, but because they can't afford them. In a non-cap world, they would try to keep both. But that's not where we are. 
    what should i eat for lunch
    I just had a salad topped with cranberries, prosciutto, gorgonzola and a raspberry vinigarette.
    Here's how I translate your long answer about the NHL's return: Fuhgeddaboutit.
    The league will give it every chance, but it's going to be a while. In working on another story, I talked to medical types who thought the situation could change enough by fall to make sports happen.
    Tom,

    Do you foresee the NHL allowing massive advertising (such as some overseas leagues) on their jerseys anytime soon, maybe to recoup lost revenue? What's your personal opinion, for or against and why?
    The NHL added four new ad spots on the ice a couple years ago, and, if you've ever watched a European game, they still have quite a few places they haven't gone yet on the ice. The NHL will step up its advertising game because it's inevitable. The losses this season may speed things up, but this was going to happen sooner or later because it's a revenue stream. I don't think it will be as prominent as in soccer, where many teams don't even have their names on their jerseys, just a sponsor. I don't think that will happen for a while. Patches for a sponsor will be the first step. 
    I find all the ads on European ice rinks incredibly distracting. For that matter, I find European hockey jerseys incredibly distracting, and probably not something that would be to the liking of a lot of North American fans. I think NHL teams would make more money off a jersey with a Blues logo on the front than with a huge Budweiser logo on the front. But a Blues logo with a Bud patch? That will be here soon and I can live with that. 
    Mr. Timmermann,
    I know hardly anyone repeats as Stanley Cup Champs, but I feel like this Blues team had/has a good chance. They have a good team with good chemistry, and seem to have “mojo.” While most guys are under contract for next year, obviously some aren’t. There will be changes. Do you think the Blues will have as good a shot next year (if this season is lost) as they did this year?
  • The Blues roster should be able to accommodate the loss of one of its big names. I don't think you can make the case that the Blues would be better without Pietrangelo (unless they made a big trade), but they still would have a pretty good team and some pretty good defensemen. Same if they don't have Schwartz or some other key players. This is a multi-year window. It's hard to say if next season would be a better chance until we see what the rosters look like but there's enough depth in this group to keep going even with some players leaving. The Blues had one of the best records in the league this season and played most of it without Tarasenko. The depth isn't massively deep -- the signing of Troy Brouwer spoke to the shortage at forward -- but it's deep enough to get them pretty far.
    I don't see how numbers for deaths and cases diagnosed are going to go down. So many people already refusing to maintain physical separation and/or wear masks, I just can't imagine that there won't be lots of asymptomatic folks transmitting to others. It pains me to see this ... as I want hockey and baseball to start up. But I just can't see it happening, as the less responsible are going to ruin it for us all.
    It's complicated, that's for sure. I think we will start to see numbers go down eventually. Every time you reopen something, there will be a spike though, so that's going to be the challenge. And also, before pro sports can restart, there will have to be not just sufficient testing, but an abundance of testing. More tests than are needed. It can't happen until then.
  • Five best Blues players (talent-wise) you have covered? You only get five. Go!
    by Shirley in Fenton edited by Mike Smith 5/20/2020 6:55:38 PM
    Pronger, MacInnis, Pietrangelo, Tarasenko, O'Reilly. There's a case to be made for putting Parayko in there, though maybe we'll need to give him a few more years. Does it count that I covered Gretzky when he was in Los Angeles?
    Mr. Timmermann,
    I asked Mr. Gordon this question in his chat a while back, and I’m sorry to recycle, but I am interested in your view. As a lifelong Blues fan, I came to expect playoff disappointment. Last year, when Jaden Schwartz scored the Game 6 winner against the Jets with about fifteen seconds left in regulation, I thought that was the kind of goal that gets scored against the Blues, not by the Blues. It was a turning point, in my opinion- the kind of thing that happens when a team is onto something. Is there a singular play or event from last year that made you feel something more than the annual post season flame out might happen?
    The comeback in Winnipeg was certainly a turning point, but they had three rounds still to go, so I was by no means convinced they were out of the woods. Same with Maroon's OT goal vs. Dallas. Pretty much up until Game 7 against Boston I had the feeling the Blues have the things that have happened to them throughout their history befall them again. So it might have been Pietrangelo's goal at the end of the first period that I thought things were going their way.
    I haven't been around this franchise as a lot of others, but the team's history certainly made its mark on my expectations. That plus the whole end of that season seemed pretty unreal, like I had landed in some alternate universe. It's actually a lot like right now. I keep thinking I'm going to wake up one day and this will have been just a dream. 
    While I wait for more questions to be asked, I'll report that the AHL first and second All-Star teams just landed in my inbox and there were no players for the Rampage on them. The Iowa Wild, Minnesota's top farm team, had three players on the first team and one on the second.
    For the late arrivals to the chat, no lines, no waiting in the question bin. And curbside service!
  • I'll also take this opportunity to put in a plug for the upcoming online St. Louis Sports on Tap -- which doesn't feature me! But you get Goold and Thomas and not just one Ben, but two Bens! And Dave Matter from Columbia, all in the privacy of your own home. It's one week from today. 
    Hi Tom! What do you think are the chances of St. Louis being one of the pod cities? My thoughts are if Vegas is indeed one, the other will be in the East somewhere.
    Vegas seems like a gimme because the league can take over a resort hotel and make it their own. Players would have a lot more freedom of movement. There is more outdoor space at those hotels than you would find in any St. Louis hotel. Vegas' practice rink is not as close as in some other places, but it's workable and it has more than one sheet, so you can work through the teams that need ice time. 
    An Eastern venue would be the other option, with Florida a good candidate because, again, more of those hotels are set up with outdoor spaces. A drawback for St. Louis from a players point of view would be that in August and September, you'd be spending an awful lot of time in your hotel room, which gets really old really fast. 
    Thanks for the chat! I will split the difference between the excellent examples provided by you and Chris as turning points in last year's Cup run. I will submit Gunnarson's OT winner in game 2 of the Finals.
    Gunnarsson's OT goal certainly kept them alive and said it could be possible. What I'll remember most about that game was rushing to the press box elevator afterward and finding a massive backup of people. An unnamed colleague said he knew someone who could get us to the locker rooms via the stairs. So down the stairs we went. The stairs soon merged with the stairs the fans were taking, which didn't speed things up, and we kept going down and down and down until we found ourselves outside the arena. We then went out a door, back to the press entrance, got through security, and now had to go up three flights of stairs to get to the dressing rooms. My knees have not been the same since.
    Mr. Timmerman, I just want to say I really enjoyed the Harold Snepsts story a couple of weeks ago. Most of his playing days were a little before my time, but I am Peoria, IL born and bred, so it was pretty neat to hear about the old Rivermen coach.
    Thank you. He really liked working with that team but said the one drawback was that the Blues were so cheap back then they didn't want to call many of the guys up, and he thought a lot of them deserved it. He enjoyed his time there.
    Hey T.T.!! Thanks so much for the chats.. I have heard every thought/opinion on 'who' has the edge in terms of what style of play has the edge if we go into a direct playoff, no regular season games.. I say the Blues, big time advantage.. Simple, structured game.. No real frills, defense first, active defense with that 1st pass out of the defensive zone, then control the puck.. I'm not sure how other teams with speed, playing 'pond hockey' have an advantage..Short of having 1 guy 'take over' a game, ala a superstar, speed teams need a high degree of precision to create opportunities, passing, etc etc... I don't see how that's an easier game to get to versus the Blues simpler game of defensive structure, etc... I think we have to be the favorites to win again.. Plus, we just WON THE CUP BABY!!!! Thoughts Mr. T
  • This NHL playoff season, if it happens, will test players in different ways than ever before. It's already a mental grind, but it will be an even tougher grind. Most teams will have their full squads after the long layoff, so injuries won't be a factor, at least until the first game when players start pulling hamstrings. We saw a good deal of that in the first week of Bundesliga soccer action. The NHL playoffs are all about players, particularly goalies, getting hot. That will certainly be the case this time. One of the toughest things for the Blues will be that they very likely will have to face Colorado in the second round. Get by that and a lot of things are possible. But if it's a short series, anything is possible. I don't know that I'd make the Blues favorites, but they have good chances.
    Mr. Timmermann,
    Being named to the AHL 1st and 2nd team All-Star squads is worth what it's worth, whatever that may be. No Rampage on it, though, kind of underscores what the Blues have and don't have in terms of prospects- some potential contributors at the NHL level, but not much pizzaz. Do you agree with that assessment?
    Well, it's apparently worth a custom-designed crystal award. Minor-league awards are certainly tricky: Would Kyrou figure in there if he'd played a whole season there? Maybe. The Blues' best forwards, except for Kostin, were in the NHL this season. The Blues have good defensemen down there and Husso rebounded after a slow start. Getting some more forwards would be a focus for the Blues in the draft.
    How about your list of "made the most of what talent they had" Blues players you have covered. Guys that weren't the most naturally talented, but ones who maximized their potential through hard work, grittiness, or whatever?
    I always struggle with these kinds of questions because even someone like Robert Bortuzzo is naturally talented, and all the guys have gotten where they are through hard work and grittiness. There aren't many guys in the NHL who are on cruise control; they don't tend to last very long.
    Steen is a guy who certainly has shown a lot of hard work and grittiness, but I'd put his talent level pretty high too. No one works harder than O'Reilly, at least on the ice, but who can say where his game might be without it? It's like with NFL coaches who spend all day in their office in season, looking at game films. How much to you learn on that 78th viewing? Of course, what it does is give that player or coach an internal confidence in what they're doing, but at some point, there has to be a level of diminishing returns. And by the same token, one of the first guys off the ice at many practices is Schwartz, but again, you can't question the work he puts in and his tenacity on the ice. He's gritty, maybe too gritty as evidenced by the injuries he's suffered.
    Sundqvist is a guy who turned his game around, who put in the hard work and became an instrumental player, and you could argue that that is something someone like Sobotka didn't do. 
    Kyle Brodziak had a long career for the kind of player he was, so that speaks to something he brought and what he did. Same with Bortuzzo and Gunnarsson. Look at any veteran who's on a third D pairing or a third or fourth line and those are candidates. 
    I think there's an answer in there somewhere. 
    At this point, I wish the NHL would cancel the season. Concerned that they will try and cram too many games together which could lead to serious injuries to the players.
    But if they don't do anything at all, you can have guys going nine months between games. This is why the players have insisted on a three-week training camp and games before going straight to the intensity of the playoffs, to help avoid serious injuries. And the players union has a say in how many games are played and how often, and that's a main thing the Return to Play Committee is working on. With teams in the same venue, there won't be a need for back to backs or three in fours, so that will be easier on them. I think if we see hockey, we'll see a world where every team plays every other day, and the only longer breaks would be between rounds of the postseason. 
    And if they don't play this season, it most likely makes next season even weirder because of the lost revenues. The 2020-21 season won't be normal either, but the way to make it most normal is to play something this season.
    We're closing in on the two-hour mark. Any more questions?
    OK, if that's the case, I've a Where Are They Now to write for tomorrow. I won't say who it is, but following in the footsteps of Harold Snepsts, it's someone with a great name. At least I think it's a great name.
  • Thanks for stopping by and here's hoping that we get some news somewhere along the way to give us more to talk about. The league has to make a draft decision soon and an opening of team facilities is next on the runway. How soon that happens is anyone's guess. But I think we could see that not too far away.
    Jim is back next week, and remember the online Sports on Tap next Wednesday. See elsewhere in this chat for more a link to more details. Until next time, so long!
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