He's gotten the team on the same page. They are working more as a five-man unit than they did before. It's possible this might have just happened over time -- we'll never know for sure -- but the team is doing the right things now. He's held players accountable, has scratched players, including Perron, when he felt necessary. (Though Yeo scratched Maroon early on.) It took a while; some of those early games under Berube were penalty-filled messes. But they've come around. He also was blessed with a red-hot goalie in Binnington.
Right. That was with the Blues. I was talking about other teams.
Earlier in this season, there were great concerns about Mike Van Ryn and the defense. There aren't any more. I would think the Blues would fill the opening on the staff created when Berube was promoted. Berube has been in charge of the power play the past two seasons; you know how well that has gone. (Think how this team would be playing if the power play was producing.) That would seem to be an area worth exploring. Early in the season, the power play did well, so the talent is there for it.
Pumping the brakes is always a good idea. Remember earlier in the season when the idea was to trade everyone and call up half of San Antonio's roster? Pumping the brakes worked then. At the same time, don't let me get in the way of your enjoyment. The Blues have just won 11 in a row. This is something we've never seen them do in 50-plus seasons. You've earned it.
We were watching O'Reilly lead drills for Sanford, Fabbri, MacEachern and Thomas at the end of practice today. The coaches had left the ice, formal drills were over, players were free to go and get changed, and there they were, working on passing the puck from one side of the goal to other, through a teammate's legs. O'Reilly is a natural leader and a team's leadership group often goes beyond the guy with the C and the other guys with the A's. O'Reilly is going to be doing that regardless of whether he's wearing a letter.
I do too. Much of it is determined by building availability. Enterprise has to book other events in it if it's going to make it. Forty-one Blues games are not enough. And that problem exists for every team in the league. (Though East Coast teams have it much easier because so many games are such short trips.) At least these one-game trips are to Central Division teams with relatively short flights. The consecutive Sunday games in Minnesota is weird.
Concussions are going to be an issue everywhere and the NHL can't avoid it. The league has taken steps with its concussion protocol, requiring players to be checked out during games in cases of hits that have left players shaken up, and even in cases where they weren't shaken up. The league can do more, and lawsuits like the NFL has gotten are inevitable.
The league's Southern expansion has certainly had some issues. Those markets are, in general, up and coming markets, places that are going to grow, so the league doesn't want to bail on them. And there are only so many cities, such as Quebec City and Houston, that are attractive to move to. Florida and Arizona both have location problems; the arenas are outside of town, which make it hard to get to, so unless the team is really compelling, it's not worth the trouble, especially in markets that don't have a fan base that grew up with the game.
Before ROR, no one was staying after practice running drills with youngsters, but O'Reilly is pretty much alone in the league in doing that. It wasn't just something the Blues lacked, it was something basically every team in the league lacked. It's interesting to note that in general, the players who stay out and work with O'Reilly are youngsters, though Perron, who was on a line with O'Reilly back then, would stay out there as well.
That the Blues have won 11 in a row with a power play that sometimes can't get out of its own way is something. It was evident last night: The Blues do a much better job of getting set up in the other team's zone at five on five rather than five on four. Taking a step to improve the power play would be good, but I don't know how well a new defenseman that would fit in with the rest of the defensive unit. The Blues already have defensemen who will go attack in Pietrangelo, Dunn and Parayko. Is four offensive-minded defensemen out of six too many?
You can't go wrong in Canada (though I can't speak for Ottawa, which I'm making my first trip to in a few weeks). You've got some passionate fan bases there and they do some impressive light shows. And Original Six teams come with a certain aura, even in new arenas. (And if you go to Toronto, you can visit the Hockey Hall of Fame.) It's probably more fun to go to Detroit when they have a good team. I'd avoid Columbus, unless you're a fan of getting your eardrums shattered by that infernal cannon. Nashville is a love-it or hate-it situation. Vegas puts on quite a show and, well, it's Las Vegas. The area immediately around Vegas' arena is one of the best and it's a lot of fun, unless you're a hockey purist who doesn't like those kind of things.
The Blues tend to have more home games early because in March, they have to clear out for the Missouri Valley tournament and occasionally NCAA wrestling. NCAA wrestling means a long trip because they have to take the ice out.
Definitions of goalie interference seem to vary widely, even in Toronto. I didn't see anything last night that made me feel that was a goal that should have been overturned. I think Berube was more likely looking to take a free timeout and, who knows, maybe you get lucky.
Hockeyviz.com right now projects 93 points will be needed in the East, 84 in the West. The fact that Chicago and Anaheim are both within reasonable distance of a playoff spot is amazing. Minnesota's fall should be keeping them out, but there's no obvious candidate to catch them. One of these teams has to get hot down the stretch, don't they? There's going to be a deserving team in the East that won't make the playoffs.
OK, it's about time for me to get around to writing a story for tomorrow's paper. Last call for questions
He did make some big saves. I think the bigger test will come when he has the inevitable bad game. It's bound to happen. He's also bound to have more than one bad game in a row at some point and that's where the true test will come. Right now, unless he robs a liquor store, I think the Blues are sticking with him.
I sense that the Blues are willing to write this year off for Fabbri as a transitional year as he gets back into the game. Now, not playing much in a season may not be the best way to get back up to speed after missing most of two seasons with injuries, but it sounds like the Blues are feeling that a level of play below previous standards would not be unexpected for Fabbri this season, and the shoulder injury only compounded that. I would think they would re-sign him because other teams aren't likely to be interested and the Blues will look for more from him next season. He's a young player with a good deal of NHL experience relative to his age, so he's got that going for him. It looks like getting his confidence back on the ice is the issue. Berube today termed Fabbri's recent play in two games as "OK," but I think that OK was said in a positive way, not the way it sounds in those commercials.
There was an expectation that we may be seeing more offer sheets this year than in the past, when we pretty much saw none. It will be interesting to see if that happens. I think in most of those cases, their current team would be stupid to let that player get away. The Blues' lack of a first-round pick would preclude them from making an offer to anyone whose AAV would be over about $4 million.
OK, time for me to get going. The trade deadline is approaching but, as I've said before, I can't see the Blues going for anyone other than a low-cost rental forward. Jim, you'll be happy to know, should be back next week. If you can't get enough hockey, and if you're reading this, that probably is an accurate description, we'll have a podcast going up sometime tomorrow and Gordo will be chatting on Friday. (Last week, by the way, I was disappointed in the number of Cardinals questions he answered relative to the number of Blues questions.) Jim is in Dallas with the team for Thursday's game, and I'll be in St. Paul on Sunday. And if the Blues still haven't lost by then, well, that would be something. Take care.