Chat all things Blues with Jim Thomas at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Chat all things Blues with Jim Thomas at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Get your questions ready and join in at 1 p.m. Wednesday for our weekly Blues chat.

    Hello again everybody. Just dashed back home from Blues practice at Enterprise. Dunn is back on the ice. MacEachern looks like he's ready to return. Thomas took part in full skate with team, but "looks a little tentative" according to Berube so probably won't be back in the lineup Thursday against Colorado. (Assuming that game gets played.) Changes on the D-pairing: It's Scandella-Walman and Walman-Dunn. 
    So let's get to it.
    Schwartz's next contract will be with ? and for ?this much money. Please fill in the blanks.
    With the caveat that I don't quite have a read on NHL worth like I thought I used to in the NFL I'm gonna say 4 years at $5 million.
    Do you think there is any chance Dunn is protected from Seattle this summer?
    Dunn has played better lately. He's on a five-game points streak which is a career-high. And that's important to keep in mind since the Blues defensemen scoring is down noticeably this year. I had Dunn on my protected list entering the season, but now I'm going with Parayko-Faulk-Krug. (I reserve the right to change my mind before the season's over.)
    do the blues make the playoffs?
    Right now. At this moment. I say: No.
    Thank you for the chat.

    With the additions of Krug and Hoffman, along with the expanded roles of Thomas and Kyrou, it seems like the Blues have gotten away from a heavy style of game. Do you see this as a continuing trend and/or a type of team Berube is comfortable with.
    I've been writing and talking about this (on chats, and radio and podcast) since the beginning of the season. How could the Blues adopt a more offensive, better skating style of play while still staying true to their heavy, defensive style of play? The answer, based on what we've seen so far is they can't marry the two. Even with all the injuries, they were scoring at a higher rate than even last year - when their goals per game was the highest it had been in a quarter of a century. But once the injured players starting returning in waves the scoring went down. The defense has been a little better over that same span but not quite what we've been used to seeing for most of the last decade. I don't think Berube was necessarily unhappy with adding more "skilled," better-skating players. He has always liked D-men, for example, that got up in the play on offense. So I don't know what they do going forward.
    Hi, Jim. Thanks for your great coverage of the Blues. I noticed that Jake Walman was not in the lineup against Arizona the other night. He was playing well and Craig Berube had complemented his play. Was this just a move to get Nikko Mikola in the lineup or is Jake in the coach’s doghouse?
  • Not sure what you're talking about. He played nearly 17 minutes Saturday against Arizona, and has played 13 of the past 15 games. He was a healthy scratch April 5 against Vegas - Parayko's first game back from his back injury - but Bortuzzo was benched after that game and Walman has been in the lineup ever since.
  • Good afternoon, Jim. With the OHL canceling its season, do you think the Blues might have their prospects who normally play there maybe go to Utica just to try and play? Couldn't hurt, right? Even if it's just to practice. Luckily I think they only have several prospects in the OHL.
    Complicating matters with Utica is that you're sharing the roster with the Canucks. So I guess they could go there and practice. I know the Blues had a couple of picks from the 2020 draft that were supposed to play in the OHL this year - the goalie Cranley and the forward Dickinson. And I think they had a couple of older players from previous drafts scheduled to play in the OHL as well. I'm supposed to talk with Tim Taylor of Blues player development later tonight for a story I'm working on, so I may have more on the fate of those OHL players later.
    Even though Schwartz is a top forward don't you think his camp will have to take less than Schenn - money because of his history of injuries?
    Good afternoon,

    When you or Tom attend out of town games, are you allowed to travel with the team or goes covid protocol require you to travel separately?

    Thanks...
    In past years, we have traveled with the team. On the team charter (we paid for our seat); in the same hotel (pretty expensive), and either ridden the media bus or in some cases the team bus to games or practices. But that hasn't been the case in the COVID era. The Blues limit their travel party to 50 - and you get to 50 pretty quick when you consider players, coaches, trainers, equipment staff, front office. So we're not in that 50, meaning we arrange our own travel, lodging, in-city transportation.
    Mr. Thomas,

    The results from the Blues this season are obviously disappointing. This is a very simplified explanation, but I think it hits the root of the problem: either they aren't good enough or they aren't working hard enough. Do you think that about sums it up, and if so, which option would you say is the case?
    It's interesting that you brought this up, because on our NetFront Presence podcast taping this morning - which is now up and posted on stltoday.com and wherever else you get podcasts, I mentioned basically the exact same thing. At it's most basic element, this team is either not as talented as we all thought - myself included - or they're not working hard enough. And by not working hard enough, I don't mean they're dogging it. I mean not enough players are consistently putting out the level of work rate that makes this Berube system work. You know, where you're hounding pucks, checking like a fiend, etc.
    Hi Jim, thank you for the chat.

    Regardless of whether or not the Blues make the playoffs, do you see the team making any major additions or subtractions to it's roster next season?
  • That's a tough one to answer. There are some financial considerations to weigh considering the team's tight cap situation. But in the end I think it comes down to whether Doug Armstrong still believes the core of this team is good enough to compete for a Stanley Cup. If he thinks the window is closing more quickly than anticipated, then maybe he makes more moves.
    jim it is an honor and pleasure to chat with you , you tell it like it is you do not sugar coat like so many other writers , anyway this blues team is a shell of itself i really admire coach berube and Army too but he has made some bad moves i.e. Edmundson ,Maroon and given us Krug who is terrible should never have allowed J Allen to move on he was Binnington security blanket
    I expected more out of Krug; but I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt this year. Maybe he'll have a Faulk-like revival in his second year with the team. I think finances - the Blues always are right at the cap - prevented them from re-signing Edmundson and led to the trading of Allen. But Maroon, who is so good with the intangible and physical presence, could have been brought back cheaply.
    Haven't you seen goalies play unbelievable to carry their teams in past years? Was Binnington just pretty good w a great defensive team in the cup run and therefore are the Blues and fans expecting too much from him this year w not as solid of a team in front of him?
    These are fair questions. As the late NFL football coach Dennis Green used to say: You are what your record says you are. So with that in mind, on a mediocre Blues team with mediocre defensive support, Binnington has been a mediocre goalie this year. Earlier in the season - I'd say roughly over the first half of the condensed year - Binnington was keeping the Blues in games and stealing points. More often than not, he's still keeping them in games. But he's not stealing points lately.  And the Blues are losing a lot of close games that they used to routinely win. So saying all that, I'm not sure what the Blues have in Binnington any more. Does that make sense?
    How close has Walman moved to being a top 4 D in minutes played? How surprised are you watching him play so responsible and confidently?
    There have been a few games where I thought Walman has top 4 potential. I think his play has leveled off a bit lately, though. So I'm not sure. It's still a very small sample size, but he's certainly put himself on the map. This may be stating the obvious, but what has been keeping him in the lineup to a large degree, I think has been his ability to skate out of trouble in his own end. Especially in a season where the Blues have had consistent trouble with their exits. There have been times when he has shown more physicality than you'd expect from someone of average size. He needs to keep that up, and show it more often. I like his confidence offensively. Unlike some others, he's not hesitant when it comes to putting the puck on net.
    Do you keep waiting for Binnington to put this team on his back and singlehanded lead them to the playoffs and beyond? Is this the Blues only hope moving forward?
    My answer to the first question is yes. And I think my answer to the second questions is yes as well. And that doesn't mean he has to get back to 2018-19 form necessarily. The way he performed most of last regular season would suffice.
    What has stabilized the PK? What the best chemistry to get the PP going? Do Hoffman/Dunn need to be on the first unit? Won't special teams decide most of the close games moving forward?
    The PK has had a couple of hiccups lately, with the Blues yielding a power play goal in each of their last 3 games. But the return of core special teams players Bozak, Barbashev and Parayko has helped even in the absence of Sundqvist. I definitely would like to see Hoffman on the first power play unit. Not sure about Dunn, although he has been good on the PP lately. The thing I'd like to see most on the Blues' power play - I'll leave the Xs and Os to the coaches _ is more aggressiveness, more sense of urgency. Instead of looking for the perfect shot and making the extra (often unnecessary pass). Concentrate more simply on putting pucks on net. So far into a season - we'd be beyond the halfway point even in an 82-game season - it's strange to see the Blues so far down the rankings in both the power play (17th) and PK (27th)., I don't know if improved special teams will be the No. 1 factor going forward in close games but it certainly wouldn't hurt.
  • It's interesting to watch the playoffs odds jump day to day in the battle for the 4th spot. The Kings beat the lowly Ducks and jump way up in their chances. The Blues odds get better by then not playing and the Coyotes keep losing. Which team do you see of the three (discounting SJ but who knows?)getting it together and taking the spot? Or do all four muddle their way to the finish line and one gets in by default?
    I find the playoff odds entertaining, but I don't take them very seriously. Obviously, if you start winning a game or two, that makes it more likely you're in the playoffs. (And vice versa.) But in a game where the puck can take such odd, unpredictable bounces, to put a precise percentage on playoff participation based on a win or loss is silly to me. OK, Hoffman shot bounces off Dumba's arm and in, Blues win. Let's make their playoff chances, uh, 48%.  as a result. I don't get it.
    As to who gets into that fourth and final playoff spot in the West, I'd say it's your last suggestion - who gets in by default. Like you, I'm pretty much discounting San Jose, but I'm still keeping an eye on LA because the Kings have 4 games left with Anaheim and have not played more games than the Blues (unlike Arizona), so they at least have more opportunities to rack up points. 
    Do you notice that the times when the Blues struggle 5 on 5 is when multiple offensive players (Hoffman, Kyrou, Thomas, Dunn, even Krug and Faulk) are on the ice? Would the Blues be better by playing MacEachern, de la Rose, Joshua as 4th line and bumping up more established 2 way players and either Bortuzzo or Mikkola on D instead of one of the offensive D's (other than Krug/Faulk of course)? The team looked the besthad back on the West Coast when the lineup included them.
    I don't know how to answer this one. I do know the Blues were 14-8-2 before Tarasenko returned (which was the beginning of the return of most of the injured players. . . .such as Schwartz, Bozak, Parayko, Thomas (before his next injury). The Blues are 5-10-4 - they've won just five of 19 games _ since they started getting all these more established players back. So maybe there is something to be said for everyone knowing their roles and being comfortable in those roles.
    Can you explain why Krug has only 1 goal as the PP specialist and leading LH defenseman? Does it seem like so many of his shots are easy saves instead of ones that lead to goals and/or rebounds?
    It's hard to explain. In his seven full seasons prior to joining the Blues, he averaged 9 1/2 goals a season, although he did dip down to 4 goals in one of those seasons and 6 in another. He is contributing offensively because his assist total is just about as high as it's ever been. But yeah, his shot has appeared a little underwhelming at times.
    Have you seen an increase in Paranko's mobility and play since his return? Can he play that good shut down 25 minutes a game to help stabilize the defense in front of Binnington?
    Yes, he's looks better - and more comfortable - on almost a game-to-game basis. I don't think he's quite at the vintage Parayko rate of play, but he's getting closer. It's interesting what you say about minutes, because he was paired with Scandella in practice Weds. Berube said that was partly a pairing made for matchup reasons (for Colorado) and partly a response to Parayko looking more comfortable out on the ice. Parayko has been averaging a little under 20 minutes since his return. If he stays with Scandella - which was the team's shutdown pairing last season post-Bouwmeester - I would think Parayko's minutes go up.
    Looking forward do you think the Blues should expose Perron in the expansion draft? The reason to protect would be his leadership and he's right now the team's top point and PP scorer. His age plus it looks like he's lost a stride in speed as a winger is a concern. His average plus minus playing almost exclusively w O'Rielly who by far leads the team is a red flag. Wouldn't it be better to protect one of the younger players who play multiple roles?
    I would not expose Perron in the draft. I've had this same opinion all along. He was second on the team in points last season; and he's the team's leading points producer this season. All for the low, low price of $4 million a year. He's feisty. He cares. And he's good on the power play and in overtime. He's never been a great skater.
  • Loved you as a football writer and as a hockey writer. Is there any possible way the Blues can keep/resign both LW Schwartz and C-RW Bozak this off season? Both are dependable, strong elements to the team's success, and a loss of either would be significant. What if both have great playoffs--assuming the Blues make the playoffs? They're going to lose one salary in the expansion draft. Who might that be?
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