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. I really think between now and the next chat, maybe by the end of this week, we'll have concrete info on the NHL's return to play. It's pretty quiet overall but have been working on a couple of year in review packages. One deals with the top 5 Blues stories of the 2020 calendar year. And what a year, eh? The other deals with my 5 favorite Blues stories of the year _ something totally different from the "top stories" package. Both will be appearing between now and the end of the year on stltoday.com. So what's on your minds today?
    Has Jay Bo made an official announcement yet? I assume his salary is still on the books against our Cap?
    Nothing official on Bouwmeester as of yet. But nobody is expecting him back/everyone expecting him to retire. Blues are leaving any official announcement up to him. There are no cap implications because Bouwmeester's contract expired following the 2019-20 season. He was scheduled for unrestricted free agency.
    Hi Jim, Love your writing and perceptions. Is there a chance, any chance, that the Blues could request a coin flip with Minnesota to see who goes to the West? Keep up the great work and keep the faith, baby.
    Good idea. Why not a coin flip? As you probably saw late last week, some of the reporting on realignment shifted to saying it would be Minnesota instead of St. Louis in the West. We'll soon find out.
    Are most of the Blues players back in St. Louis?
    When I talked to Doug Armstrong a couple weeks ago, he said about 70-80 players would be back in town by the end of that week (which would've been like Dec. 5). I'm sure more are floating in. But as of this past  weekend, prospects Klim Kostin and Alexei Toropchenko were still in Russia playing in the KHL. With the expected expanded rosters, both players could open the season on the "varsity" squad.

    (Updated) Even as NHL stalemate continues, Blues prepare for coming season

    STLtoday.comGM Doug Armstrong says most of team has returned to St. Louis; informal skates have begun.
    Does anyone else think that Jordan Kyrou will be the next Ty Rattie? Great amateur career but was unable to duplicate that success in the NHL!
    I think it's too early to tell on Kyrou. We all know he needs to improve his play away from the puck and his defense. But those are things most young players, especially those with high-end offensive skills, routinely need to learn when they reach the NHL. This is a key year for Kyrou, with both Tarasenko and Steen not available at the start of the year. He would seem to have a good chance to open the season on the third line. And he should be more game-ready this time around. Remember, he missed most of his offseason training prior to the start of the 2019-20 season because he was rehabbing from kneecap surgery.
    Any word on what’s holding up a Vince Dunn signing? Seems like they would be hurting a bit without him this year the way things sit currently.
    I sure thought he'd be signed by now. But I remember Barbashev was a right-before-camp signing as an RFA, so this is not unprecedented. Barbashev signed on Sept. 1, 2019, or about 2 weeks before camp started. (I know, we're getting to about that time.) I would assume Dunn wants a nice pay raise. And why wouldn't he? He scored 9 goals last season _ almost certainly would have reached double figures had the pandemic not ended the regular season 11 games early. And he was a team-best plus-15. His cap figure of a year ago ($722K) would be last on this year's roster.
    For a league that hopes to start play in less than a month, the NHL seems pretty lethargic right now in terms of scheduling, divisional makeup, and even announcing an actual start date. Do you think we will see the league suddenly spring to life and everything will fall into place quickly during the two week training camp or is it more likely the league misses the mid-Jan start date and we don't see hockey until Valentines?
    The mid January start date does seem optimistic at this point. But I'm sure there's a lot of work being done behind the scenes that have yet to come to light. Apparently, part of the current discussion has to do with whether there will be some kind of hybrid hub city situation, at least at the start of the season.
    Hi Jim. What would your bottom six look like with the forwards?
  • Blais-Bozak-Kyrou
    Clifford-Barbashev-Sundqvist
    (Obviously with Barbashev and Sundqvist being interchangeable at center and right wing.)
    Why go to the west stay in Central or South
    That make sense. The problem is there are only so many teams out West. You have Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, LA. Vegas, San Jose _ that makes six. In an eight-team division you need two of these three to round out the division: Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis.
    Happy hump day Jim and Blues fans everywhere.

    Is it me or does it feel like the NHL is considering fans in stands like the NFL is doing? I'm sure the NHL is getting pushback from the union on bubble-like hockey. With the vaccine(s) one their way I would think fans in stands can happen, 25% at first to be sure.

    Where is your fellow scribe Tom these days? Is he spending 14 days alone in a hotel in Des Moines, our version of Edmonton?
    To a large degree, fans in the stands depends on the local COVID-19 guidelines. At the moment, for example, San Jose wouldn't even be allowed to have games or practices in Santa Clara County. Part of the question becomes, would you let teams in areas where limited fans in the stands are permitted do so, while having no fans in the stands in markets where that is prohibited? Or do you want a uniform set of attendance rules throughout the league?
    Hi Jim. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area but grew up in St. Louis. I watch all of the Blues' games on the NHL.com TV package. When the Blues play at home, the games start at 5:00 pm out here. When they play on the East Coast, the games start at 4:00 or 4:30 pm. I love the early start times. Even I don't want the Blues in the West Division. I hope they stay east.
    Any chance that the Blues can get a REDO on their Retro Jersey and swap the Red with the Yellow in that sweater? That would have made for a much better looking Reverse Retro look.
  • Sorry, like the proverbial train, that jersey has left the station. I wonder how they're selling? And I do like your yellow swap idea.
  • How does a 28 year old Kevin Shattenkirk compare to a 28 year old Justin Faulk?
    Since I wasn't a Blues beat writer when Shattenkirk was here, I'm only generally familiar with his game. I invite any readers to offer their opinions on this one for the chat. Off the top of my head, I'd say Faulk is better defensively; Shattenkirk may be better offensively.
    The NFL season has been a train wreck with teams forced to play without anyone to man semi-important positions like QB, offenses and defenses being unable to practice all week but still expected to play come Sun/Mon/Tues/Wed, and a team being told they can't even play at home.

    Coach K has publicly expressed his opinion that college basketball should be put on hold till the spring, and a wave of college football players have started to opt out of their teams few remaining games.

    The NHL is already facing a hurdle where 7 of their teams will be unable to play the other 24 for the regular season, and who knows how much minor league hockey there will be this year.

    Jim, do you think one of the reasons the NHL has been so slow to announce plans for the 2021 season is that the league has looked around the current sports landscape and is considering whether to postpone the start of the season till late Feb early March when a vaccine will be more widely distributed?
    It's clear the league has been slow-playing Return to Play to see how the pandemic was playing out. The NHL took the same route last summer and it worked out well. Remember, Vegas was one of the early frontrunners for the Western Conference hub city (that went to Edmonton). Had the league not taken a patient approach, it might have picked Vegas, which potentially could've been a disaster as COVID-19 cases spiked there dramatically in the late spring/early summer. This time around, though, the NHL can't wait forever because they need at minimum of 48 games to have any kind of legitimacy to the regular season. And they pretty much have to be done with the playoffs by mid July to clear the decks for NBC's coverage of the Olympics.
    And we should also remember that a stalemate on additional financial concessions asked for by the league, led to a stalemate of about 2 weeks.
    What can we expect long term with the ECHL affiliate? I know a lot is up in the air right now, but do you see the Blues sticking with Tulsa?
    No, Tulsa ended its relationship with the Blues at the end of last season, switching over to Anaheim. I'm told this made sense from a Tulsa perspective because they had more players on the roster from the Anaheim organization than St. Louis. The Blues had planned to send players to the Worcester (Mass.) Railers ECHL team (which is affiliated with the NY Islanders). That would've been very convenient for the Blues because their new AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, is only about 50 miles away. Alas, Worcester has become one of several ECHL teams opting out of the league's entire 2020-21 season. So as of now, I don't know what the Blues are going to do with any ECHL-level players. But with everything else going on, I don't think it's very high on the team's to-do list. I'm sure they're hoping right now that there will simply be an AHL season.
    Has anyone out there watched any of the Blues' 2019 playoff games? Over the weekend I was trying to stay away from the news so I watched game 5 against Winnipeg. What a game! it only gets better with age. Binnington had to have made at least 10 game-saving saves to keep the boys in it before they tied and won the game with Schwartz' tip in. I believe that comeback showed the team they had something special to make a long run. They just wouldn't quit.

    This is THE game of the 2019 Blues winning season. I know, most say game 7 at Boston. What say you?
    I watched some of those playoff games when FSM was showing replays last spring during the initial pandemic pause. That Winnipeg series was something else. And Game 5, I believe was dubbed the "Manitoba Miracle" by TV play-by-play man John Kelly. I believe that's where Connor Hellebuyck came up with his "lucky pinball" quote about some of the Blues' goals, I think in reference to the Schwartz goal. The entire "White Out" atmosphere was tremendous. Game 7 against Dallas might also rival Game 5 in Winnipeg for top game in the series. Also rivaling it might be the "Urinal Game" in Boston. and the "Hand-Pass Game" against San Jose.
  • JT, since Vladi and Steen won't be ready at the start of the season, will the Blues have to make a move to replace them? Will Troy Brower be brought back since they have 2 holes to fill?
    No, I don't think Brouwer will be back unless there are some additional injuries. He is an unrestricted free agent and told me a while back that he had not heard from the Blues. And I don't think they need to make an additional move or two.
    They already have 14 forwards under contract (besides Tarasenko and Steen) in Schwartz, Schenn, Thomas, Sanford, O'Reilly, Perron, Blais, Bozak, Kyrou, Clifford, Barbashev, Sundqvist, MacEachern, and de la Rose.
    In addition, Kostin, Toropchenko and Poganski are among the prospects waiting in the wings.
    We're a hockey family through and though. Our kids play, I ref youth and play old guy league. No better way to spend winter days and nights. But when the weather gets nice, its time to be outside and not in the rink. Along those lines, does the NHL have a drop-dead date for starting the season? A Spring/Summer season has little appeal, even to me.
    I would have to think somewhere around Feb. 1 for the start of the regular season. As I pointed out earlier, a 48-game season seems to be the floor in terms of number of games. And at the back end, the season needs to be finished by the time the Olympics start July 23 because of NBC. A mid-July finish also would pretty much ensure that the 2021-22 season would start and finish in a normal time frame.
    Hey Jim - missed last weeks chat due to 70 degree weather... what a difference a week makes! It’s starting to look & feel like hockey weather. I prefer to play in the Central/South division. Rivalries with CHI & Nash and a renewed rivalry with Detroit... plus Maroon. Of course the biggest issue with the West division are the travel issues, but there are some intriguing matchups. We’ve got some good rivalries with DAL, COL & SJ.... plus Petro & Backes. Which division do you think we’d have more success with?
    Granted, the fortunes of teams can change from year to year, but on paper it looks like the West will be the tougher division assuming it's Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vegas and the Blues. You'd get the top four seeds in the entire 15-team Western Conference from last season. But in Anaheim, LA and San Jose, you'd also get 3 of the 7 teams that didn't even qualify for the expanded 24-team playoff field.
    In addition, Arizona has given the Blues fits lately: 6-2-1 against them over the past 3 seasons.
    In the Central/South, you do have the defending Cup champs in Tampa Bay, plus pretty good squads in Carolina, Columbus, Minnesota and Nashville. But Florida, Chicago and Detroit don't shape up as formidable teams.
    The records against both "divisions" as construed above was very similar last season. The Blues went 14-4-4 against what would be the West, and 12-4-2 against what would be the Central/South.
    What are your top two lines if thomas is at center and would Sheen be ok on the left side when he has said in the past he hates playing
    Schwartz-Thomas-Schenn
    Sanford-O'Reillly-Perron
    Schenn prefers playing center, that's true. But I don't recall him saying that he hates playing the wing. And don't know what you do with Thomas once Tarasenko returns.
    JT, now that Jake Allen is gone, are there any worries within the organization about the backup goalie situation? I know Husso had been struggling a bit in the minors. I liked the fact that Binnington had a veteran backup in Allen. I think we all kind of looked at Allen as Binnington's safety net but he wont be able to lean on that anymore.
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