Greetings on and all and welcome to this week's chat. The Blues are on the ice for their morning skate right now in Los Angeles, but because of COVID restrictions, no one else is allowed in the building, so exactly what is going on there is unknown. And considering that Berube is speaking to the media right now, it's probably an optional, which is to be expected after two days of practice. So if I'm slightly distracted for the first few minutes here, it's because I'm listening to Berube talk while answering questions. But answer questions I will! Since there are some already waiting for me, I'll dive right in, and probably be typing some updates from Berube as we go.
Berube just said that Bozak is in tonight, Schwartz isn't. And as I said in the previous answer, de la Rose is available but won't play.
And Dakota Joshua is still in the lineup tonight, presumably centering the fourth line. Since we're not able to see practice, we can't be sure exactly where or what the lines are. Big vote of confidence for the youngster. Presumably he'll be coming out if Schwartz returns on Friday in San Jose.
Sorry, listening to Bortuzzo on Zoom at the moment.
He's got the potential to be good. I've seen him play some great games in the preseason. And he's shown in the second and third periods of games that he can make some big saves. I don't know that I've seen something like what he goes through at the start though. Six goals given up on one of the first three shots he's faced, three on the very first. That's amazing. Most of those early goals have been the results of turnovers or gaffes that have put him in a tough spot, but those are the saves you have to make that really give your team a jolt. It's way too soon to give up on him, but if he could just find a way to get through the opening minutes, Because it sets a tone not just for him but for the team.
Certainly what he can do for the Blues this season should be viewed with caution, since he won't be around for much of it. I believe the next round of KHL playoffs for him start tomorrow, and they play every other day. So he couldn't be in St. Louis playing for a month, and which leaves you with about three weeks of the season, and then he'll have to adapt to playing on the smaller ice. He might find his niche on the third line, but he's also someone who could plug in as a power forward on a top line, digging pucks out of corners. Maybe not all the time, but he can play there. It will be very interesting to see how he looks in the NHL after what Armstrong has said was a successful season in the KHL.
Now being distracted by Perron talking.
I thought there wouldn't be many trades just because of the logistics of it, particularly trades between U.S. teams and Canadian teams because of quarantines. Because of that, it would be tough to quickly address issues. Same with waiver claims. You're looking at a seven-day quarantine in most cases, though there are some ways around it. Vancouver claimed Jimmy Vesey off waivers today, and by him driving from one team to the other, he doesn't have to quarantine. Or if you make a trade while you are in the same city as the team you're trading with, the players can just join up right away with the new team and avoid quarantine. So it will be a weird trade deadline coming up.
OK, Blues are done talking. You have my full attention
Well, it's a young player learning that he has to have a full commitment to defense. He's been an offensive player his career and got where he is because of that. In juniors, you can get away with that. Now, he's learning, you can't. But I don't think it's anything he can't learn. He's going to have to.
Zoom this season is the only way to interview players and coaches. Locker rooms are closed. It's not a good situation, because it really limits who you can talk to, particularly on off days. Gone, hopefully not for much longer, are the days when you could work the room and just talk to guys.
Seven goals in 27 games is essentially a 21-goal pace for 82 games, which would be his low for an NHL season. So to that end, a bit disappointing. His shot totals were way down from the end of February on, before getting a boost in the last Vegas game. Berube said he just wasn't getting to the tough spaces to get the puck and get shots. Hoffman is a volume shooter. When he's getting five or so shots a game, that's when he's scoring goals. If the Blues could bring back, sure, but that's going to be very hard to do. The Blues would have to clear cap space and he would have to take a lot less money than he's probably going to get on the market. If the Blues could get him back for $4 million, he'd be worth it, though that would also mean he probably had a bad year, relatively speaking, and demand for him was low. If he's making $6 million or so, the Blues can't fit him in.
Sanford fits in the top two lines only as long as he's producing or when someone else isn't. When Thomas comes back, giving them four centers in O'Reilly, Schenn, Bozak and Thomas, someone is heading back to the wing, most likely Bozak. I think Thomas was at his best this season when Bozak was on his line, so those two will probably stay together, especially sine they need someone who can win faceoffs. When the Blues signed Hoffman, I don't know that Doug Armstrong was envisioning him as a third-line forward, but that's how it's shaken out. In any case, I wouldn't get married to any particular combination of lines. Berube is going to rearrange them all season long to keep things moving.
It's easy to see who the team sees as the core, the guys with the long contracts: Krug, Faulk, Binnington, Schenn, Tarasenko, O'Reilly. Parayko will when he gets a long-term deal after next season. O'Reilly is the oldest of those guys at 30, so you've got a couple seasons, maybe three, with that group. I don't see a tear down coming; that hasn't been Armstrong's style. The challenge will be if and when these contracts start catching up with the Blues. Some of these long-term deals may be an anchor in their closing years. That could limit Armstrong's ability to put a competitive team around those guys. But that's a problem for a few years for now and, as Armstrong said when he signed either Schenn or Faulk, I forget which, maybe for a problem for the next GM.
If no one else gets hurt, it looks that way. But based on how this season has gone, the likelihood of no more injuries happening seems remote. Tarasenko has looked better in his four games back this time than he looked in his four games back in the bubble, which is a good sigh.
I don't think they would trade him. The Blues don't have the goal-scoring depth to do that. While Hoffman hasn't scored much so far, he has the potential to do it more than anyone on the team. That's something you this team can't overlook. The options if he comes out of the lineup, like Blais, don't help their scoring very much. And I'm expecting a quiet trade market anyway. But as to the second part, yes, there seems little chance to re-sign him. It increases slightly though if they can't re-sign Schwartz.
Parayko coming back, being healthy and playing at his best is certainly the simplest way to improve the team five on five. When he's at his best, that makes an awful lot of troubles go away. He can skate his way out of a lot of jams, but we haven't seen that this season. Don't underestimate the importance though of some of the forwards coming back. Bozak and Schwartz (Barbashev too, though he's a ways off) have a strong defensive presence and in late-game situations, Berube can turn to them a lot. Blues goalies have faced a pretty good level of shots this season.