Chat all things Blues with Tom Timmermann at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Chat all things Blues with Tom Timmermann at 1 p.m. Wednesday

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

    Well, here we are again. The Blues have, since we were here last, won a couple games, then had a, well, subpar? game against Vegas on Monday. Tomorrow night they play at Minnesota, who I couldn't blame you forgetting they were in the division considering how often we've seen them this season, and then a couple with the Ducks. It is, needless to say, an interesting point in the Blues season. 
    So let's get to the questions.
    Tom: This has been the season from hell in more ways than one. First, the virus and then the injury epidemic. I think we could easily miss the playoffs. With everyone healthy I think we are competitive with anyone but “our window” is probably only open for another 2-3 years. It’s a crying shame to lose an entire season with such a small window bug I’m afraid that’s the reality. What is your view and why?
    Right now, it's hard to be terribly optimistic. The last few weeks haven't looked very good. This is a team that, I would expect, will look better in a few weeks, when Tarasenko and Thomas are back up to speed and Parayko, who skated with the team today, could be back. Right now, I don't see the Blues beating Vegas in a seven-game series. Or probably in a one-game series. But it is the beauty of the NHL postseason that weird things happen. Right now, the Blues just have to get in. Doing well in the upcoming eight games with the Wild will be key to that. 
    It's hard to say about the Blues window more than two or three years out because the personnel will probably be so different. Faulk, Krug, Binnington, Schenn and probably Parayko will be here, but after that, who knows who still fits and who knows what the supporting cast looks like. Winning this season will be tough, with Colorado and Vegas in the division. The Blues have to hope that when they're healthy, with everyone but Sundqvist and Gunnarsson, that team can compete. After Monday, that's a bit of a tough sell, but again, NHL playoffs can be weird. And that's the best hope for the Blues now. 
    What will Army be trying to do at the trade deadline and who is the bait?
    Probably not much. The Blues don't have the cap space to do much and I don't see this as being like the year when Armstrong decided the Blues might make the playoffs but not do much and traded Stastny. And where once the thought was Dunn could be traded because they had to open some cap space, that's not the case any more after the Sundqvist injury. They could trade for a defenseman to try to shore things up back there, but they've got defensemen right on the brink, Mikkola, Walman, Perunovich, Bringing in anyone would mean giving up someone, but would the Blues trade Hoffman? Sure he hasn't been great, but he, more than just about anyone on the team, has the potential to find something and start scoring goals. Which remains an issue for this team. They've scored one goal in three of the past five games.
    Where do the blues stand on Blais? I see him getting the healthy scratch with some regularity, but he looks like one of our stronger forecheckers and plays hard every night. In a season where we're short on guys, I thought he'd get a chance to make a leap.
    Blais, every now and then, makes some really sweet moves. And he's consistently a bulldozer who will slam into people. He is a classic Berube guy. So I'm not sure what Berube didn't like when he talked about him not playing with emotion, but some of it might be that Dakota Joshua has been bringing more emotion and Berube wanted to ride that wave while trying to light a fire under Blais. As to having a chance to make a leap this season, Blais has had a chance but hasn't seized it, though he's been given some good opportunities. He played with Schenn and Tarasenko not that long ago.
    Tom, I know Tim Peel lives in St. Louis. Have you ever dealt with him? Any reaction to the news today from the league office? I thought at first it was excessive but going back and listening to it, I don't think an official in any sport can make a comment like that during a game. He basically admitted it wasn't really a penalty. He just wanted to send a message as to how the game was going. I can see why the league was upset. Thoughts?
  • I have not had any person-to-person dealings with Tim Peel. I was surprised that the league moved as quickly as they did. That was very surprising. It may have been simpler that Peel is retiring after this season and refs who are retiring don't work the playoffs, so he was going to be done in five weeks anyway, so suspending him wasn't really an option. Jamie Rivers said earlier today that referees say things like that to the benches all the time, and a Nashville player said that Peel was talking to the bench at the time. We've all seen enough games to know that refs balance out calls. Micah Blake McCurdy at hockeyviz.com posted a chart today showing the strong correlation between penalties against the home team and penalties against the visiting team. They're pretty close, and Peel was consistent with that. After that faceoff violation in San Jose the other night, I couldn't have been the only one thinking the Blues had to keep their distance in the ensuing minutes because that was a classic time for a call to go against them.
    But it's the kind of thing that the league no doubt hates to have said out loud. It's one thing to have people think that, it's another to remove all doubt, but as Jamie points out, this apparently has been said on the ice for decades. 
  • Mr. Timmermann,

    In a league known for its inconsistencies, another one I don’t really get is the decision to postpone or not postpone a game for players and staff entering COVID-19 protocol. Monday’s Oilers-Canadiens was game postponed after two Montreal players were placed in COVID-19 protocol. Meanwhile, the Rangers played with three players on the list, then played again with their entire coaching staff out. The Golden Knights game against the Blues was postponed in January for one player and a member of the coaching staff on the list. How in the world do they decide if it’s game on or game off?
    I don't know that the league has specified specifically, but I don't think they're postponing games on a whim. Rescheduling games is a hassle, especially when they start having to move around games of teams that weren't even involved to open up space. Some of it may have to do with why players are on the COVID list. If players are testing positive, then postponement seems more likely. If players are on the list because of contact tracing, that's a different thing and you can play through that. The Vegas-Blues game was postponed because there was a player and several coaches who tested positive, so there was an understandable concern. 
    I think it comes down to whether the league thinks that playing the games would lead to a COVID spread, as we saw with some games earlier in the season. There were some early games that maybe shouldn't have been played. 
    If Paranko can't come back to close to 100% doesn't Army have to bring in a big, stay-at-home RH defenseman to give the Blues a chance of first- make the playoffs and second- make a deep run? Scandella looked great last weekend when he moved back to his natural left side after looking below average playing his off side. Don't you think he has to play #1 LH D paired w Paranko/ someone new from outside the organization? An obvious move would be to trade Hoffman who is a natural top 6 winger/#1 PP but isn't doing that for the Blues and has struggled all season on the 3rd line/2nd PP playing Berube's system. When healthy there are plenty of 3rd/4th line wingers that know their roles and by moving him the Blues would also free up $4+ million' in cap space.
    I don't know that there's enough time for that. Parayko may be back within the week -- Berube said he looked good out there today and they'll see how he feels tomorrow as to having a timetable on when he can come back (it won't be tommorw) -- and it will take a few games to get back up to speed. But if he's playing, it crowds that position, so a deal might not be the simplest. Scandella and Parayko are a natural pairing, and moving Dunn down to the third pairing is probably a good thing too. 
    Hoffman would seem like the only choice to trade, but this isn't exactly a team loaded on offense. And he's a guy who potentially can score a lot of goals. And Berube likes having a goalscorer on all the lines. 
    Berube is talking to reporters right now and said urgency was the theme at practice today
    Why can’t this team muscle anyone off the puck? It seems like the only one that actually does any type of checking is Bortuzzo. Thoughts?
    Yeah, winning puck battles has become a thing this team doesn't do well. No reason why they can't do it, but they're not. It's all over the board, and not always the same guys. It may well be the thing that bothers Berube the most, the lost puck battles.
    Tom, thanks for the chat, as always. Picking up on an earlier question: I love the Blues but I think anyone who understands the game sees how badly they have been outclassed by Vegas in recent games. Yeah, I know there have been injuries but Vegas with without Petro and Pacioretty on Monday -- and still looked a million times faster than the Blues. I'm not giving up but if Armstrong decided to only make a deal for a player that could for next several years, and not a rental, I would get it. Your thoughts? I would love to be proven wrong on the gap with Vegas
  • Clearly, right now the Blues are no match for the Golden Knights, and the Blues close their season with Vegas, so if they need some points in the final games to get in, all they can hope is that Vegas has already clinched a spot and is resting guys. (And as these games showed, even that might not matter.) Because right now, if the Blues need to win one of those games to get in, that's not a rosy scenario. And, as luck would have it, the Blues would then likely be facing Vegas in the first round anyway. 
     
    It's going to be hard to make any kind of move, and this team has so many players on long-term deals, I don't know that they can handle more. And to open up the space, they'd have to part with someone and I don't know about addition by subtraction on this squad. This team needs offense as much as defense.  
  • Walman has looked good out there. I hope he gets more opportunity. At the very least, he could build up his trade value if the Blues don't see him as a long term fit.
  • Walman has looked good, and we were noting on the podcast this morning that his skating can help the team get the puck out of their zone, which is obviously an issue right now. Mikkola has gotten more of the attention, and because of his size, he fits the description of a classic Blues defenseman, but Walman can do some things too. If the Blues lose Dunn in the expansion draft, that will open up a spot in the back. The Blues really liked how Walman played last season in San Antonio.
  • Tom, what is the criteria for “winning” a faceoff? Puck possession? Seems like a player can win a faceoff but the opposition gains control. Who gets credit for the “win”? Thanks!
  • A faceoff win is determined by which team controls the puck. So Ryan O'Reilly could be the one who gets his stick on the puck and moves it off the dot, but if he moves it to the other team, they win the faceoff. So it's not just speed, but control, and what the wings do after the faceoff also matters.
  • Is JT writing his articles from Tom Reid's right now?
  • Probably back at the hotel, unless Tom Reid's has the patio open.
  • For weeks, coaches, players and even a few writers have suggested that the Blues haven't gotten to their game in 2021 as if there is a higher level in the team. Do you agree, or are we at the point where what we've seen vs. Vegas in 2021 IS who they are?
    I wouldn't go quite that far. But right now, it's hard to be too optimistic. Missing Parayko is a big piece of the puzzle. His game not being 100 percent probably cost them a point or two early on. When he comes back, that will have a trickle down effect in the defensive pairings. Mikkola or Walman comes out, or they rotate in with Bortuzzo. Dunn is on the third pairing. When Thomas gets up to speed, that will help the offense, and maybe get Hoffman going. Thomas, I feel, is at his best when alongside Bozak. When the season began, the Blues had a fourth line of Barbashev, Sundqvist and Clifford that could score goals. Now, the fourth line can hit, but they can't score. So this team can still get better. 
    Now, at their best, are they as good as Vegas? I don't think so. And they're probably not as good as Colorado either. We'll find out in the next few weeks if they're better than Minnesota. What's alarming, and certainly has Berube concerned, is that the team just lacks energy a lot of times, they don't win those battles. The other team is pretty easily asserting itself on the Blues. Even if you're down players, that shouldn't happen. 
    It's a strange trade deadline for the Blues. Placing Kyrou with Perron and O'Reilly looks like a winner. Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko belongs together as 2/3 work back from injury. Thomas and Bozak, once healthy, should make Hoffman more effective. Is there anything we can add that will make a bigger difference than just health?
    Schenn was asked today about how his line was doing, and the pause he gave before answering clearly said more than anything he said after. I wasn't taking notes -- I was probably answering a question here at the time -- but he eventually said something along the lines of "We've clearly got to be better." And they do. Getting that line going will be a big deal. Like getting Parayko back on defense, it will make the rest of the offense better. Tarasenko has one goal in eight games, which puts him about on a four- or five-goal pace. Schenn has one goal since Tarasenko has returned. Berube may stick with that line because he doesn't have many options and they know what they're doing out there. But it's just one of many places where the Blues have to start getting things going.  
    So yes, a little health wouldn't hurt. It's why adding players at this deadline will be tough. Guys are coming back. 
    Thanks Tom for the chat.

    The way I look at this season is the Blues don't need to make any trades to make the playoffs, just get thru this "season" bu get ready for the 2021-22 season beginning in October. Yes the defense is too small but I don't want to mortgage our present and future. Colt 55 will be back next year and Mikkola will have a year's worth of experience under his belt. All is well.
    As we saw in 2018-19, putting a whole lot of new players into the mix can be a problem. Adjusting to a new team this season may be tougher than ever before. This same collection of players, if healthy, will likely do much better next season. And with a shorter offseason this time around, there could be benefits in the 2021-22 season for not going deep into the 2020-21 playoffs. Unless, of course, you win the thing, in which case who cares how long you go?
    Tom,

    I noticed in the previous game against Vegas the stark difference in the two approaches in penalty kill. Vegas hounded the Blues when they were on the PK and stayed after the puck carrier. The Blues, meanwhile, seem to use the trapezoid formation and they allow a ton of puck moment in their own zone. It feels like that strategy is far too passive, and allows for great chances for the other team. Do you notice this as well?
    The Blues do not have as aggressive a penalty kill as many other teams. They will not really challenge a player unless there's a good chance to get a turnover and get the puck out of the zone. And then, most of the time, the Blues will go for a line change and get ready to do it again, though they have seemed a bit more willing this season to try to get something going at the other end. That's the style they have chosen, and it has suited them pretty well. 
    One problem for the Blues power play is they sometimes have trouble with aggressive penalty kills. They don't always move the puck well enough to keep the other team from going after them so much. 
    Tom,

    The MLB is talking about banning the shift to much chagrin, but can we please ban the backwards pass on the PP in the NHL?
  • Alas, I feel the drop pass is going to be with us. It does, when executed properly, allow an attacking player to build some speed entering into the zone. That's its lone redeeming quality as far as I can tell.
    Hang on everyone. Got to step away for a few minutes, but I'll be back.
    The blues this season have been a very passive team in all regards. They won a cup by taking it to other teams. Now even teams in the bottom half of the division are taking it to them, like the kings and the coyotes. Urgency I guess is a nice word, but I think the word for this team is aggression. Passive play in all three zones has made the note ripe for the picking. They just need to get after it.
    That's a fair way to look at it. It has shown up especially in the Vegas games that the Blues seem to be giving them too much respect, as if they feel they aren't as going to win those puck battles so they had better hold back a bit. That's one of the reasons getting the puck out of the zone has become a challenge. They get the puck so someone who should be able to get it out, he's confronted by the other team, and back in it goes. It hasn't been pretty.
    Mr. Timmermann,

    Tim Peel finds himself in an unfortunate situation just weeks before his retirement. Now instead of a nice send off at the end of the year, he’s just done. Obviously, it’s a bad look for the NHL for him to say that, but I think the league is putting the hammer down to make an example of him. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that was not the first time he’s made a comment like that to another official, nor is he the only official to say things like that. He’s just the first one to forget his mic was on when he said it. I imagine whether or not these things are said out loud, the practice is done all the time. Everyone who watches hockey is familiar with the makeup call. You have a more informed and educated opinion than I, what are your thoughts?
    Jamie Rivers said it earlier today, that referees have been saying things like that to players for decades. And Peel was apparently talking to a Nashville player when he said it. But obviously, the NHL didn't like that being said because it goes against the idea that refs call each game totally by the book with no other extenuating circumstances. And, as Nashville's Matt Duchene said, what if the other team scores on that power plays and they lose the game by a goal and then miss the playoffs by a point? Then it becomes a big deal. But it's clear these things have been said before.  
    But it's silly to think that the makeup call doesn't exist in the NHL. Or to think that refs haven't made calls to send a message about how the game is going to be officiated. 
    I'm concerned about Berube's future. Has the team quit on him? I hate to say it but I predict he's gone in the off season, if he lasts that long.
    I think with all the injuries this season, it would be tough to make a move on Berube. And the fact that he won the team its first Stanley Cup should give him a decent amount of leeway. With the nature of this season being as strange as it is, I think he's safe.
    The question hopper is bare, so if you've got something, now's your chance.
  • All right, on that note, I'll take my leave. Thanks to everyone for showing up, and by next week, the Blues will have three days off after two games with the Ducks, so maybe things will look a little better. Thanks to you all for taking part, and next week, who knows? Maybe Jim will be here. Until then, thanks.
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