Bobo's here, where's all the ballplayers?
Fabbri gets a start. For one reason or another, Craig Berube will have to fill a need up front. The Blues aren't thrilled to see Fabbri to become the new Nate Prosser, sitting out game after game, but there has been no need to change up the forward lines for some time now.
If the top line keeps playing this way, there will be no reason to change that group once Perron returns. Thanks to O'Reilly's work, this line has the ability to match up against other top lines in the No. 1 vs. No. 1 matchup that coaches like these days. Perron's return could help the Blues create a second strong scoring line with, say, Schwartz and Bozak. As for Thomas, Berube likes him where he is. Not only does Robert make the fourth line dangerous, he has stepped up to make the power play more effective as well. So he is getting offensive opportunities despite his smaller role 5 on 5. I will keep calling for Thomas to play in the Top 9, but it's tough to argue with the Chief on this point with the team in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.
Sunny is a huge surprise. I, too, wrote him off. I had him on the list of placeholder forwards who held the Blues back last season. He has proven he can be an outstanding No. 4 center and a potentially solid No. 3 going forward. The Blues liked his defensive work last season in his limited use, but the team has been pleasantly surprised to see his offensive side develop. He is skating better this season, perhaps due to greater confidence. He makes play after play that prove he has a nice feel for the game. He survived some crushing hits to play on this season and he does his share of dirty work along the walls and in front of the net. Armstrong found a keeper.
The obstacle with signing Harper, for the one millionth time, is that Bill DeWitt Jr. is not a fan of 10-year, $300 million contracts. For half the years and half the dollars, maybe he would look at that if the team had an immediate outfield need. Goldschmidt will get offered real money on an extension and Ozuna could get a nine-digit offer, too, if all goes well for him this season, Also, the team OWES DEXTER FOWLER $50 MILLION. That is real money. So Fowler plays right field until he proves he can't. Harrison Bader will play center field. If he fails, then perhaps O'Neill will play center field. Harper can't play there and Fowler can't play there. Center field is unblocked. If O'Neill doesn't dislodge Bader and if Fowler hits even halfway decently, O'Neill could be back in Memphis this season.
Steen is getting paid. He is going to see some power play time and he will get penalty killing duty for sure. If he ends up on the fourth line, it's not like he is going to vanish. Thomas is on the fourth line and he is plenty noticeable. Going forward, Steen will have to earn reps on the top three lines because Thomas is going to be special, Sundqvist is making a strong case for the Top 9 and Kyrou will play in the Top 9 as well.
I like the 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7 conference bracket because it prevents the potential for a second-round showdown between two of the league's elite teams. In some seasons the top two records in the whole league could come out of the same division. I get that the current division-based set-up creates more rivalry matchups and less challenging travel, but at what cost?
The Blues have enough talent to contend for the Cup. I have argued all along that this team should be winning with the guys they have. Yes, steadier goaltending helped the team regroup. Credit Craig Berube for getting the guys to play harder. He simplified their tactics and, more importantly, got them to play together. Once the team started winning, guys got more confident. More guys played well. More guys started smiling. Fewer guys stayed frustrated. Collectively, the group to better and better. As we always say, the teams that go somewhere in the playoffs are the teams that keep getting better and better. You can't talk about getting better, you have to find a way to improve and then build and build and build off that. When it happens, there is almost a mystical quality to it. Hockey is a fast, emotional sport and it's amazing how an entire team can transform into something better. Conversely, when it goes bad, a decent team like Anaheim can collapse and lose 19 of 21.
Fans are clamoring for a grad transfer power forward. That would be a great use of Jontay Porter's scholarship, but finding Kassius Robertson-level impact at that position will be difficult. A JUCO banger to play at 4 sport would be nice, if that guy arrived ready to work. Tray Jackson will get all the work he can handle next year as a freshman. Cuonzo Martin proved his season that he will play the kids if they can contribute. BenFred notes that Parker Braun is drawing notice for his practice work during his redshirt year. He is an athletic, energetic guy who needs bulk. What will he look like after a full summer in the weight room and playing hoops with the group? He missed out on that summer work last year as a late arrival. Of the incumbents, Mitchell Smith still holds some intrigue. He has shown some life lately. Alas, K.J. Santos may never be the player they hoped for due to his nagging foot problems. He lost months of work due to his injury and right now he looks totally out of his element in the SEC.
Again, Tray Jackson was a huge get. He could start at the power forward slot if he responds to the challenge. And Braun turned down power conference scholarships to come here as a walk-on. With a year of practice and full summer of work, he should factor in. And there is a good chance the Tigers sign another big guy of some description, since Dru Smith and Mario McKinney will join a backcourt that loses only Jordan Geist.
Berube has plenty of size and experience. The Chief still has an aura, too, which comes in handy for his one-on-one chats with his players. But Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet would be a handful if all hell broke lose one night. And although he isn't a fighter, Rod "The Bod" Brind'Amour of the Hurricanes is in ridiculous shape for a coach. You'd have to catch him early, in a fight, because he could wear down once the wrestling started.
How much sooner? If MLB and the Players Association got together early and magically struck a new deal that included changes (and a DH) for 2020, then maybe that could impact Martinez here. If it comes later, then that has Matt Carpenter written all over it.
I am all in on Thomas. The kid makes things happen. He is living up to the hype. But things are going great now. Maroon, who seemed doomed to exit for a draft pick by the trade deadline, has helped lead the way as well. The oft-maligned Bozak is producing. Schwartz is coming to life offensively. In time, injuries and other issues will create opportunities for Thomas to move up. But given his role on the power play, it's not like his talent is going to waste.
Carpenter is horrendous at second base, His arm is no liability there, but he has no range. So any talk of adding Moustakas and subtracting Kolten Wong from the lineup doesn't make sense. Given that John Mozeliak has stated again and again and again that he is NOT MAKING ANY MORE MOVES, such speculation surprises me.
Sometimes a player evaluation is impacted by his contract. In the case of Dexter Fowler, HE IS OWED ALMOST $50 MILLION. Are the Cardinals overvaluing his potential contribution. Sure, but because HE IS OWED ALMOST $50 MILLION that's going to happen. Other than that, I don't see any overvaluing. They are not counting on Tyler O'Neill at all this season. Accomplished hitters like Jose Martinez and Jedd Gyorko currently have bench roles. Veteran relievers Luke Gregerson and Brett Cecil will get another look because of their contract, but the Cardinals might have 20 or 22 legitimate options for 12 pitching jobs.
Fans were demanding the team trade Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko. While I was open to big changes given the team's collective failure, I always noted that these guys have enormous value and trading them would have to fetch huge returns. Such huge offers never came and now the Blues are finally playing like the team it should have been all season.
Binnington proved a lot of people wrong. Ville Husso was supposed to be the Next New Thing in goal. But he got hurt, Binnington seized his opportunity and all he has done is play well. After all those years in the minors, it's amazing he could keep such an even keel when his big chance finally came.
There is no collusion among owners, just shared awareness that players in their 30s decline. Owners are willing to pay one or two years into a player's twilight, but not four or five years. I'm guessing Goldschmidt could get four additional years in St. Louis with an easy-to-gain fifth year, based on performance triggers. Or maybe it's three more years with two easily obtained years tacked on. The chilly free agency market helps the Cardinals' case, as does the threat of a strike.