Join Blues beat writer Matthew DeFranks for his live chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Join Blues beat writer Matthew DeFranks for his live chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday

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

    Hello everyone! Welcome to my first Blues chat. Little bit about myself before we get started for real here: I spent the last 4 1/2 seasons covering the Stars for the Dallas Morning News before joining the Post-Dispatch in late December. Before that, I covered the Panthers for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Happy to be in St. Louis and looking forward to answering some questions. I'll do my best given my knowledge of the team, league and sport, but understanding there's a bit of organizational knowledge that will come along the way.
    WELCOME MATT!!! I have a crazy idea. Army should go to Krug Payarko, Leddy and any other player we have under long term contract and tell them it's going to 2-3 years of hockey like this and if they want out to give him 12-15 teams they would go too. I know we can't trade them all at the deadline but a couple now and maybe 1-2 more before the draft would get us out of those deals Yes I know we have to have a trade partner but you don't know until you try, Also I hope someone has warned you about Roy Hobbs.
    It's an interesting idea, for sure. But it's predicated on a few things.
    One, it means Doug Armstrong is headed for a rebuild instead of an on-the-fly retool. People around the league have a hard time believing Armstrong will take the long route back to contention, and understand that he hasn't held a high value on draft picks. Two, it means that teams would want to take on those contracts. Krug's deal may not age poorly simply because he can produce offense and, like it or not, players get paid for points. Parayko's contract is a tough sell with the term left on the deal, and Leddy is probably a No. 4-5 defenseman on a contending team, and not one worth $4 million.
    If the Blues are headed for a stretch of down seasons, I could see players not wanting to be locked into the situation, but I think we're probably some time away from those conversations.
    Welcome to the Chat zone Matthew. Gawd knows we need a new voice on the Blues! Your timing is good because the Blues are looking at a retool and if that is botched it turns into a rebuild. Do me a few favors please:

    I assume you're a journalist. Just because you're in a primarily localized readership please don't turn into a glorified ST Louis sports fan that happens to be a sports writer. I can get that from my drunk Blues fan club. For example not sure why no one asks Army any questions? Maybe he doesn't want to talk? But when Eeli Tovanien was passed over for free it was a fair to ask Army why he passed. Frustrating that no writer even thought to ask. That's all. GM's need to be held accountable to fans that essentially pay them but we don't have access . To me that's the difference between a journalist and a sports writer fan who is basically a propaganda arm for Blues management. It's worse with the Cardinals!!

    Please have a sense of humor! Gordzonga is great you can rib him and he usually gives it back equal or better. And he's not afraid to post critical comments he's great. If this isn't fun for me then I might have to get a job! All the best! Have FUN very important!
    Hi Roy. I've heard your legend. Looking forward to our burgeoning friendship.
    I will make the same promise that I tell people I cover: I will do my best to be fair and honest. It won't always be pretty, but as long as we understand each other's positions, we'll be OK. As far as Doug Armstrong and Eeli Tolvanen, GMs can't talk publicly about acquiring other team's players (due to tampering), so an on-the-record chat with him likely would have yielded nothing anyways. But I agree with you that accountability is important.
    Yeah, it's not lost on me that I somehow get paid to do this job. I'll try to have some fun, Roy.
    I'm still perplexed by the Blues handling of Klim Kostin. I understand they gave him years of opportunity. I think in a specific way they did. Since being traded to Edmonton he's scored 5 goals plays physically fights--they love him. Chief likes all those qualities so it's more confusing. Why give up a fast , big, strong, skilled physical player who is 23 years old and fits your retool? And keep older disposable players like Pitlick and Lievo over a 23 year old who is no where near his ceiling?
    I don't know the ins and outs of how the Blues handled Kostin simply because I was following from afar at that point in time. But sometimes, players just need a new franchise. When I was in Dallas, I saw it happen multiple times. Players -- particularly first-round picks -- need to shed the expectations of a high draft pick, put less pressure on themselves and just go out and play.
    Valeri Nichushkin was bought out by the Stars, and signed a one-year, league-minimum contract with Colorado before he became a two-way force on the ice. Jamie Oleksiak was traded to and from Pittsburgh for the exact same draft pick before he clicked as a top-four defensemen. Players sometimes need a change to be able to perform well, and a lot of times, that onus to play well falls on the player and not the previous organization. Not sure how it applies to Kostin in particular, but just how I view change of scenery players overall.
    The more impressive part about Kostin this season is that none of his 13 points have come from Connor McDavid. McDavid hasn't assisted on any Kostin goals, and Kostin hasn't assisted on any McDavid goals.
    I live in Snottsdale AZ now and Im going to the game tomorrow night at Mullet arena. There will be a lot of Blues fans there believe it or not. It's a lot of fun that small arena. Did you like the atmosphere? I hear a lot of players say it reminds them of the stadiums they played in college or minors--they like it.
  • Mullett Arena was certainly a unique venue to watch a hockey game at. Overall, I would say I probably was a little bit more down on the arena than others, but the atmosphere was so much better than Gila River Arena out in Glendale. When I was there with the Stars, it was just the third NHL game in the arena, so I'm not sure what has changed since.
    The visiting dressing room was on top of an extra sheet of ice (with mats placed on top of it), which made the room exceptionally cold. The goalies would mention that their chest protector was freezing when they went to put them back on after intermissions. There were space heaters in the corners of the room, and temporary metal lockers for players to use. It was a setup that wasn't NHL caliber. Perhaps it's changed since then.
    It was also weird to watch Arizona State's hockey team practice before the Stars morning skate, and then players would just stick around and watch NHLers practice. For sure a unique game environment with all the students using some, say, colorful language at opposing goalies. I do like that I felt that I was truly in the atmosphere.
    Matthew, welcome to the Blues Chat Shark Tank!

    I would think its fairly obvious The Blues will be sellers come the March 3rd trade deadline. What positions do you think the Blues need more, big strong D-men or scorers? Or both? I exclude the men between the pipes with Binner the Winner under contract and Hofer coming online next season.

    Welcome aboard young squire!
    I think the top need is a No. 1 defenseman simply because it's difficult to find those types of players. Every recent Stanley Cup champion has had a true No. 1 defensemen to lean on: Cale Makar, Victor Hedman, Alex Pietrangelo and even John Carlson and Kris Letang to an extent. Even right now, you can look at Boston (McAvoy), Carolina (Burns), New Jersey (Hamilton), Toronto (Rielly, sort of) and Dallas (Heiskanen) and see how employing a No. 1 defenseman can change your trajectory.
    Right now, the Blues don't have that. The bet in letting Pietrangelo walk was that Colton Parayko could be the No. 1 defenseman, and that just hasn't been the case. Faulk, Krug and Parayko are each paid to be a No. 2/3 defenseman with the duties of a No. 1. The issue in acquiring a defenseman is that the Blues already have too many defensemen signed for too long and with too large of cap hits.
    I think you can get by up front by building around Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou and Pavel Buchnevich, and filling in with youth (perhaps Jake Neighbours, Zachary Bolduc and Jimmy Snuggerud can provide that next wave of talent?) and veteran depth. But on the back end, it's tough to find a true game-changer, particularly with this summer's free agency class on the blue line.
    Blues obviously need to make changes. Are there any players with long term contracts not named Thomas or Kyrou that you think the Blues could trade now or in the summer?
    If the Blues want to make significant changes, they'll have to move some money out this summer. They have too many holes and not enough cap space to address them all in one summer.
    Realistically, it might be a tough ask. We can run through the Blues roster and see why. Tarasenko, O'Reilly, Barbashev, Acciari, Mikkola and Greiss will all be free agents this summer so they won't have an impact of future payrolls. Schenn, Saad, Faulk, Krug, Parayko, Leddy and Binnington all have no-trade clauses. You're building around Thomas, Kyrou and Buchnevich. Walker and Rosen don't move the needle, cap-wise. Neighbours and Toropchenko are young, cheap labor.
    That leaves us with ... Marco Scandella. After this season, he's got one year remaining at $3.275 million, but he will be coming back from major hip surgery and he turns 33 next month. Not sure what the Blues would be able to get back for him, or if they'll have to entice a team to take him.
    Since you’re viewing the Blues with fresh eyes, what do you see in the team? Are they a good team in a funk, a team that needs a few tweaks, just plain old bad, or something else?
    They are not a playoff team, that's for sure. If they do sneak in, I can't imagine there's much noise to be made. I saw that last season with the Stars, who bought at the deadline and essentially paid a third and fourth-round pick to be drastically outplayed, held together by their goalie and bounced in Game 7.
    I thought there could be some regression after the shooting percentage heater the Blues went on last season, but I'm most surprised by the lack of defense. The franchise is sort of stuck in a holding pattern until they can address the defense, and why guys are left alone in the slot so often and why pucks are turned over so often below the goalline. The goaltenders can't be judged accurately, though you'd like to see them bail out the team more. The forwards scoring goals off the rush is outweighed by losing coverage. Last night, three of the four Sabres goals can be directly attributed to mistakes by forwards.
    Given some of the players they've drafted recently (Neighbours, Bolduc and Snuggerud), I think there's a chance for a quick retoool with some surgery on the blue line. But that is much, much, much easier said than done. Oh, all the Blues have to do is create cap space and find a No. 1 defenseman? That's every team's plan.
    Welcome. It's nice to have new eyes looking at the Blues and providing an analysis of their play. It really seems they are not a playoff team this year, and even if they sneak in, they won't last. The defense seems to be weak, overpaid, and aging. Do you think they trade O'Reilly and Tarasenko? How do the blues rebuild a defense? Faulk, Leddy, Paryanko and Krug had long contracts.
    I believe the Blues have no other choice than to trade O'Reilly and Tarasenko, plus explore the options for players like Mikkola, Barbashev and even Acciari. Doug Armstrong has been a pragmatic GM in the past, and hasn't misjudged his team for what they are. You guys will recall better than I the trades of Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny. Armstrong wasn't fooling himself into what his team's were those seasons. He should find similar conclusions this season.
    O'Reilly and Tarasenko are obviously the big names, but I want to see what the market is for the other three mentioned. Those are true role players with manageable cap hits that contenders can fit into their ledger. Think about Colorado last season. They went out and got Andrew Cogliano (cheap, defensive-minded, veteran bottom-six winger) and Arturi Lehkonen (versatile forward that can play up and down the lineup). Tell me those players can't be as least similar to Barbashev and Acciari. Mikkola will bring size that teams like.
    As far as rebuilding the defense, that's the million-dollar question that I don't have an answer for right now.
    Hi Matt. Seems to me the Blues have to quit trying to get their money's worth from players like Binnington and face reality. That guy is a one-hit wonder -- the Blues version of Andrew Hammond -- and they ckearly have to fix the goalue mess somehow.
    I disagree that Binnington has been a one-hit wonder. He was about league average the two seasons following the 2019 Cup run. Last year, he was superb in the playoffs despite a lackluster regular season. This season, his numbers are obviously poor, but they're a bit colored by the defense in front of him.
    Would you like your goalie to play better? Absolutely, especially given his cap hit and remaining term. Both conventional stats and advanced metrics point to a bad year for Binnington. But I wouldn't discount his career as a one-off.
    Welcome Matt!!! Big big buchnevich fan.. wonder if that got around!!! Prolly the biggest fan to date lol! Bummer about his injury! Do you see us getting someone good in return for Tarasenko. Heard rumblings about beauvilliar and first for him… I just want a good player in return. Cuz we will get a first and prospect for ror so I would like a proven nhler for 91.
    Before we can speculate on the possible returns for Tarasenko and O'Reilly, the Blues have to decide their window. If they want to attempt to contend quickly, maybe they target a young, NHL-ready player. Acquiring a prospect would be the second-fastest method. Draft picks, obviously, take the longest to ripen.
    The baseline should be a first-rounder (or equivalent prospect), plus something for both Tarasenko and O'Reilly. Prices tend to get out of control at the deadline -- did we see the prices for Claude Giroux and Tyler Toffoli last season? -- and the Blues could use this as an inflection point to change the course of their team.
    Welcome to The Lou, Matt. My comment leads to a question. Some basic NHL statistics are interpretive, equivocal, and seem logically flawed to the well-informed fan. Face-offs are either won/lost when a large percentage are actually scrambled or a tie; plus-minus is skewed by empty net goals against/for players on the ice; power play and penalty kill percentages are based on each occurrence of 5 on 4, 5 on 3, and 4 on 3, whether that infraction is for two minutes or perhaps 10 seconds when a 4 on 4 becomes a 5 on 4. It seems the NHL could easily make these statistics more logical and meaningful with simple fixes. Do you think that will ever happen?
    You could argue that it already has happened with advanced metrics and some analytics that are available.
    I don't love plus-minus because of the game-states you mentioned, and because it lessens the sample size (goals are often the least frequent event in a game) and it puts a greater onus on goaltending while a player is on the ice. For example, let's look at Ryan O'Reilly. No one will argue that he's having a season that's on par with his previous ones or up to his standards. But I'd argue his minus-28 is a misguided point of evaluation. When O'Reilly has been on the ice at 5 on 5, Blues goaltenders have a .865 save percentage, which is the fifth-worst "luck" among NHL skaters with at least 500 minutes played. Plus-minus can be helpful on a night like last night, when Colton Parayko is minus-4, but it has flaws in measuring skaters' performance.
    I also agree with you about the special teams figures. I tend to gravitate more to per 60 numbers there to evaluate a unit. Scoring 15 seconds into a power play is different than 1:50 into one, and that reflects it better than simple power play percentage.
    Army has some chips on the trade deadline game right? Teams trying to win it all are going to line up for ROR. He's going to wait for the last minute to sell to the highest bidder. Vladi too--to a lesser extent Barbachev and Mikkola. Draft picks but it would be better to get NHL ready young players who are caught on a numbers game. Some organizations have way too many prospects like LA. Army has the advantage but not time!
    Yeah, you're absolutely right. It's also helpful to look at the rest of the market to fully understand who's out there and how quickly teams may want to move on a player. Bo Horvat, Timo Meier, Dylan Larkin, Max Domi and Patrick Kane are the only (presumed) available players with more points than Tarasenko, and that's with Tarasenko missing three weeks with a hand injury.
    There's always some game of cat and mouse around the trade deadline with teams. If there are so many players available and only so many assets to give, perhaps the last one standing is left without a musical chair. We'll see how the cap impacts that little game, or if there's a wave of movement right on deadline day.
    People including you talk about about a retool rather than a rebuild. I do not see that the blues have many highly regarded prospects in the AHL or the ECHL. How is a retool possible without an infusion of young cost controlled talent with significant upside over current players?
  • So I've witnessed two retools given the last two franchises I've covered. They were very different, but they give you an idea of how the Blues could go about things.
    In Florida, Bill Zito purged his roster of all the bad contracts. He bought out Keith Yandle. He paid Arizona to take Anton Stralman's contract. He got rid of James Reimer's deal. He traded Mike Matheson. He shipped Brett Connolly to Chicago. The Panthers paid a high price to free up cap space, whether in draft capital, prospects or dead cap (with Yandle's buyout). Then they operated on the margins to find young, undervalued assets. Think Anthony Duclair, Carter Verhaeghe, Gustav Forsling and even attempts at getting production out of Nikita Gusev and Olli Juolevi. That's how they built their Presidents' Trophy team, plus having Barkov, Huberdeau and Ekblad doesn't hurt. Where they're in trouble now is they spent all their cap space and draft picks at the deadline last season and are sort of stuck, and could miss the playoffs. Zito did a good job of clearing space, but you could argue and poor job of using it.
    In Dallas, they refused to deal first-rounders for rentals at the deadline and used their later first-round picks well. Even their second-rounders. Because they drafted Miro Heiskanen, Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson in the same draft (plus Roope Hintz two years earlier), they were able to transition seamlessly from Seguin, Benn and Klingberg to their current core. Add in prospects like Wyatt Johnston and Logan Stankoven and the Stars are set up well.
    When I look at the Blues, they're probably closer to the the Panthers given their contract situation. But there is some hope for the next wave of prospects like Neighbours, Bolduc and Snuggerud. The only way towards a retool is hitting on draft picks consistently, and if the Blues can hit three years in a row, that's a start.
    Since you were an outsider this summer were you surprised the Blues didn't resign David Perron?
    A bit, but not wholly. The fit was clearly there because Perron had boomeranged back to St. Louis so often. But I understand not wanting to pay a 34-year-old $4.75 million at that stage of his career. I'm not sure Perron being on this roster changes the way things have gone this season, but at least he'd be a familiar face.
    What do you anticipate in changes to the Blues' assistant coaching staff?
    At this point, I do not know Craig Berube nor his assistants (and their responsibilities) well enough to offer an informed opinion on that. Sorry.
    Welcome Matt! Just a thought,Has the NHL ever thought of limiting just how many no trade contracts one team can have> Because,as you know,the Blues are pretty ham struck contractually regarding the cap now,and in the near future.Thanks for coming aboard.
    I'm not sure the NHLPA would like that very much.
    It's also something that teams can use to their advantage in contract negotiations that doesn't affect the salary cap, at least numbers-wise. Can't offer more money? How much is a no-trade clause worth to a free agent?
    A possible solution would be to change the buyout rules, so that the impact on the cap is lessened, but the players still get paid their guaranteed money. That way, the PA is happy players still get the money they were promised. And teams can relieve cap space. But these types of buyouts were not put into effect during the pandemic and the flat cap era, so I can't imagine they come back now.
    Follow-up question re: NHL statistics. Where can a team stat like PP% / 60 min be readily found by a fan?
    I'm always willing to pump the tires of Natural Stat Trick. You can play around with the drop-down menus, and sort by shots/60 or goals/60.
    I don't know where all the other chatters are! They should be happy we got someone who knows what they're talking about. You and Gordzonga will be a formidable team. Did you know the league is now 60% NON-Canadian players and trending in that direction? The Canadian media thought they were going to blow out the competition in the world juniors. They were lucky to win period. That Chech Republic team that beat Canada but barely lost on the finals has 4 or 5 NHL players on it for next year. And Slavkosky should have been there too. USA team got "home Towned" by a few bogus goalie interference calls against them. No Russian team. Elite players from all over the world. Tage Thompson and Austin Matthews are from Arizona!!
    It's fun seeing where all these good players come from now. Think about Switzerland with Josi, Meier and Hischier. Slovakia went 1-2 in the last draft. Germany has Leon Draisaitl and Tim Stutzle coming. And the Americans could probably compete with Canada's depth down the middle now, not to mention wingers like Tage Thompson and Jason Robertson.
    I am looking forward to whenever we get to see best on best at an international tournament again.
    Hi Matthew. Not sure how much of an X's and O's guy you are, but I feel like film breakdown is something that's generally lacking in Blues coverage. Seems like our defensive structure has been a problem and I'm wondering why these breakdowns are constantly happening. Just a few years ago we were one of the best defensive teams in the league.
    Yeah, it's something that I've done in the past in Dallas. I've actually sat down twice with Stars players with an iPad to review all of their shifts from one game. Then I'd cut up the clips and put their quotes with it. I learned a lot from it, and hopefully the readers did, too.
    I'll bounce some ideas around, and we'll see what we can do. Thanks for the suggestion.
    Mullett Arena? Is that one that's shorter in front and longer in back?

    After seeing last night's game, my opinion is this Blues team is cooked; they might not even make the playoffs.

    They needed a 5-2 homestand, 4-3 at worst, and could not do it.

    It is time for Doug Armstrong to certainly deal Vladimir Tarasenko and, probably, Ryan O'Reilly. If Perunovich's health can be counted on (unlikely), it's probably time for Torey Krug to go too.

    It seems strange to me that Armstrong is in this predicament. He is one of the better general managers I've ever seen regardless of sport. I guess the static salary cap has been an even bigger problem than he anticipated.

    Welcome to St. Louis, Matt.
    It certainly doesn't look good for the Blues. I'll give some perspective on where they are in the season right now with 49 points in 48 games. The postseason cutoff is usually around 95 points, and the Blues need 46 points in the remaining 34 games to reach that plateau. That means the Blues need a .676 points percentage the rest of the season, or a 111-point pace when adjusted for an 82-game season.
    That's the hill they have to climb. Could a team in the low 90s get in? Sure, but contending teams tend to get better after they've made trade deadline acquisitions.
    The flat cap has hurt a lot of teams, but disproportionately the Blues because they've relied on veterans with big contracts (just look at the blue line) rather than young players on entry-level contracts.
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