Join Blues beat writer Tom Timmermann for his live chat at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Join Blues beat writer Tom Timmermann 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.

    Greetings and welcome back for our last chat of training camp, but not our last camp before the season starts for the Blues, since their season opener is still 10 days away. Jim has, by now, I think landed at MSP having flown up from DFW for tonight's game. In a perfect world, prior to the game, some of the Blues would sit down with some of the Wild for a game of euchre, in which case both the Cardinals and Blues could have a Wild card game tonight. But I digress. Let's go to the questions.
    What’s your hunch on whether they keep Perunovich and/or Neighbours out of camp? I like the infusion of some new blood. Things had gotten stale. With Perunovich around I don’t think we’re going to miss Dunn, certainly next season and beyond. And, as much as I liked Schwartz’s compete, he was injury prone and left a big hole when he was out. Saad and Buchnevich more than compensate for his loss. If the Tank produces I think we can roll 4 really good lines but we need both Kyrou and Thomas to be reliable points producers and play a 200’ game. If they do, and Binnington holds up, I think we can the Avs a run. There are some significant ifs in there but do you agree?
    My guess right now is that neither make the team out of camp. I think they would love to give Neighbours a look, a 10-game trial run at the start, but I don't know that they have the roster spots to do that. Keeping Neighbours around would mean sending someone down, and potentially losing him, which I don't think you want to do if a guy isn't going to be there all season. When I asked Berube yesterday if Neighbours could still benefit from being in juniors, he said yes, pointing to playing in the world juniors. That seemed telling. If, somehow, the roster permitted the Blues to keep him without exposing someone else, then I think he'll stay.
    I think Perunovich has gone so long without playing games that some time in the AHL would serve him well. But that at the first opening, whenever the inevitable injury happened, he would come up and then be hard to remove. Berube seems very high on him. He has played well.
    Kyle Clifford should not make the final cut. We have too many better young players ready to take that spot. He has never really been that impressive.
    Will it make you feel any better if he makes the roster but doesn't play much? That may be where we're headed. That fourth line is going to be a grab bag, with lots of players in the mix for it. That's where the intrigue is in camp right now. Clifford, MacEachern, Kostin, Joshua, Brown, are all in that mix. There's a decent chance Clifford gets through waivers, but if he gets picked, that's not the worst thing. I think the Blues would rather risk losing him than a lot of younger players. But on the other hand, teams like having veteran presences around like Clifford.
    Happy Wednesday, Tom. Which of the younger guys has impressed you the most so far in preseason? It seems like Neighbours has been playing well, same with Perunovich. Personally I think Hugh McGing could be decent. What do you think??
    Neighbours and Perunovich are the obvious candidates there, and the fact they're still in camp says the management feels the same way. McGing looked good, and Laferriere is one to watch. There are a lot fewer options on the defensive end, but Tyler Tucker is in line for a callup this season if the Blues need to go deeper into the Springfield roster.
    Hi Tom, With the bodies still in camp and the roster spots that look to be up for grabs it looks like there are 2-3 roster spots that are truely up for grabs. Which of these is more likely:
    1 The Blues do the pragmatic thing and send the guys that are waivers exempt down & keeping their existing depth.
    2. The Blues take a gamble on one or more young guys that could have gone down & expose veterans to waivers.
    3. The Blues ship one or more guys off in a trade.
  • There in lies the big question. Klim Kostin and Dakota Joshua don't have to go through waivers. I think Joshua will be sent down regardless, but the Blues will face a decision on Kostin. Sending him down would allow them to keep their other assets, and they could tell him he'd be back as soon as a spot opened. But at what cost? Kostin wouldn't be thrilled by that prospect. He's done his time in the AHL. He's in the last year of his contract. I don't know that the Blues want to make going back to Russia seem more appealing to him. The Blues know what the situation is, and no doubt know how Kostin feels. Maybe it's not a problem with him. It's been so long since I talked to him, I don't know how he feels. But sending Kostin down is the path of least resistance. I really don't know how that would work.
    If the Blues think Perunovich will play and will stay, then Mikkola, Walman or Bortuzzo will be traded to make room for him. Maybe you could slip Walman through waivers, but better to not take a chance. The Blues would be looking for a draft pick in return.
    I don't know if they would make a trade on the forward side. Would Clifford or MacEachern warrant someone giving up a draft pick? I don't know. 
  • Do Neal and/or Frolic have a chance of making the team and if they do, who do they push out? Plus, would Brown make it through waivers?
    Very doubtful on Frolik. He's too much like too many other younger guys. Neal is possible because the Blues look, at the moment, one short in their top nine and even with his production the last couple of years declining, he's still more likely to score than any of the other candidates. So that may earn him a spot. 
    I think Brown will stick around. I've said before that someone who hasn't been able to make Ottawa wouldn't be in that high of demand, but I think Brown's pedigree, of being a first-round pick not all that long ago, and a low-priced contract would make him appealing to someone. So I think the chances of him getting picked if placed on waivers is probably above 50-50. 
    In most of these scenarios, Clifford and MacEachern seem to me to be the players on the tightrope.
    Been reading lots of preseason thoughts from various sources. Seems like the Blues are a pick by many to miss the playoffs. I’m sure I am biased but I think they are better up front and think they will be fine. What do you think?
    I think spots 2 through 5 or 6 in the Central will be very tight. Only a few points will likely separate the group. With that being the case, margins for error will be slim. So if the Blues have injuries like they did last season, or if any team has a lot of injuries, that could be costly. Losing three games you shouldn't could knock you out. 
    I think in a case where everybody is healthy, the Blues should make the playoffs. But it's going to be a battle. The Blues have depth, but not in the top nine. If a couple people get hurt up there, like last season, it could take a bad turn.
    It seems Binnington is in mid-season form. I read somewhere at the beginning of camp Binner looked like he never played goalie before. What was your take on him at the beginning of camp?
    by Barry - Blues Fan at the Mouse House 10/6/2021 6:36:50 PM
    At the beginning of camp, I thought Binnington was a goalie coming off two fairly average seasons. Really good at some times, but not all the time. That's pretty much my feeling now. He has had some good games in camp. Everyone is speaking highly of how he's played. But it's still the preseason, and a long season lies ahead. When we see how he looks in the season, then I may adjust my thoughts. His play in the preseason bodes well.
    What's up with the Blues not playing until Saturday with the season starting on Tuesday? Seems like a long time to wait to play your first game after the season starts. I WANT HOCKEY!!!
    The past few years, the Blues have played on the first day of the season. It's going to be a long wait this time. On a personal note, seven days of off-day stories is a lot of off-day stories. We'll be tested.
  • What kind of lineup can we expect to see Saturday? It’ll be a week till the first regular season game, so will it be a veteran heavy lineup? I know I’ve seen some times in the past where teams call players back up to play that last game so the regulars don’t get hurt.
    First, the game is Friday. I think you'll see something close to opening day. The Calle Rosens of the world will be sent back to Springfield for their camp. Neighbours and Perunovich will likely get in that game. With a week in between that game and the start of the season, that lessens the injury situation. If it were a road game, they might call some AHLers in, but for a home game, I would expect most of the veterans to play.
    Tom, as always thank you for the chat and being our eyes and ears.

    Why a week between the last preseason game and the first regular season game? Are the Blues one of the only teams to have this week?
    by Barry - Blues Fan at the Mouse House 10/6/2021 6:49:14 PM
    I don't know why the gap. They're probably the last team to start, but I haven't looked at all the schedules. Minnesota doesn't start until next Friday. Vegas plays two games, then has five days off. So there's weirdness all around. Not sure if the league was looking for more wiggle room at the start of the season in case things happened.
    Perunovich is the most exciting Blues prospect I have seen in many years. As soon as he gets the puck it's Charge! He turns a puck in the D zone into an instant offensive rush. He's already better then all our D man on the left side with the exception of Krug--and in a year he will over take him. He needs to make the team and take Bortuzzo's spot just to start. Love him!!
    There's a solid case for him making the team. I think he would benefit from playing some games in the AHL just to get into the pace of pro hockey after a long time off, Tonight will be his fifth preseason game out of seven, so the team obviously likes what they see and wants to see more. And if he does make the team, there's a solid case for trading Bortuzzo and keeping the younger Mikkola and Walman. As a capable veteran with a smallish contract that has one more year to go, he should get some interest.
    Ahh. My bad, Tom. I got the last preseason game mixed up. I misread the day and for some reason thought it was another Saturday. Thank you for correcting me. That’s why you’re the best writer and I’m a fan lol.
    No apology needed. But thanks.
    What is going to be the biggest strength of this Team and what is going to be the biggest weakness?
  • I kept coming back to this question in the queue and thinking, Hmm, what is the biggest strength of this team? And nothing jumped out at me. They aren't great scorers, their defense was fairly ordinary last season, as was their goalie. They are solid all around, but not particularly flashy anywhere, and that may be their strength. The top three lines are all going to be pretty similar, all pretty good. Right now, the third line may be Saad-Thomas-Tarasenko, which may be the highest salaried third line in the league at almost $15 million. So opposing teams may have trouble matching up with them; some line is going to get some chance to maneuver.
    As for the biggest weakness, there isn't much depth in that top nine. If someone gets hurt there, every other forward they have is a fourth liner and will be in over their head. And it remains to be seen if the penalty kill is as big a liability as it was last season. 
    I see the lineup something like:
    Kyrou, O'Reilly, Perron
    Shenn, Bozak, Buchnevich
    Tarasenko, Thomas, Saad
    Barbashev, Neal, Kostin

    what are your lines
    I'm not sold on Bozak that high up. Most of his season last year was post-concussion, and it was his worst offensive season ever. Can't say for sure there's cause and effect there, but he's 35, at a point where most hockey careers are headed in one direction. If Neal makes the team, they'll be looking at him to play higher. I have leaned toward:
    Saad-O'Reilly-Perron
    Buchnevich-Schenn-Tarasenko
    (Somebody)-Thomas-Kyrou
    But so far, we've seen those lines just one day at camp and Berube has taken such a long look at Saad-Thomas-Tarasenko, that it seems likely to turn up on opening day.
    Also, this is Blues hockey. Just about any line you put together will show up at some point. Just give it time.
    If things are going well, does tarasenko make the halfway point or through the entire season wearing the note?
    At this point, I think he is around for a while, because an in-season trade for a contract that big is just tough to do. And probably the only way he doesn't finish the season is if the Blues fall apart and are out of the playoff picture and he gets traded at the deadline. But if things are going well, if the Blues are winning and Tarasenko is healthy and scoring, I see little incentive for the Blues to trade him.
    I'm not sure what you mean when you say the forwards lack depth. You're correct to point out that the Blues might have one of the best third lines in the league if it ends up being Saad-Thomas-Tarasenko. If you had an injury in the top 6 any one of those players is more than qualified to move up. Plus, Sunny will likely be back sooner than later. Bozak can certainly move into the middle six if needed. If Neal is playing well enough to make the team, then he should be able to play in the middle six as well. Can you elaborate on what you mean by a lack of depth at forward? To me, that's the strength of this team.
    Right now, the Blues top nine is really a top eight: Saad, O'Reilly, Perron, Buchnevich, Schenn, Tarasenko, Thomas, Kyrou. In those lines I wrote a few answers back, I had a blank spot for left wing on one of them. If the Blues don't sign Neal, who goes there at the start of the season? Barbashev? After that, what's the next option? Every other forward on the team projects, at least to me at this moment, as a fourth liner. Yes, it will look better when Sundqvist gets back. But right now the only competition for a top nine spot looks to be whether or not Neal makes the team. At even-strength last season, Bozak's expected goals was 9 percent below the league average. Again, how much of that was the product of his concussion troubles? He's been below the league average in expected goals each of the past three seasons. His value now is totally as a defensive forward.
    Any chance Doug Armstrong knows Tarasenko pretty well and thought he spouted off somewhat irrationally. I mean the term "moody" has been used pretty much in the last few months to describe him. Did Army just think the "mood" would change again?
  • From what Armstrong has said, he did not find any offers that were to his liking. If there was one, there's every reason to think Tarasenko would have been traded, but as I've said going back to the end of last season, the market for a player making $7.5 million and coming off two shoulder surgeries is going to be pretty limited. But Armstrong does know Tarasenko. He's known him his whole NHL career, and his not taking an offer he didn't like was the knowledge of how he thought Tarasenko would perform.
  • At the end of the season chief was using Walman more than Mikkola. However commentary has seemed to suggest it’s Mikkolas job to loss. Has Walman taken a step back has Mikkola’s game improved? I know Mikkola looks more like a Blues D man, but is his game better?
    I think Mikkola is a better fit for the defense, especially a unit with a lot of aggressive, puck-moving defensemen. If the Blues needed to score a goal, Walman would be the guy. If they needed to stop a goal, Mikkola is the guy. Don't know that Walman's game has taken a step back but the Blues told Mikkola to work on getting stronger in the offseason and they liked how he looked coming back into camp. So he's being rewarded for that.
    How does waivers work on regard to the picking order? A player goes on waivers then which team can pick him first? The worst record team from the previous year? There are some good players going on waivers this year. If I'm Arizona I am scooping up as many as possible!
    For the first few weeks of the season, it goes in reverse order of last season's standings. Then it converts to reverse order of this year's standings. If multiple teams put in a claim on a player, the team higher in line gets the player.
    An Ottawa reporter described Brown as a top nine player and not a fourth line guy, not a banger but a skilled guy. Would it be better if he started in the AHL and came up later maybe as an injury replacement versus push him into a fourth line role?
    As a former first-round pick, Brown certainly projects as a top-nine guy. Berube has praised him as having very good hands for a big man. In the closest thing he had to a full season in Ottawa, he never got above third-line minutes. There is clearly a big upside to Brown, if the Blues can untap that. I think because of that, it's going to be risky to send him down, because other teams will feel that way too. That was something the Blues had to consider when trading for him. Either they figured he would make the team or they figured he would get through waivers. Or maybe both. I don't know.
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