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.

    Hey everybody. Me again. Time for this week's chat, as we straddle that netherworld between when the regular season begins and the Blues start playing, which is still a few days away. The team is off today in Vail, where Jim is at the moment, pounding away in his mountain chalet before heading for the black diamond slopes. 
    The roster is set, the start of the season approaches. In the meantime, I'm here to answer questions. 
    Hi Tom. A good Wednesday to you. Do you think the Blues would maybe give Pietrangelo another recognition this season, considering last season it wasn’t a full house at the time? Maybe not as extravagant, but something so a sellout crowd can show appreciation. And I noticed Colten Ellis isn’t on the Springfield roster. Any idea where he’s heading?
    I wouldn't think the Blues would give Pietrangelo anything the second time around, but this is a weird time, so who knows? Anything is possible. If Pietrangelo is in the starting lineup that night, he'll get his big ovation then. But, again, remains to be seen. 
    The Blues have an agreement with Worcester of the ECHL to send players, though Worcester's primary affiliation is with the Islanders. I assume he'll end up there to get game, though I haven't seen anything official on it. 
    Fair to say that the Blues were hoping to see more from Kostin during camp? What seems to be the problem?
    I think the Blues hoped to see more from Kostin, yes. Not sure what the issue is, but Berube's enthusiasm was below how he talked about Jake Neighbours but above how he talked about Logan Brown. Berube's description of what was missing from him in camp was pretty wide-ranging -- "gotta keep working on his game ... important to learn to become a good pro ... watch how our guys handle things" -- which sounds like detail work, doing the little things. Kostin and Kyle Clifford were the only players who made the opening roster that we didn't get a chance to talk to during training camp, so hard to put a finger on how he feels at the moment. But the Blues valued him enough that he made the opening day roster and isn't starting the season in Springfield.
    What is the current cap situation of the Blues (when Sunny comes back)?
    The Blues opening day roster was $14,484 under the salary cap, with Sundqvist on it. So when he comes back, getting under it shouldn't be a problem. The Blues at the moment have $1.67 million of cap space to work with, so they will be able to bank that for future use at the deadline. They are probably in as good a situation as they've been in in a while, with some room to maneuver.
    Last year our defense was an issue, but not entirely because of our defensemen. Krug won't ever be a long-reach shutdown guy, and as well as Faulk played defensively last year, that really isn't his M-O either. So far sounds like Scandella's job is on thin ice right now as well, which leaves Parayko as our lone locked-in shut down defender. Despite all of this, do you expect the Blues defense to be improved this year over last? Saad and Buchnevich should offer at least more physicality than Hoffman and Schwartz did last year, if not the same tenacity in Schwartz's case.
  • A healthy Parayko will make everyone look better. Having him at half speed at the start of last season was just a drag on everyone. Buchnevich will be a big help, Saad less so. (It's been about four seasons since Saad had above average defensive numbers.) I do expect the unit to be better, because of Parayko and Buchnevich. If Scandella struggles -- and last year probably wasn't as bad as it looked at times for him -- then Mikkola is the only option there. Walman is not going to be a shut down defender, nor Perunovich. There's no reason everyone can't be more physical. They're hockey players.
    Thanks for your great writing, Tom. I disagree with AG. I think the Blues defense will be substantially better this year, assuming Parayko is healthy, Krug will be better adjusted, and Walman and Mikkolas have another year under their belts. I think Faulk played terrific defense at the end of the year, and I'd bet the ranch Berube is focusing the forwards on playing the five-man unit like during the Cup year. Saad and Buchnevich are both excellent two-way forwards. Do you see flaws in this projection or risks in their defense prospects?
    It's always dangerous to assume everyone will play better. There's a solid case for Parayko, and Krug, and Mikkola, and Walman to be better, for the reasons you said, but as anyone who's ever tried a four-game parlay bet or a Pick Six at the track knows, you're talking higher odds on all of them doing it. But it can, and does, happen. But you can also rank the importance: If Parayko and Krug are both better, that's a good thing. The Blues could probably get by if only one of Walman or Mikkola took a step forward. If Parayko does not play better, then the Blues will have problems. 
    The forwards having a bigger impact is a big part of the Blues' defensive plans for this season. That also has to happen. 
    What is the advantage of huge signing bonuses? I see Barkov signed for 80 million but got 70 million up front. Why do players want this? Do signing bonuses avoid the 17% escrow on salary? Is it a tax advantage? Pietrangelo got this from Vegas to. The Blues don't do this maybe they will have to?
    Players want it because it's guaranteed money. You can't buy it out. Pietrangelo and Barkov are going to get that money no matter what happens. That's why those contracts are referred to as being buyout proof. If Pietrangelo's game fell apart and Vegas wanted to buy him out, they would still owe him all that signing bonus money. The players don't get that money upfront; it's staggered over the life of the contract but every year, I think on July 1, he'll get that lump sum check. Some teams do it, some teams don't, and usually it's only for really, really good players who are able to get that.
    I really like the offensive talent on this team, but this looks like the worst defensive Blues team since the Armstrong righted the ship and got them into perennial playoff contention. I know they're hoping a healthy Parayko can make a huge difference, wasn't there more to fix from last year's terrible team defense than a healthy Parayko and another another year to acclimate for Krug? They were awful on defense last year.
    The Blues were kind of boxed in on defense. With the contracts for Parayko, Faulk and Krug, there wasn't a whole lot of salary cap space. Walman, Mikkola and Bortuzzo aren't being paid a whole lot -- Walman and Mikkola are just about at the league minimum -- so it would have been tough to make improvements there without having cap issues. Scandella was the guy in the middle if they were going to make a move, so they would have been looking at a defenseman making $3.2 million. Making more than one change would have been hard. As it was, the Blues just squeezed under the salary cap.
    So, yes, a lot of it is hope. Parayko is healthier, Krug is in the system better, Walman and Mikkola progress. They feel the systems moves they're making will help, and that they can break the puck out of their own better. Some of the hope for an improved defense is that they will be playing less of it and having more puck possession. The Blues were not great on zone exits last season. Sometimes changes like that can make you better with the same people. 
    Barring injuries, how many 20+ goal scorers does this team end the season with?
    Let's see: O'Reilly, Perron, Saad, Kyrou, Tarasenko, Buchnevich, Thomas, Schenn all can do it. That would be eight, but once you factor in injuries, which obviously I can predict will happen but which I can't say to who, not all of them will get there. It would help the Blues if Neal got there too. Last year, if it was a full season, they likely would have had five: O'Reilly, Perron, Hoffman, Schenn and Kyrou. But I don't know that any of those guys above will get to 30, and some of them may be getting over 20 in the final days of the season. 
    What kind of season does Binnington need to have to prove he's elite? Looking more and more like flash in the pan.
    Simply, he needs an elite season. I wouldn't say he's a flash in the pan yet, but the last two seasons obviously haven't been as good as the first one. But that first season was exceptional, one of the best you're going to see in a long time. I remember in that 2018-19 season, Binnington would hit all sorts of milestones for rookie goalies but if you looked at who he was joining in that company, it was a lot of guys you barely heard from again. The message was clear: a great rookie season doesn't always translate into a great career. He has looked very good in camp and the preseason, but that's camp and the preseason. He needs to play better this season. He's been average lately. But at least he's been average with an upside. 
    And he's going to be around for a while.
    It seemed like Berube's comment on Brown indicated that Brown hasn't been willing to put in the work to become better, hoping that his father's background would carry him. Does it seem that way to you? Brown apparently has the physical tools but not the professional attitude or work ethic
    I don't think he was riding his father's coattails, but throughout Logan Brown's career, he's been the biggest guy on the ice. He was able to dominate play at a young age because of that. There was less need for him to go 100 percent because 80 percent was enough. Now, he's at the point where being big isn't enough. He's got to find that extra 20 percent, which went unused for much of his youth. If he can find it, with his size and with good hands for a big man, he can play in the NHL. So I wouldn't say he hasn't been willing to put in the work, he's just got to figure out what that looks like. At too many points in camp, he seemed to be cruising. And, as Berube pointed out, his confidence has to be pretty low right now, and going unclaimed through waivers can't help.
    Will the Blackhawks surprise some folks this year or am I reading too much into their off-season moves including the return of Towes?
    The Blackhawks are one of the big mysteries this season. Lots of moves, especially getting Fleury, plus improved health. I don't know that they'll surprise folks, since those moves raised expectations, and I've seen them picked to finish second in the Central. The surprise would be that a team could turn around so quickly from last season. But they also may have the widest range. Not sure how good they'll be defensively, which was pretty bad last season.
    Hi Tom - simple question - how are ticket sales going for the Blues?
    I've heard they're going well. They won't be back at pre-pandemic levels, but crowds should be good. Some people are still hesitant about going out in large groups, especially indoors. I saw a lot of empty seats at Cardinals games over the summer, so no reason the Blues will be different.
    Who plays more games on the 3rd
    D-Line 41, 77, 46?
  • This is an excellent question and when I asked Berube the other day how he was going to manage those three at the bottom, he said he wasn't going to commit to anything. Walman and Bortuzzo are there at the start, but he wouldn't say anything about rotating them or how Mikkola would be implemented, that too much could happen to change things. Even though he's not there now, I think Mikkola (that would be 77) ends up getting the most ice time of the bunch, though maybe not all of it on the third pairing.
    I'm glad that all the local radio hosts were wrong about trading #91 for anything and giving salary concessions. The right thing happened: the Blues tried, but the right trade was not there, and both sides had time to cool. Do you agree and think #91 is here and productive for the entire season?
    I agree that he's going to be here for a while, quite possibly the whole season. I'm not making any guarantees on his productivity for the entire season. I have felt, since the end of last season, that while trading Tarasenko was an option to explore, he was going to have more value to the Blues than any other team in the league. No one was going to offer the Blues anything resembling fair value for him, in part because at this point, who knows what fair value is for Tarasenko? And no one was going to overpay to get him. It does seem like both sides have cooled, in part because they had no choice. This story could have a happier ending than many thought, though chances are it still ends in a Tarasenko trade at some point, if only because he's got one year to go on his contract after this one.
    Tom, Do you anything about the TV crew being on the road for the road games? Keeping the Cards broadcasters in the studio on road games wasn't a good look.
    The plan is for John Kelly and Darren Pang (or Jamie Rivers when Pang is away for TNT) to be at all road games. The rest of the production crew, producer, director, graphics person, will travel to some, not to travel to others. Kerber and Vitale have already been on the road in the preseason and will continue to do so.
    Hey Tom… did you catch last nights SEA-VGK game? Wondering your opinion on if the game winning goal was good or if he kicked it? I personally think he kicked it.
    From most of the angles, it didn't look like a kick, just like he altered the direction of his skate, but then there was that one angle from the backside, which I don't think ESPN showed right away, where it definitely looked like a kick. Based on that one, it should have been waved off.
    You say the Blues were not great at zone exits last year. All the more reason to get Perunovich in the line up ASAP. Who would we have to trade? Scandella? We have to pay someone to take that contract.
  • Perunovich will be here soon enough, and once he gets here, there's a good chance he never goes back to the AHL. (Assuming that he doesn't get called up in the first few weeks.) Until then, he will benefit from the abundant ice time he'll get in Springfield.
    As far as making room goes, it will depend on the situation that led him to get here. They wouldn't have to make a move until the injured player is ready to come back. In many ways, Bortuzzo is the easiest to trade: small contract that's in its last year. Trading Scandella, in season, will be harder. 
  • In a cap world, if you’re trading for a player like Eichel don’t you almost have to give back nearly 10,000,000 in salary just to make the trade work, and that’s before talking about quality of players?
    In season you would, and Buffalo isn't going to give the guy away and if anyone is thinking about the Blues trading for him, Buffalo's not taking Tarasenko in return. They're going to want younger, healthier, cost-controlled players.
    Given the forward line makeups that we've seen in the preseason that basically feature one sniper, one set up man, and one net crasher per line, do you expect more of the same emphasis on the dump and chase offense that we saw for most of last year? Any chance we see Berube ask guys like Kyrou, Parayko, and Saad to carry the puck across the blue line more often this year?
    I don't think you have to ask Kyrou to carry the puck across the blueline. Two things Kyrou loves to do are carry the puck up ice and shoot. That's also been one of Parayko's strengths when healthy. (Carrying that  is, not necessarily shooting.) The Blues are still going to be a team heavy on the forecheck, that's how they're built, so there will be dumping, there will be chasing. But when those chances present themselves, especially when it involves getting the puck out of their own end, that's what they're going to do. That's what they need to do.
    Did the two players that were placed on waviers make it through?
    Brown and MacEachern made it through waivers.
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