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 to the last chat before the trade deadline. As you may have seen, Tyler Bozak is out for at least four weeks with a lower-body injury. Jim addresses that and other injury situations in today's blog:

    Blues Bozak to miss at least 4 weeks

    STLtoday.comVeteran center suffered a lower body injury in practice Tuesday.
    And with that, I'll get to your questions. 
    Hello, Mr. Timmerman. Thank you for your time and the chat.
    1.) Are the Blues the best 40-minute team in the NHL?
    2.) Are Sundqvist and Pernuovich getting reputations as injury-prone?
    1) No, I'd guess that a lot of teams that can handle the Blues over 40 minutes, and the question for the Blues would be, which 40 minutes would it be anyway. There was a while where the Blues were one of the best second period teams around. That has been less and less of a case lately, as they've had some brutal ones. And first periods haven't always been good. Same with the thirds. It's seldom the Blues put together three shining periods. Even when the Blues are at their best, I don't think they are as good as Carolina or Colorado or Florida or Calgary, over 20 or 40 or 60 minutes.
    2) I don't know that they have reputations as injury-prone. Sundqvist is in that typical comeback from injury time frame, and a lot of time it takes six months after a guy comes back before he's back to his old self. And Sundqvist's situation is all a result of his surgeries. So it's all connected. 
    As for Perunovich, he had a shoulder injury and then a wrist injury, which sounds more like bad luck.  But that's a thing too, and all the lost ice time certainly isn't helping his development. He's looking at another rookie season again next season. 
    I realize unit a big trade rumor guy. Deals are not easy to make. I am still hearing Ben Chariot from the Habs. I don't see Army trading for him unless he signs an extension. He's just not the type to give up a number 1 pick and other assets for a 2 month rental. Do you agree?
    Giving up a No. 1 pick and other assets for Chariot would, in my opinion, be a mistake. Chariot is having a bad year, and I don't think it's that his numbers look bad because he's on a bad team. His isolated numbers, which factor in the play of his teammates, do not look good. Their defense is much better with him off the ice than on it, by a lot. If the Blues gave up any more than a mid-round draft pick, or they possess some special sauce that will revive Chariot's season, I don't think it's a good move.
    But the other thing is, the Blues have to trade someone to make it happen. They don't have the space for someone like Chariot. Even if they put Bozak on LTIR, that would not create the space for Chariot's $3.5 million contract, even if the Canadiens kept half his salary. To make it work, the Blues have to trade someone who makes more than $2 million. A Scandella for Chariot makes little or no sense from the Canadiens' point of view, and not a whole lot from the Blues side either. And I don't think trading an asset like Barbashev or Sundqvist for a rental would make any sense either. 
    This is going to be the Blues' challenge at the deadline. Unless someone wants Scandella, any deal will be tough to make. (And this isn't a rap on Scandella's play; he's just one of the few guys they might possibly trade who would give them cap space.)
    What do you believe a package for Giordano looks like? Do you think Armstrong could pull it off with how close we are to the cap? If not, does he transition to adding a 4th line center or a bottom pairing dman?
    Probably a prospect and a draft pick will be what Seattle wants. Would Klim Kostin be appealing enough, or would the Kraken want to get someone like Neighbours or Bolduc? If so, that complicates matters a lot. And the Blues would need Seattle to take Scandella and retain half of Giordano's salary, which would probably drive up the price. Giordano would be a solid pickup, but there may well be teams that would make a better offer than the Blues.
    Is Walker going to get called up now that Bozak is out?
    At the moment, the Blues haven't made any moves, but since they would need to be replacing a center, Joshua is likely to be the callup. But to do that, the Blues would have to put Bozak on LTIR. Not that that would be a problem, since he'll be out long enough, but otherwise, they don't have the cap space. And if Thomas and Buchnevich are both back, they don't need anyone and Sundqvist or Barbashev can center the fourth line.
  • Is Ken Hitchcock still affiliated with the Blues? If so, in what capacity? Are his duties such that he attends home games?
    Ken Hitchock is retired and living in Palm Springs, but carries the title of coaching consultant with the Blues. He is available as a sounding board for the coaching staff, though Berube said he already talked to him anyway on a regular basis, so not much had changed. I haven't seen him in St. Louis in a while, but when the Blues are playing in Southern California or Arizona, he has made an appearance.
    By the way, it's a slow day for questions, so feel free to wade in.
    Since the Blues called up Toropchenko and Mac Squared, the 4th line has had a noticeable impact, adding a sandpaper element missing most of the season. At the time of the trade, the Rangers said part of the reason why they were shipping out Buch for Blais was to better balance the team's grit and grind with the speed and skill of their top 3 lines. Do the Blues have the right balance of grit and skill among their forwards? With Barbashev having graduated to a top 3 role, Sunny dealing with injuries for most of the season, and Bozak looking done, the 4th line has largely been MIA this season. You always say the Blues are at their best when the 4th line makes an impact. Does the team need to embrace playing lower-skill guys who're more willing to hit rather than rolling 4 lines that are looking to score?
    The Blues have some guys who are goalscorers and grit. Perron is certainly a pest, and Schenn will drop the gloves when needed. Sundqvist is regarded as maybe too aggressive in some quarters of the league. So they can just about put an aggressive guy on just about every line. Thomas and Buchnevich could be back as early as Thursday, and if not then, not long after, and that would probably kick Sundqvist down to the fourth line. I think Berube would be very happy with Sundqvist, MacEachern and Toropchenko on the fourth line (I don't know the last time I've seen Berube as excited about as player as he is about Toropchenko), but it would be a more traditional fourth line rather than the fourth line they had the championship season. I tend to value goals over "grit," but I think it's hard to deny that the fourth line is having an impact in recent Blues' games. I get the distinct impression that Berube would like to stick with that group going forward, so he is going a long with  your final sentence. And that group has created some scoring chances by keeping the puck in the opponent's zone.
    Scandella went from being a solid Number 4 D to a defensive liability on every shift. His errors are not lack of talent or physical ability so much as stupid mental mistakes. It's as if he has a hockey lobotomy. His turnover on third Winnipeg goal was beyond the pale. I'm not sure I have a question other than, how can a veteran player lose his hockey sense overnight?
    I didn't seen enough of Scandella when he was in Buffalo to give a definitive answer, but the numbers certainly point to him not playing well when he was there. His play moved back up in Montreal and then was excellent when he first got to St. Louis, which led to his contract extension, which has led us to today. So it may not be overnight. This may have been building for a while but that he had a slight period where his play for whatever reason got better and that coincided with his arrival with the Blues. I was mentioning to Jim the other day that Scandella is kind of in the same spot as Sanford and Allen were at points in their Blues' career. It wasn't that they made a whole lot of mistakes, it's that when they made one, the puck was in the back of the net, which made them look that much worse. Scandella is 32, a point where a player's career seldom gets better.
    This trade deadline is a dicey proposition. If the Blues get someone with term like Provorov he makes 6.75 per year. How are the going to extend Husso. Which is more important.
  • I can't say with total certainty, but acquiring a fourth defenseman who makes more than $6 million is not something it seems to me that would be beneficial to the Blues. Armstrong likes Faulk, likes Krug and likes Parayko, so they're going to be the crux of this defensive unit and are very unlikely to be going anywhere any time soon.
    Tom, how worried should fans in Sin City be right now over the Knight's lackluster play? Is this just another cautionary tale of what happens when a team loads up on stars at the expense of better depth?
    We talked about this on the podcast today, and the Golden Knights' fixation with the next shiny object to come along, even if there's no room to put them. I suspect that there are a lot of people, both fans and front office types, who have a bit of a smile about the Knights' struggles. Injuries are a problem, and their salary cap situation is a mess and isn't going to be better. I saw some numbers, maybe this morning, about how a lot of the difference between Vegas and Seattle is that Vegas got great play out of Fleury in goal and Seattle hasn't gotten great play out of Grubauer in goal. Right now, Vegas isn't a playoff team and it's going to be tough for them to turn things around. They are on the down escalator.
    Recently (maybe yesterday) in the Post, I read that the Blues' record against playoff teams was close to the same as against teams out of the playoffs.This statistic and your answer below about the Blues as a 40-minute team suggest that a problem area may be motivation/getting a consistent effort. The players will sometimes say in post-game press talk that ups and downs happen to all teams, that no team starts and stays hot all year long. But does motivation seem a problem for the Blues more than what might be expected over a season? If they had won just four or five more of those games against weak teams, their record would rival those of the teams you single out below--Carolina, Florida, Calgary, Colorado. Last (sorry to make this so long)--Florida is having a great year after Joel Quenneville was let go, so how much is the head coach supposed to instill motivation? The Blues don't regret extending Berube, do they? But whose job is it if not the head coach to get a team to perform up to their level?
    I think that was in Jim's story Monday for Tuesday (since I know it wasn't in one of mine), and it's an issue for the Blues. Ultimately, it falls on the players. It's their job to perform up to their level. Yes the coaches are supposed to get them to play their best, but Berube or Van Ryn or Ott or Montgomery can scream or cajole or do whatever it is and it's the players who have to do it, and the players' inability to do it is their fault, not the coaches. However, as the saying goes, you can't fire the whole team, so when these things go bad, it's the coach who pays the price. When Larry Pleau fired Joel Quenneville, he hated to do it because he thought Q was a great coach but it was the only way to turn the team around. I don't think the Blues regret extending Berube. I think they've won more games this season than they should have, and that reflects on the staff. Kyrou and Thomas are flourishing under this staff.
    Is it possible with this stupid playoff format that a team with more points then a third place team in a division could get screwed out of the playoffs?
    I'm looking at points projections right now that have the sixth place team in Central, Winnipeg, finishes with 90 points, while the third-place team in the Pacific, right now Edmonton, projects to finish with 95. So it's do-able, but if it happens, it would likely be close. I haven't looked at all the numbers to see if it's happened; a lot might well depend on whether there were meaningless games in the final weeks that swung things.
    I marvel at the Blues position as one of the top-5 scoring teams in the league with not one player anywhere among the league's scoring leaders. Talk about balance among the top three lines. ... That said, if they can come up with an effective fourth line, they'll be hard to beat in the playoffs -- even if the fourth line doesn't ever score a goal.
  • Jordan Kyrou is, at the moment, tied for 57th in the league in goals. It's impressive what the Blues have done with what may end up being nine 20-goal scorers. I'm sure Armstrong or Berube wouldn't mind someone being in the top 10. Their balance up top has made it hard for opponents to shut down their top line, because really the first three are all about the same. The current fourth line has brought a good level of puck possession.
  • Hi Tom. Thanks for doing this.
    Agree completely with your take on NetFront Presence that there aren’t any obvious trades now that suddenly make the Blues equal to Colorado, Carolina, or Florida. That said, there is a 6’9” legend with a mean streak at an affordable salary.
    I’d be delighted of they got Big Z for a draft pick.
    Chara is an intriguing candidate. His cap hit is $750,000, so he can fit in easily. Though he doesn't have a no-trade clause, I'm sure the Islanders will work with him on where he wants to go, if he did want to go, because of his status. The question will be does he want to go and play in the Western Conference, which generally means more plane time and more nights away from home than you do in the East. The fact there isn't much time left in the season might help.
    Tom, what's your impression of Cal-Gary (using the Gordo pronunciation)? Are the Flames bagging points playing in a weaker division or have they replaced the Knights as the Avs biggest hurdle to finally making a Cup final?
    I think Calgary is a very good team that is solid both on offense and defense that has also gotten very good goaltending this season. I think they are very real. They will be a tough matchup for anyone. At once, it looked like the smart play in the Western Conference was fourth place in the Central, and a move to the Pacific half of the bracket, but now, that's not a good option because of Cal-Gary. I would not want to face Calgary. The Blues looked absolutely awful against Calgary once and not-so-bad the other time. One more meeting to go in the regular season.
    Tom, what about goaltending makes the position so volatile? In addition to Binnington's struggles, we've seen former Vezina candidates like Grubauer, Hellebuyck, and MA Fleury experience a drop in play this season. Conversely, you have a guy like Shesterkin, who's been solid over his career, suddenly become unbeatable on a nightly basis. Why, if your name isn't Vasilevskiy, is it so hard for goalies to string together solid season after solid season? Is the position that mercurial, or is the secret to great goaltending that it generally depends on the strength of a team's d-core?
    There's just a very fine line on goalies. The difference between good and bad is measured in tenths or hundredths of a second or in centimeters. It helps to have a solid D-corps that limits chances and keeps players out of the crease and blocks shots. A lot of times, I look at great saves by goalies and think it's as much the fault of the shooter. Husso had one of those recently. Stuck out his pad to make the stop. But it also helped that the shooter, I think it was Dryden Hunt, shot the puck back into Husso's body rather than to the open space to his right. (Like I could have done better.) The puck found him rather than he found the puck. But there are other saves made that are truly spectacular in their own right. There's a huge mental component. It's got to be one of the toughest jobs in sports. Very very few can be very good at it every season.
    Hi Mr. Timmermann, thanks for your time today.

    Colorado just re-upped Francouz for 2 years/$4 million. Is that a suitable comparison for Husso? They have similar career numbers and experience (Francouz 50 games, 2.42 .923, and Ville 41 games 2.62 .915). If that's what Husso is looking for, would the Blues go there?
    At that price, sure, the Blues would go for that. A $2 million annual salary cap hit would fit in very well with their cap situation. The Blues paid the noted Chad Johnson $1.75 million and they would probably have to pay a comparable amount if they went for a goalie on the free agent market. I'm not sure Husso would go for that deal though. The goalie market has been hot recently, so there may be more money out there for Husso if he goes on the market.
    Hi Tom, thanks for doing this.
    With Pittsburgh coming to town, we can revisit Mikkola’s punch that bloodied Crosby and perhaps inspired Syd the Kid to lead his team to victory the last time they played. You didn’t dwell on that in your game coverage then. Why not?
  • When a game ends, I've got maybe two hours to do interviews and write a coherent story. Sometimes it's less. There is a finite amount of space for a story. There are plenty of issues to address. Sometimes things fall through the cracks. My recollection is that Mikkola's punch made the early version of the story but was crowded out of the later version by other things that happened. In almost any game story, you can find some topic that doesn't get addressed. I have a friend in the business who after filing a game story would routinely say, "I forgot to mention the defense!" It happens.
    Mr. Timmermann,
    ESPN's weekly power rankings on their website also included their opinion for the best trade for each team in the past 10 years. For the Blues, they chose the ROR deal. Hard to argue with that one, although I think the Brayden Schenn and JayBo deals deserve an honorable mention. Any other gems you can think of? How about worst trades in that time frame? I nominate the Ben Bishop deal and the T.J. Oshie trade.
    The O'Reilly and Schenn trades stand out because not only did the Blues acquire key assets, they also unloaded bad contracts. Lehtera and Berglund were potentially anchors around the Blues' necks for as long as their contracts lasted. Acquiring the draft pick that produced Tarasenko was a nice one. 
    On the bad side, it can be tough to measure sometimes because other factors come into play. The Blues got Buchnevich for Sammy Blais, but the Rangers were in a case where they needed to unload salary and not take much on. So the trade was unbalanced, but the Rangers weren't in position to get a good player in return. (On a smaller scale, the same goes for the Sanford-Brown trade; the Blues needed to have $1 million less on the books than they did before the trade.) 
    Just a comment. I will NEVER forgive Hitchcock for the Oshie trade.
    That was a case where the Blues figured they weren't going to be able to afford the extra cap hit that Oshie was going to get with his new contract. An 8-year, $46 million contract like he got from the Caps was not in cards.
    Buchnevich trade was larceny!
    The Blues certainly took advantage of the Rangers' bind.
    If I am Army I lock Husso in for a good extension. Then either him or Binner can be traded in the off season or the next season when Binner does not have full no trade protection. That's the smart play. Husso is technically elite and he is less likely to be inconsistent then the smaller emotionally mercurial Binner.
    Husso is playing well. The team has been expecting this for years. Trading Binnington is something that could happen, but right now Husso has had less than one good season in the NHL. It might be a bit early to go all in on him.
    Coaches say every game matters, but some wins matter more than others. Considering the standings and their string of poor play, was Saturday's win over the Preds the Blues' biggest victory of the season?
  • As a four-point game against a divisional rival, the Blues win over the Predators does carry extra weight, but if it's the biggest win, it's the biggest SO FAR. Over the final six weeks of the season, there will be two games with Minnesota and another with Nashville that could easily eclipse it in importance. The overtime win over Florida on Dec. 7, or the shootout win over Tampa on Nov. 30, were at the time very big wins, coming against two of the top teams in the league at a time when the Blues weren't playing all that well and had a bunch of players out.
  • Well Tom you throw water on Chariot and Provorov possible acquisitions. So you don't want to acquire Blue line help? What about Seattle Lauzon, Soucey, Olesiak? More affordable?
    I'm all in favor of acquiring blueline help. Soucy is probably available and would be a decent fit, but again, making that trade happen won't be easy. He's got a year more on his contract too, so the price is going to be a little higher. Until someone takes Scandella, it's going to be hard to make any of these deals.
    We're entering the home stretch and my participant counter tells me some people have joined in recently, so if you have a question, now is the time to ask.
    Army needs to sign Husso and if he wants 4 million per year he's do it. Your low balling him with that other poster is not the play. Husso is possibly elite. Sign him and trade Binner you are creating Ben Bishop 2.0 with your views.
    Trading Binnington, if the Blues wanted to do that, will not be easy. He makes a lot of money for a very long time. Long-term contracts and goalies seldom work out, and some team is going to have to be awfully sold on Binnington to make that deal. Binnington won the Blues a Stanley Cup. Armstrong respects that. Husso has not won a Stanley Cup.
    OK gang, it looks like that's it for the afternoon. Thanks for joining in. A week from now, we'll know whether or not the Blues made any trade deadline moves and what the homestretch of the season looks like for these guys. Gordo will be on hand for his chat on Friday, so feel free to run trade theories past him. And there's a fresh Net Front Presence podcast out there today in which we talk about the trade situation for the Blues.
    I like Husso and would like to see him brought back, but I’d guess Army views him and the position in general with a different perspective than fans. Probably need to pump the brakes on naming Husso as the second coming. Binningtons 2019 was the single most important season in Blues history and he’s followed it up with good, but not great years. The rise and fall of goalies in the NHL is well documented. Hopefully Husso has a good, long career. But haven’t seen enough to bet big on it.
    (But wait, there's more!)
  • Goalies are just tough. Husso has allowed three or more goal in six of his past seven games, though in some of those games, it's easy to say he still won the games for them. Husso was extensively surpassing his expected goals numbers at the start of the season. He's been more even with them lately. Husso has yet to appear in a playoff game with the Blues. That's usually where young goalies make their marks.
    OK, now I'm going to say it's time (unless another question shows up while I'm typing this). We'll be back next week. At least one of us will. I haven't looked at the schedule yet.
    Thanks as always. You can't say there won't be enough hockey over the next six weeks. Pretty much every other day from here on out. 
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