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.

    It's hockey season. It's almost Blues season. Jim and Jeff and I just finished recording a podcast, so that will probably go online while I'm answering questions, so what better way to get ready for the season than reading me while also listening to me? OK, I can name a few too. Anyway, looks like there are some questions waiting, so welcome to almost our first chat of the Blues regular season. Off we go.
    Blues first round draft picks rarely seem to work out for us, this seems like a big orgainzational problem. Going back a while, you have 2014-Fabri (best season 37 points, traded), 2016-Thompson (9 points before traded), 2017-Kostin (best season 9 points, traded), 2017-Thomas, 2018-Bokk (No NHL games), 2019-Alexandrov (no NHL games). Is this as bad as it looks?
    I don't think it's as bad as it looks. Fabbri was waylaid by two knee injuries. Thompson, it turns out, was a good pick who just peaked later. I was just talking about this with Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News this morning. Buffalo wanted Thomas or Kyrou but Armstrong turned them down so they took Thompson and it just took him a few more years than it took Thomas to find his game. Thompson may end up scoring more goals than the rest of them. Kostin was a disappointment, but he was the last pick of the first round, and if you're going to say the Blues didn't do well there with pick 31, you should give them credit for connecting with Kyrou at pick 35 the year before. Bokk, along with Joel Edmundson, turned into Faulk and turned out to be a great trade because Bokk has gone back to Europe and may never make the NHL. Alexandrov was a second round pick, though the Blues first overall, will make his NHL debut this season and he was No. 62 overall, which means he's practically a third-round pick, and largely irrelevant to this discussion. 
    The cupboard is getting a bit thin because the Blues have traded a lot of picks over the years, and how the post-Bill Armstrong period goes remains to be seen, but the Blues have done well considering they have usually been picking in the back half of the first round. 
    Who are your candidates to fall back, and who do you expect to take another step forward?
    The numbers say Barbashev and Schenn won't score as many goals this season because they shot so far over what is their normal shooting percentage last season. So many Blues played so well, at least offensively, last season compared to their norms, it's tough to see many of them scoring significantly more. O'Reilly is actually a candidate, though, because he started last season poorly but ended it strong. If he starts like he finished, he could have a more productive season. Among younger guys, Mikkola has to step forward defensively and take on more of a role.
    Valerie Nichushkin DOMINATED the S.C. finals for the AV's. He was drafted #10 in 2013 by Dallas. He was bought out in 2016 and signed by Colorado for the league minimum in 2016. I hope Kostin does the same. His confidence is now at a low point I am sure. Some players take longer with a new coach and environment to come to life. Berube put the emphasis on the wrong things with Klim making a skilled forward a grinder and an overly aggressive physical player did not serve Kostin. And don't tell me playing 5 minutes with ROR was some opportunity with top six minutes. Consensus says he's a great skater, elite shot, big and strong. So who messed up his confidence? I love Chief but he did Kostin wrong by forcing him to be a physical player to impress him. He got in all these fights hoping to impress Chief. The kid was confused on what kind of player he needed to be to make the NHL. Waters a first round pick and I hope he becomes Nichushkin 2.0.
    The Blues were looking for consistency from Kostin and never got it. Kostin's thing has always been to be a power forward, physical player. That's what they've been looking for all this time, and there have been far too many stretches of Kostin's Blues career where he has been unnoticeable. Compare him to Toropchenko in that regard. Or Walker. You notice them on the ice. I think the Blues would have traded Kostin this summer had Toropchenko not been hurt, but now, I just don't see who on this roster I would play Kostin ahead of. So best of luck to him in Edmonton/Bakersfield. 
    I almost hate to bring this up, but another person in the chat has asked for Roy's prediction for the Blues this season.   
    I found it interesting the team's three Russians are on one of the PP lines. Did Chief use all three on a PP unit last season?
  • My power play notes aren't as detailed as my line notes, but usually the Blues had Perron out there with Tarasenko, so that usually got in the way of having all the Russians on one power play unit. So if it did happen, it was briefly.
    Gordzonga spelled it out the West conference is very competitive. Who will stay healthy? That's the big X factor in the league. Because of Saros and some nice additions I think Nashville is going to be a very good team. Going to be a tough year for this thin Blues team. Lost 2 guys already!
    I guess this may count as Roy's predcition.
    The Blues are not deep on the blueline, and I would not have been surprised if they had tried to grab someone on waivers, but they are tight on cap space, so options may have been limited. (Mike Rielly, for instance, would have been an interesting pickup.) 
    Defense is where this team needs to improve. That will come from all quarters of the team, but the biggest deal will be Binnington in goal. 
    Any news on when the Blues hall of fame will become a reality? Dan Kelly should be among the first inductees, Gus Kyle should be included someday, among his many highlights Gus coined the phrase "barn burner". The professor Ron Caron has to be in there someday too.
    The Blues must certainly know where they plan to put it, they just haven't said it. Chris Zimmerman told me they have been talking about this for years and finally moved ahead with it this season. Dan Kelly is part of the original class, and a few more selections will be announced on Saturday. There is some thought that the team should start with guys from the early teams who are still alive so they can be honored while they're still around to appreciate it.
    What do you know about Dmitri Samorukov,and will we see him this year?
    If Blues fans see Samorukov this season, something is going very wrong. I would think at the moment he's behind Santini, Tucker and Kessel at Springfield in terms of being called up. So unless he starts playing out of his mind, you're looking at three guys getting hurt before he wears a Blues uniform. 
    Samurokov has played one NHL game, against the Blues, where he played four shifts and gave up goals on two of them, not looking very good in the process. Samurokov had just cleared waivers when the Blues traded for him. This was basically a swap of two guys who their teams felt would have a better chance playing elsewhere. He's 6-3, so at least he looks like a Blues defenseman. 
    There were many NHL experienced goalies in the wavier wire, if Griess turns into Chad Johnson can they replace him cheaply?
    If Greiss stumbles, unless it's in the first few weeks of the season, the Blues will turn to Joel Hofer (unless Hofer is stumbling himself). I suppose if there was a case where the timing was right and a team was moving a goalie at the time through waivers and the guy was making the league minimum, the Blues might try to grab him, but I think if you're looking for goalie salvation, it will be coming from within. The Blues won't have the cap room to take someone making too much above the minimum.
    Happy Wednesday Tom, thank you for the chats. Next week its the real thing!


    Speaking of Klim Kostin, do you believe he purposely avoided playing Chief's style of play in order to be traded? Klim knew what was expected of him but he wouldn't do it.

    Kostin obviously has talent, I believe Kostin thinks he is a thirty goal scorer but the Blues wouldn't let him show his talent. Sometime during last season I saw a clip of the Blues players being asked who was the best soccer player on the team and several players made a point of saying "not Klim Kostin". Kostin may be one of those guys who thinks he is the best at everything, contrary to other people's opinions or objective reality.

    The Oilers should be the ideal team for Kostin, one that will allow him to show off his offensive prowess without asking him to back check or hit anybody.
  • I've taken Barry's questions out of order, for the record, so that's why he's saying hello in his second question.
    If Kostin purposely avoid playing Berube's style in order to be traded, that would be one very cocky move, because that's not a great way to make another team want to acquire you. And it's not certain yet that Kostin will actually be with Edmonton. For the moment, he's in Bakersfield while they get his visa situation sorted out.
    I've certainly had people tell me over the years that Kostin would be a great power forward on a top line but even then, it was clear that his role on that line would be to win battles in corners for loose pucks and get the puck to people who could score. Kostin has never in the NHL shown himself as a guy with a great shot or someone who could generate a lot of offense with his playmaking. 
    Berube has said it a bunch of times: they want to see consistency from Kostin, to know what they will get from him on the ice. They never felt they were getting that. And once a player has to go through waivers, it's usually in a team's best interest to trade him for something rather than risk losing him for something. Maybe Kostin finds a home in Edmonton. The Oilers got him cheaply enough, trading a defenseman who was in pretty much the same situation as Kostin. 
    Would a 15/20 G/A year be good or great for Neighbors? Should we expect 3rd line minutes, 12-15 for him?
    Jake Neighbours will, at the start of the season, be a third line wing. It's unclear as to whether the Blues would drop him down to the fourth line if that situation arose or they would send him down to Springfield. Neighbours has said he would gladly play on the fourth line if needed. Armstrong has said they would send him to Springfield if it came to that. Neighbours will probably get 12-15 minutes a night at the start since he won't be getting power play time. If he got 15 goals, that would be a very good season for him.
    What remains to be seen is what happens when Logan Brown comes back. Brown was having a good camp and making a solid case for third line center. Once he's healthy again, and if Toropchenko is healthy too, that may not leave any space for Neighbours, and if he's going to be a healthy scratch, they'll send him to Springfield where he can get 20 minutes a night. 
    I predict another outstanding season for Tarasenko. A payday awaits Vlad and David Perron is gone which leaves a spot for him on the PP. If Vlad could master the one-timer he would score 50.
    I think I've long passed the point where anyone should listen to my opinion on Tarasenko, who I pretty definitively stated last season was no longer a 30-goal scorer. (Though, in my own defense, I did not see the rise in scoring in the NHL coming last season, and Tarasenko clearly benefitted from that.) If the league reverts to how it had been before, than Tarasenko's numbers will inevitably come down.
    Berube has talked of Tarasenko as one of the players who does have a good one-timer and they have been working with him on taking it. As Jeff Gordon points out on the podcast, at this point in one's career, one either takes a one-timer or doesn't. It's a little late to expect a major career change. Tarasenko proved last season that his shoulder is not holding him back. He turns 31 in December and is at a point in his career where players not named David Perron see things starting to slow down. Tarasenko saw a bump, in some cases a big bump, in all of his offensive analytics last season, while his defensive numbers fell through the floor. But with another good offensive season, someone, most likely not the Blues, will offer him a good contract after this season. 
    And as we start the second hour, here's another welcome and a further invitation to ask questions.
    We'd all love to see O'Reilly get extended, but how much is too much? The Blues already have a lot of long term money committed to players in their thirties, so they have to be really careful about this extension. A five year, $6.5M AAV sounds pretty fair (and Army seems to love that 6.5M number - see Parayko, Schenn, Faulk and Krug), but would the Blues even want to go there? They'd have those five players locked up at $32.5M per year for the next four years well into their thirties in each case. Even if the cap starts to go up more generously in the next couple of years, there is a risk that two, three or in a worst case scenario, all of those players start to decline and those contracts become unmovable anchors. Nothing like a little doom and gloom speculation to start a Blues season right?
    Nothing wrong with a little doom and gloom, especially when it's tinged with reality. The Parayko, Schenn, Faulk and Krug contracts all are going to be issues going forward. If all four of those guys are still making substantive contributions to the Blues in the last couple years of those deals, Armstrong is the shrewdest judge of talent on the planet. Armstrong acknowledged at the time of several of them -- I no longer remember which -- that those contracts could be a problem in their final years, but that it would be the next GM's problem. (Though there's now a very good chance he's around for those, unless he has retirement plans he's kept quiet.) 
    Next season will be the tough one with O'Reilly. That's where the Blues will have the tightest crunch. If the cap starts going up as projected in the year after that, making him fit won't be as hard. But I don't know that O'Reilly is going to want to sign a low-AAV one-year contract. And I really don't know what a fair deal will be for him for next season. This season will determine a lot of that. If he picks up where he left off, he'll be in line for a big number. If he doesn't, well, he won't. $6.5 million might be a tad high for a player who will be 32 and not the No. 1 center anymore. But with O'Reilly you certainly get your money's worth. 
    I think the Blues will find a way to keep him, though at the moment, I'm not exactly sure how that happens. 
    Hi Nice to see hockey back. I can make a case for signing O'Reilly and one for Vladi. I do believe its on or the another. Consensus seems that it will be O'Reilly. Do see Armstrong thinking something else?
  • At the moment, it may not matter what Armstrong thinks. It may matter what Tarasenko thinks. And right now, I don't know that Tarasenko wants to re-sign with the Blues. The guy made a trade request and has not said he no longer wants to be traded. He has expressed a preference to play elsewhere. So would he sign with the Blues as a free agent when he is at a point where he can pick and choose where he will play next?  
    But yes, the numbers say the Blues can't sign both and I think that given a choice, they would opt for keeping O'Reilly. who is more the 200-foot player. 
    What's your prediction for the upcoming season (playoffs, contender, bust)?
    I think the Blues will make the playoffs. I don't think they will finish ahead of Colorado -- barring some catastrophe in the Rockies -- and after that, I think the next few spots in the Central will come down to who stays healthy and whose goalie plays good. They are a fringe Stanley Cup candidate -- again, things will have to go right and Colorado remains a formidable road block who the Blues would likely have to face in the first or second round. Once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen. The Blues almost took Colorado to seven games last season and in a Game 7, anything can happen. The team's defense concerns me.
    Should we be worried about depth if injuries' start to pile up? Can we sustain losing ROR or Leddy for a period of time for example.
    Losing O'Reilly would be a problem and losing Leddy, or anyone on the defense, would be a concern. The Blues have pretty much used up their defensive depth already. I don't know that Calle Rosen is a long term solution and Kessel and Tucker need a little more time in the AHL. Tucker is probably the next guy up on defense, which is why I wouldn't be surprised if the Blues went out on the market if they had another long-term defensive injury.
    An injury for O'Reilly would create holes all over the ice, because he plays everywhere, and would give the team a lot of ice time to fill. The Blues, like just about every team, are more equipped to replace a guy lower on the ladder than they are a first or second line center. It was pretty obvious going into this season who the top forwards were going to be; it was pretty well defined line. There's a clear gap between who's in St. Louis and who's in Springfield. But the Blues could do some juggling within if something happened to O'Reilly. Schenn can play in a lot of places and Barbashev can be on almost any line. But the power play and the penalty kill would also need someone new.
    Another entry into the Blues HOF is Susie Mathieu, VP of Public Relations for the Blues 1975 to '95. I have attached a YouTube clip form 1986, it says she was the first woman PR director for any professional sports team. youtube-nocookie.com

    There are so many people who helped make the Blues what they are today. Maybe Bill Wirtz of the Blackhawks should be tone of the first inductees along with the Solomons, Wirtz was owner of the Blackhawks at the time of expansion, he put in a good word with the NHL to go ahead and award STL an expansion team. Wirtz had an ulterior motive however, he had been trying for years to sell the Arena and the Solomons would buy it and make it the home of the Blues.
    Susie Mathieu is on the selection committee, so it's not as though she'll go unnoticed by the people who choose. It's a bit vague how the actual selection process works -- I'm not on it, so maybe they just haven't told me -- as to whether they meet and discuss and vote or if everyone just sends in names and they tabulate the votes. One thing I can promise you: Bill Wirtz isn't going in.
    Who is on your opening night starting lines?
    Today in Charleston, the lines were:
    Saad-O’Reilly-Kyrou
    Buchnevich-Thomas-Tarasenko
    Neighbours-Schenn-Barbashev
    Leivo-Acciari-Walker
    No reason to change up those. You have the successful Thomas line back from last season and you put Kyrou with O'Reilly. It's been Saad or Schenn for the third spot on that line, but with Brown out, they need Schenn to center the third line, so that takes care of that decision.
    Toropchenko still hasn't been cleared to play, and while he's been training with the team all camp, he hasn't played in a game since April. Logan Brown still isn't skating yet because of what looks like a shoulder injury, so I think this is pretty likely what you'll see Saturday. If Toropchenko somehow can play, he'd go in Leivo's spot. 
    And on defense:
    Leddy-Parayko
    Krug-Faulk
    Mikkola-Bortuzzo
    Based on the Rangers game last night the NHL is going to have a banner year. Unless WW3 erupts of course. They were chanting "IGOR" all night. I've never seen such enthusiasm for the first game of the season. Credit to Bettman over the years his Southern US expansion of the league was criticized no ice Blah blah. Tampa Bay, Nashville, Carolina, Anaheim, Dallas are all thriving franchises. The league has never been this popular in the USA. You concur?
    Well, I don't know that I'd say Carolina and Anaheim are thriving franchises. I've seen an awful lot of empty seats at games in both of those places. Going back a few years, I remember Doug Weight taking a high stick to the face in Anaheim and you could hear his expletive in the top row of the arena (which Doug was very embarrassed about when I told him). In the Los Angeles market, the Ducks get less media attention than: Lakers, Dodgers, Rams, Angels, Clippers, Chargers, UCLA, USC and Kings, and comparable to the two MLS teams. 
    But yes, the league has never been this popular in America, though if it was going in the other direction, there would be serious concerns at this point in the league's history. But it's got more television coverage than ever, is in more markets than ever and brings in more money than ever. It's a good time for the NHL. 
    The season really started last night (excluding the Preds-Sharks series in Europe), but the Blues don't play their second game until Oct 19. Their opponent that night will be the Kraken, who will be playing their fifth game of the season. I quickly checked around the league, and the other teams playing that night will be playing their fourth game while most of the teams playing the night before will be playing their fourth game as well. Do you have any idea why this is the case? I seem to remember the same scenario playing out last year although I didn't have the time to go back and look. I don't think it's that big of a deal, but it seems like this could be a small disadvantage to the Blues as you would prefer to have a compact schedule at the start of the season when you are relatively fresh as opposed to a couple more back to backs later on when there will be more injuries and fatigue.
    There are concerts at Enterprise Center on Wednesday and Friday. No idea how far in advance those were scheduled or if they had options on dates. The Blues have, in the past, not wanted to be at home at the start of the season to avoid going up against Cardinals playoff games. Schedules are weird ducks. 
    According to Micah Blake McCurdy at hockeyviz.com, the Blues have nine games this season where they have a day (or more) of rest and their opponent doesn't and nine games where their opponent has at least a day of rest and the Blues don't. They're fairly close to the middle of the pack in that category. 
    Borts has been used as a 7th defenseman throughout his time as a Blue, now he is a regular on the third pair, I t’s unlikely he has improved with age. Should we worry about the depth at D, do the Blues need three 30+ year olds to play +22 minutes per night for near 82 games? With LTIR related cap relief do you expect the Blues to trade for a veteran D as the season progresses?
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