Kukla's Korner Hockey
(Aug. 10, 2015) – St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today that forward Jori Lehtera had successful surgery on his right ankle on Aug. 4. He suffered the injury at the end of last season and is expected to be available to skate in six to eight weeks.
Lehtera, 27, appeared in 75 regular season games with the Blues during his first National Hockey League (NHL) season in 2014-15, posting 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) while ranking second on the club with a +21 rating. He also added two assists in five postseason outings.
from Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
As Blues chairman Tom Stillman waited for recipients to show up at a food bank in Jennings on July 21, he talked about the state of the Blues. The answers have been edited for clarity. The questions have been edited to make them more concise.
Q: Is it tough when you have to trade someone like T.J. Oshie, who’s been around this franchise so long?
A: Honestly, that and Barret Jackman’s departure are, on a personal level, difficult for me. It is really a hard part of the business. I’m comfortable we’re doing the right thing for the team and all, but those two individuals in particular are really wonderful people. I am sad to see them go. It’s weird to see how the guys can just be uprooted, especially in a trade. Those two guys, they were always immediately willing to do anything to help. Barret Jackman showed up everywhere. He was at the Mathews-Dickey event last year, he would have been here (at the food bank in Jennings). T.J. Oshie, anything you asked him, he’d say, Sure, I’ll do that. He was the guy that was on his knees taking a picture with a kid. I remember at an away game, they had to pull him out of the autograph line. That’s the kind of guy he is. Personally, it’s the tough side of the business.
Obviously, they’ve both been here a long time, and T.J., we saw him grow up here. You become, not close, but friendly with them. I think a lot of fans have sort of a fatherly or motherly view of some of our younger players who have grown up here, so it’s tough to see.
Q: The NHL recently announced that it could expand beyond 30 teams. Would expansion be a good thing for the league?
A: It remains to be seen. The process is open, there’s no commitment that there will be expansion. There’s a long way to go and the league will take a very careful look at it and make sure it’s the right thing on a macro sense for the league and any market candidate will be looked at very carefully. The league is really healthy, it’s hitting on all cylinders. I don’t think it’s ever been stronger, and looking forward to some of the things they have coming down the pike, rather it’s new sponsorship deals, a new level of interest from a number of people, there’s just a lot of things going on.
from Jeremy P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Without the aid of seeing him until training camp in September, Blues fans must hope that Bouwmeester, 31, who has played 900-plus games in the NHL, is providing an accurate assessment when he says a summer of rest and regrouping will allow him to bounce back in 2015-16.
The soft-spoken defenseman never acknowledged the extent of the groin injury last season. Reached back home in Canada on Tuesday, he tiptoed the line of being truthful and not making excuses for a disappointing season, but he did discuss the difficulty the injury caused.
“The whole year was not what I wanted it to be,” Bouwmeester said. “But at the same time, I can kind of break it down and look at it a little differently. Last year, if I go back and look at it, the start of the year was weird. I was feeling good and playing OK and I think I got one point in the first 20 games — nothing was happening. Then with the injury ...”
On Nov. 22, Bouwmeester left a 3-2 victory over Ottawa late in the game when he felt a pop in his groin.
“Right when it happened, you’re saying, ‘OK, I’ve never felt this before ... it doesn’t feel good,’” Bouwmeester remembered. “It was something that was totally foreign.”
“You don’t just bring in six fast skaters, it doesn’t work that way. The ‘faster’ we wanted was more ability to bring it from the back end, that’s where we wanted the speed coming from. I keep using that word ‘reckless,’ more reckless speed from the back end. That’s what (Petteri) Lindbohm does ... (Robert) Bortuzzo is not afraid to do that. We want to play our defense in a much more active role with the puck and a much tighter gap without the puck.
“The quickness is in the kids (Rattie and Fabbri). Some team isn’t just going to give you a really quick player, you’re going to have to develop that. But you can still play quicker, which is what we want to do. We have to play quicker. We need to get back to where we were before, in that we had the ability to play a little bit reckless in joining the play. We need to get back to that element of our game again.”
-Ken Hitchcock, head coach of the St. Louis Blues. More on the Blues from Jeremy P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
from Patrick Little of Alberni Valley Times,
"Mini Ha Ha" was grotesquely oversized for a teenage boy. His weight, I was told, was between three and four hundred pounds. I knew golf course superintendents who cringed knowing Mini was playing their course due to the weight he exerted on the greens with each step he walked. Wearing a signature pork pie hat and carrying clubs, he appeared to waddle down the fairways. I was always surprised how well he managed hitting the ball given the physical disadvantage.
Mini treated me as one of the boys. While he never won any tournaments of significance I was aware of, he did possess a self assurance and confidence that silently seemed to ignore his disability.
All I knew of Mini, outside of golf, was he worked at a bicycle shop in Edmonton's east end. Years later, he etched his name in history as a coach at Canadian junior hockey levels.
His nickname today is Hitch and Ken Hitchcock has become a legendary, respected and well-known National Hockey League coach with a Stanley Cup ring on his finger. Looking at him now though, one might think the greatest win was a battle within himself during those formative years as "Mini Ha Ha."
from Jeremy P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Beyond the numbers, what Brouwer brings to the Blues is a winner’s mentality. That’s not to put the fault of the team’s playoff flameouts on Oshie, but it has been apparent that the club has lacked a championship-pedigree player on its roster in recent postseasons.
“You hear it from a bunch of people when you win, but it’s something that you have to believe in everyday, knowing you’re going to win going into every game,” said Brouwer, who collected four goals and eight points in 19 playoff games during Chicago’s Stanley Cup run in 2010. “The best way I can describe it is, we were having a team dinner before the finals and we didn’t know if we were going to play Philadelphia or Montreal. But we had the mindset of ‘Who cares who we’re going to play? We know we’re going to win.’”
Philadelphia handled Montreal in the Eastern Conference finals, and Chicago won the Cup on Patrick Kane’s overtime goal in Game 6.
“Losing wasn’t even crossing our minds, it didn’t even creep in,” Brouwer said. “That ignorance that nobody can beat you if you don’t want them to, you learn how to do that pretty quick, and if you keep that mentality, it goes a lot further than some people might think.”
from Norm Sanders of the News-Democrat,
After signing an eight-year, $60 million contract extension with the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, star forward Vladimir Tarasenko isn’t concerned with the sudden jump in his financial state.
He’s all about one thing — helping the Blues win a Stanley Cup.
“No, it’s not about the money,” Tarasenko said Wednesday during a conference call with the media. “This is about your personality, how you can talk to the guys, how you can help the guys. I think money is important, but in leadership terms it is nothing. You can sign $60 million contract in one year and your teammates can hate you.
“All I’m thinking about, all I’m dreaming about is winning the Cup.”
The Blues have not been beyond the second round of the playoffs in the last three seasons, losing in the first round in each of the last two.
“I think the last three years our team gets good experience,” said Tarasenko, who also got married last week in Russia. “Right now we lose three years in a row, same style. Those are tough years for us. We just need to break it and we need to go as a group of guys.
“We need to stay all together, all 25 to 27 guys. The main part for me is we need to have one goal. It’s all about the Cup. If 26 guys will dream about the same thing, I think we can make it.”
from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Even some within the organization anticipated more sweeping movement once the decision was made to bring back Hitchcock for another season.
Surely Armstrong would like to find a landing spot for 27-year-old center Patrik Berglund. Unfortunately a three-year, $11.1 million contract with limited no-trade language makes Berglund an immovable object. Steve Ott is owed $2.6 million next season as a fourth-line instigator. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, 31, has four years and $22 million remaining on a deal that looked better before last season.
To be clear, the Blues are hardly an abject case, just a confounding one.
There will be those who again project them as preseason darlings poised to make an extended postseason run based on talent rather than recent history.
Perhaps nuance will finally take their side.
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
The Blues showed the star right winger exactly what they thought of him with a stunning eight-year, $60 million contract. The length of the deal is the longest allowed under the CBA. The $7.5 million average annual value makes Tarasenko the highest-paid player on the team.
To many minds it’s a deal he’s earned. The 23-year-old Tarasenko has quickly established himself as one of the game’s top offensive stars. He scored 37 goals last season, tied for fifth in the league, and ranked 10th with 73 points. Nothing wrong with paying a top player top dollar.
Except, of course, that it’s not the way the system has worked in the past. Young stars at the end of their entry-level deals, as Tarasenko was, often settled for bridge pacts that included significant (but not outlandish) raises and a short terms. Such contracts forced players to prove themselves worthy of bigger deals and protected teams from over-committing to athletes with short résumés.
Now, though, teams need protection not only from themselves but from predacious competitors bearing offer sheets. The fear of losing a good young player to free agency (without getting something tangible, beyond draft picks, in return) is why the cap-strapped Bruins and Blackhawks felt compelled to trade away Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Saad, respectively, both of whom then got significant deals from their new teams.
(July 7, 2015) – St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has signed forward Vladimir Tarasenko to an eight-year, $60 million contract.
Tarasenko, 23, had a breakout season in 2014-15, sharing 10th in the National Hockey League (NHL) overall with 73 points, fifth with 37 goals and seventh with a +27 rating in 77 regular season games. He became the youngest Blue to record a 30-goal season since Brendan Shanahan (1991-92) and the first Blue overall to log 73 total points since Pavol Demitra in 2002-03. The 6’0, 223-pound forward made his first career NHL All-Star Game appearance in January in Columbus while he was named the League’s Second Star for the month of November. Tarasenko was one of four players to post two hat-tricks this season, while he was the only player to record six game-winning goals, six shootout goals and two overtime goals. In addition, he became just the second Blue in club history (Brett Hull) to score a hat-trick that included the game-winning overtime goal, on Oct. 28 in Dallas. For his efforts, Tarasenko was named a 2014-15 Second-Team All-Star - his first career NHL regular season All-Star selection.
added 1:15pm, Below watch Doug Armstrong talk about the deal...
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