Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
This is a team, I would humbly opine, that is at an interesting crossroads.
After reaching the Western Conference finals last season and unburdening themselves of some playoff demons in doing so, the Blues finally turned a powerhouse regular season into a spring of substance.
But of interest to me now is where this team goes from here. Are the Blues taking that next step? Or is their window beginning to close? For one, this is Ken Hitchcock's last season behind the St. Louis bench -- with the team making the unusual arrangement that newly hired associate coach Mike Yeo will take over next season.
There's also the transition of leadership with longtime captain David Backes leaving via free agency, as did clutch playoff performer Troy Brouwer. And those departures came a year after star winger T.J. Oshie was traded.
This, more than ever, is now the team of new captain Alex Pietrangelo as well as Alexander Steen, one of the team's alternate captains and respected leaders.
from Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
So the Blues weren’t on his radar screen. After all, they had played a “heavy” game the previous few seasons while emulating the Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings.
“When the Blues called — they were the first team to call — I was kind of shocked a little bit and happy because I always liked it here,” said Perron, who wore the Note from 2007-2013 before playing in Edmonton, Pittsburgh and Anaheim.
Perron’s return, the hiring of Mike Yeo as coach in waiting and the pursuit of wayward son Vladimir Sobotka were part of the stylistic overhaul general manager Doug Armstrong envisioned for his team.
This shift to a faster tempo sets up a fascinating season as the Blues transition from coach Ken Hitchcock to Yeo, from departed captain David Backes to new captain Alex Pietrangelo and from the steady netminding of Brian Elliott to the aggressive goaltending of Jake Allen.
Veteran hit men Troy Brouwer and Steve Ott are gone, along with the bulldozing Backes. Tenacious forwards Perron, Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri and perhaps Ty Rattie will assume bigger roles.
“I love the way this team plays,” Perron said. “I think I’ve played my best hockey when I play that kind of style.”
(Oct. 4, 2016) – Barret Jackman announced his retirement from the National Hockey League (NHL) today, after signing a one-day contract with the St. Louis Blues. Jackman leaves behind a 14-year career, during which he played in 13 seasons and over 800 games with the Blues.
from Darren Dreger ot The Dreger Report at TSN,
I've covered Hitchcock teams since the 1980s when he had great success coaching the WHL's Kamloops Blazers and have always been impressed by his boundless energy and passion for the game. I, like many others, believed Hitch would have to be dragged from the bench, kicking and screaming, and didn't expect he would leave coaching on his own terms — at least, not yet.
This week, I circled back to check in on the Blues and to see how the 64-year-old coach was managing his final NHL training camp. We chatted about the depth of his team and some of the things he likes and doesn't like about his roster before the conversation inevitably got deeper. My search was for an emotional storyline; to talk about the things he will miss most about coaching in the NHL. Instead, Hitchcock opened the door, just a crack, to the possibility this may not be his final season. While his intention to step away remains the same, he won't know for sure until the end of the season.
“That [coming back] is possible, but that's in May or June and that's a long time off and you know I just don't think at this time...I don't think it's fair to do that,” Hitchcock told the Dreger Report. “I'm going to coach like crazy and I want to see how I feel and if I feel different then I will let somebody know. Other than that, I feel like I want to pour it all in now and then take stock at a different time.
“My vested interest is in coaching and in the coaches and in that fraternity. So for me, that's got to be a major focus until the day comes when I don't have my wits about me. My focus is in those people. It's working with the people who are on the firing line.”
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
The Blues haven’t confirmed a statement by Vladimir Sobotka’s Russian team that he will report to the Kontinental Hockey League on Wednesday. But they are making plans to move on without the forward, who apparently has failed in his efforts to be released from his contract overseas.
The KHL tweeted a comment from Avangard president Vladimir Shalaev on Tuesday that said Sobotka will honor the final season of his three-year, $12 million contract and not be rejoining the Blues.
“The situation with Sobotka (is) developing exactly as we expected,” Shalaev said in a statement. “In the summer, we talked about the fact that Vladimir — our team player because he has a valid contract with the ‘Vanguard’ for another year. Rumors about leaving Sobotka in the ‘St. Louis’ remained rumors ...”
After the report surfaced on Avangard’s website Tuesday morning, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch that he is “still waiting to hear” definitive word from Sobotka’s camp.
from Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
“As a team being able to experience that, we’ve had a core here that’s been here for a while now but we’ve never been able to push through like we did last year,” Kevin Shattenkirk said. “To finally break through like that was again another learning experience, another eye-opening lesson for us to know that it only gets harder each round you go.”
The Blues ran out of gas in the conference final. They appeared exhausted after playing grueling seven-game series against the Blackhawks and Stars.
If they had closed out each series in six games against the Blackhawks and Stars, you have to believe that a different, stronger, faster, fresher Blues team would have eliminated the Sharks in the conference final.
That argument, however, is impossible to prove. Heck, it might even be silly to bring it up. But you definitely have to wonder, don’t you?
Whatever the case, the majority of this Blues roster no longer has to wonder what it takes to push through three grueling rounds to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
(Sept. 23, 2016) – St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today that the Blues have signed forward Alexander Steen to a four-year contract extension worth $23 million.
“We are extremely excited to have Alexander signed for the next four seasons,” said Armstrong. “He has developed into one of the league’s premier 200-foot players and is a key member of our leadership group. He has shown tremendous loyalty to the Blues organization, its fans and the St. Louis community.
Steen, 32, is entering his ninth season in St. Louis after the Blues acquired him via trade from Toronto on Nov. 24, 2008. In 2015-16, the 6’0, 205-pound forward dressed in 67 regular season games, ranking second on the Blues with 35 assists and 52 points, and fifth with 17 goals. During the 2016 postseason, Steen led the Blues to their first trip to the Western Conference Final in 15 years, posting 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 20 appearances.
from Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
This Vladimir Sobotka kerfuffle has given Blues fans much to ponder as training camp nears.
The versatile forward departed for Russia as a free agent two years ago when Blues general manager Doug Armstrong fell $300,000 short of meeting his demands. Last summer he decided to remain overseas.
Sobotka finally promised to return to the Blues this season after two productive years in the KHL, but Omsk Avangard insists it still has him under contract. So there it sits.
Uncertainty has been nagging fans since Sobotka left. What might have been had he stayed? What could be if he returns? And is there is a Plan B if he doesn’t?
The fan angst is understandable. Sobotka is more than just another checking-line player. He plays all three forward spots, wins faceoffs, forechecks tenaciously, finishes checks, kills penalties and creates scoring opportunities with hard work and his nose for the puck.
ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Blues have invited six players to training camp on a professional tryout basis.
Forwards T.J. Galiardi, Eric Nystrom, Chris Porter and Yan Stastny and defensemen Mike Weber and Scooter Vaughan will join the Blues on the ice when training camp begins.
from Chris Pinkert of St.LouisBlues.com,
The Blues officially introduced Pietrangelo as the club’s new captain during a press conference Thursday afternoon at Scottrade Center. The 26-year-old native of King City, Ontario will join an exclusive list of former Blues to wear an embroidered ‘C’ on the front of the jersey. That group that includes such legendary names as Al Arbour, Brian Sutter, Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Wayne Gretzky, Bernie Federko, Chris Pronger and Barclay Plager.
“When you look at the guys who wore the ‘C,’ those are some big shoes to fill,” Pietrangelo said. “Not just good leaders, but good people that have represented themselves and their teammates in a great way. It’s my job now to carry on that tradition.”
The decision to name a captain came less than two months after the previous captain, David Backes, departed for the Boston Bruins via free agency on July 1. Backes had served as the Blues’ captain for the better part of five seasons from 2011-16.
“Being a top draft pick and watching him grow into an elite player in our game, Alex is the perfect age to take the leadership role for this group,” Armstrong said. “We have turned into a younger nucleus of a team, and he can guide that through the next number of years. We’re excited to have him as a captain.
added 3:47pm, St. Louis press release is below...
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