Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Justin Bourne of The Score,
Ken Hitchcock's conservative coaching style seems to limit the Blues shot output
Nobody’s ever accused Ken Hitchcock of coaching his hockey teams to play like the Russian Red Army, and the Blues of 2013-14 provided the latest reminder why. From his Dallas teams on out, he’s always preferred the safe play to run-and-gun hockey.
This “safety first” approach to decision making (particularly through the middle) has worked well for St. Louis, who’s been a home ice playoff team in the West three straight seasons. What it does do, unfortunately, is limit the offense of a roster that wasn’t exactly dripping with it. Being careful with the puck is great when you’ve got natural producers; when you don’t, you can run into problems scoring. That they’ve won a mere five playoff games through four series over three years speaks to that.
Former Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey will be used as a coaching consultant for the St. Louis Blues during the season.
In his new capacity, Gainey will talk with current Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock throughout the year.
The Peterborough, Ontario native was general manager of the Canadiens from 2003-10, amassing a regular season record of 241-176-46-7.
He also served as an adviser for the Canadiens until 2012.
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Mueller went to Switzerland last season, signing with Kloten, which he led in scoring 26 goals and 46 points in 49 games, ranking third in the Swiss league.
“You talk to anyone that puts the puck in the net, you get 20 goals anywhere, you’re feeling good,” Mueller said. “I haven’t felt that in a long time. So to put up points and be looked upon to put goals in the net, it’s obviously a great feeling. I’m riding that confidence of last year into this year.”
Mueller has been concussion-free for two-plus seasons and says “knock on wood” that he is as healthy as he’s been in a while.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock advised Mueller to “just go play. He’s a really intelligent, offensive player. He’s had stops and starts in his career due to injury that really impacted his NHL career. So he just needs to come and play. When you have a player that plays with that level of intelligence, he’s going to fit in wherever we play him.
“I just know that the player before he got hurt, Mueller was a good player in the National Hockey League. Can he be back there again? Who knows, but he’s just got to come and play. He’s got a really high level of intelligence.”
ST. LOUIS - The Blues have invited defenseman Ryan Whitney to training camp as a professional tryout.
Whitney was invited to Blues training camp last season. He played in seven games in 2013-14 with the Florida Panthers.
The Boston native has appeared in 481 career NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Panthers, registering 50 goals and 209 assists (259 points).
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Despite the reasonable cynicism, Hitchcock claims that after the Blues’ third straight playoff exit under his direction, the feeling is different this time.
“Yeah, it’s what happens when a team starts to really grow up,” he said. “It’s like we’ve learned a lot the last three years and you can see it in the players’ approach right now. They understand the details that they can control in the offseason. There’s no crash course going on now. Everybody is getting what they need.
“Some guys come in early, do their off-ice workout, take 20 minutes of the skate and leave. They’re not trying to search and find it. So they’ve got a maturity about them from a conditioning standpoint that good teams have. They know how long the season is, how hard the season is and they know what they have to do to get ready to have a good training camp.”
Having a good training camp, or even a record-breaking regular season, though, is no longer the measure of success in St. Louis.
ST. LOUIS - The Blues have invited unrestricted free agent forward Paul Bissonnette to a tryout at training camp.
Bissonnette, 29, has played in 202 career NHL games, registering seven goals and 15 assists (22 points). He has a plus-7 rating and 340 career penalty minutes.
Bissonnette spent the past five seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes. He made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2008-09 season.
Paul Stastny talks after his first infomal skate with the St. Louis Blues...
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, 22, is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level deal and remains unsigned.
Because Schwartz has played only two NHL seasons (which includes the lockout-shortened year) and doesn't have arbitration rights, obviously there's only so much he can ask for.
While neither side in the negotiation wanted to comment on what's transpiring, I'm guessing given that Ondrej Palat got three years with an average cap hit of $3.33 million with the Tampa Bay Lightning, that's a comparable on some level, especially since Palat only had one NHL season under his belt.
Because it's believed both the Blues and agent Wade Arnott of Newport Sports are focusing on a two-year, bridge deal for Schwartz, I'd shave off a bit of money on the shorter-term deal. Could $2.5 million or $2.75 million a year make it work? My guess is Newport would want as close to $3 million as possible and the Blues are likely in the low-$2 million range. Both sides need to bridge the gap here but I don't sense there's as much of an issue here compared to the Johansen-Blue Jackets situation.
more topics including the latest on Martin Brodeur...
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch,
Schwartz’s agent, Wade Arnott, and Blues general manager Doug Armstrong have held lengthy discussions in recent weeks, but agree they are not close on a contract extension.
“We remain significantly apart on our respective positions at this point,” Arnott said Wednesday.
“I understand their position, they understand our position,” Armstrong said, “and there is a gap in the level of compensation.”
The success of Schwartz, 22, in such a short time has made for a complicated negotiation.
In 2013-14, Schwartz ranked third on the Blues’ roster with 25 goals and fourth in points with 56. He finished with a plus-minus rating of plus-28, tops on the team and tied for No. 13 in the NHL.
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