Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
The NHL’s frenzy of trading and free-agent signings will begin soon, and by now the Blues certainly must realize what they need to do if they want to make a breakthrough as a serious contender for the Stanley Cup.
The Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues’ fellow members of the Western Conference, have each won two Stanley Cups over the past five seasons. And we can continue to stress over goaltending, which obviously is a crucial element in a team’s postseason success.
But the Kings and Blackhawks have used goal-scoring power to grab four Stanley Cups. How do you survive the physical, tight-checking Western Conference rodeo? By having enough players in the stable to emerge and score the big goals at money time....
If the Blues don’t boost their offense this summer, there’s little reason to believe that their performance in the 2015 playoffs will be any different from what we’ve seen over the last three springs.
from Scott Cullen of TSN,
If there was one area of concern, it might have been goaltending, as the Blues finished the year with a .913 save percentage, tied for 13th. They traded for Ryan Miller, in the hopes that he would be the answer, but Miller posted a .901 save percentage in 25 (regular season plus playoff) games with the Blues, which didn't alleviate goaltending concerns and prompted the Blues to re-sign Brian Elliott and mark Jake Allen for promotion.
Going with inexpensive goaltending does open up the possibility that the Blues can more readily upgrade their lineup, perhaps with an improvement in the second-line centre spot. While the Blues were tied for sixth in the league with 2.92 goals per game, there is still room to elevate their skill level if they are going to compete with the best.
It's not as though the Blues are incapable of competing with their current roster -- they were challenging for first place overall before losing the last six games of the regular season -- but it's difficult to justify making no improvements to a team that has made it out of the first round once since 2002.
MAY 28, 2014) – St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has signed forward Joakim Lindstrom to a one-year contract.
Lindstrom, 30, has spent parts of the past three seasons with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League (SweHL), including 2013-14, when he posted 63 points (23 goals, 40 assists) and 72 penalty minutes in 55 games. A second round pick (41st overall) of Columbus in 2002, the 6’0, 203-pound forward has appeared in five NHL seasons, including stints with Columbus (2005-08), Phoenix (2008-09) and most recently, Colorado (2011-12). Overall, the Skelleftea, Sweden native has recorded 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) and 46 penalty minutes in 97 career NHL games.
via David Pollak of Working the Corners,
... there’s been a lot of speculation across the NHL that Ryan Miller might be a good fit in San Jose now that the St. Louis Blues have told him his services were no longer required.
I’ll agree that he might be if the Sharks were in their usual mode, looking for that one last puzzle piece to get them over the hump.
But Wilson has said that is not where the team is this off-season. That this is the year the Sharks may have to take one step back to eventually move two steps forward. And hard to see their interest in Miller (or his interest in them as far as that goes) because of that.
Sure Wilson could scrap his blueprint if the Sharks were 100 percent certain they were getting the right puzzle piece after all these years. But Miller time in St. Louis – both late in the regular season and in the playoffs – only points them in a different direction.
from Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea,
Adding Miller would run counter to Wilson’s stated goal of getting younger, but the general manager would still have Stalock, who will turn 27 over the summer, as well as prospects Harri Sateri and Troy Grosenick, both 24, getting more experience at the AHL level.
Miller could command between $5-to-$6 million per season, a number that likely dropped after his performance in St. Louis. Term could be an issue, too, as the Sharks probably wouldn't want to go more than two or three years on an aging goaltender. Still, depending on what other moves Wilson makes – he’s already cleared more than $11 million in cap space with Dan Boyle's departure and a buyout Marty Havlat looming – looking into Miller’s potential interest in the Bay Area may be worth doing.
ST. LOUIS (MAY 19, 2014) – - St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced Monday the club has re-signed goaltender Brian Elliott to a three-year contract.
Elliott, 29, appeared in 31 regular season games last season, posting an 18-6-2 record while ranking 11th in both save percentage (.922) and shutouts (4), and second with a 1.96 goals-against average.
The 6-foot-2, 209-pound goaltender has spent his past three campaigns with the Blues, including 2011-12, when he set single-season franchise records in save percentage (.940), goals-against average (1.56) and shutouts (9) en route to earning the 2012 Jennings Trophy.
Over the past three seasons, Elliott ranks second overall (at least 50 games played) with a .680 win percentage (55-24-7), while his 16 shutouts not only lead the League, but are tied for second in Blues franchise history.
(MAY 13, 2014) – St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has named Kirk Muller an Assistant Coach.
“We are excited to add Kirk to our staff,” said Armstrong. “He was a Stanley Cup-winning player, and as a coach, has shown excellent communication skills, and the ability to relate to both young and veteran players.”
(MAY 7, 2014) – St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has extended the contract of Head Coach Ken Hitchcock for the 2014-15 season. Associate Coach Brad Shaw and Assistant Coach Ray Bennett will return for this upcoming season as well. In addition, the club announced that Assistant Coach Gary Agnew and Goaltending Coach Corey Hirsch will not rejoin the team. A search to round-out the coaching staff will begin immediately, and the club will have no further comment until replacements are named.
Well what a night that was! Three Game Sevens and now we start the second round later today.
Before the second round starts let’s take a look at how we did predicting the first round.
Huge night for hockey fans out there! Kings, avs and rangers are my picks!— anthony brodeur (@abrodeur30) April 30, 2014
I will put my own predictions up to bat:
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from Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Something is missing, something that has allowed a wounded opponent to recover and turn the playoff tables on the Blues two years in succession.
Amid the disappointed souls and unfulfilled hearts at Scottrade Center, coach Ken Hitchcock will spend the next many weeks trying to find the missing ingredient and install it.
“To me, it’s … when you’ve got your foot on the throat — step,” Hitchcock said, trying to explain an intangible killer instinct the Blues have been unable to apply the past two Aprils. “That’s what we’ve got to do. I don’t know any other way to describe it.
“The end result is you’ve got to go further, further in every aspect of your game, further on checking, further on special teams, further on scoring. … And it’s hard to do, but you’ve got to do it.
“You can add 10 pieces to a hockey club, but you have to have commitment to go further. Those are the hard conversations that you have to have, the hard things you have to do.”
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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