Kukla's Korner Hockey
“There’s no better place to be in the league right now. I think we’ve got the best group of young hockey players in the NHL, and I’m very excited to be a part of it and see where we can take it.”
-Paul Kariya of the St. Louis Blues. More on Paul from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
from Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald,
As he’s done everywhere in his career, T.J. Oshie wasted little time becoming a major fan favorite in St. Louis. His name became a verb, fans campaigned to vote him mayor of nearby O’Fallon, Mo., and he was a landslide winner in fan voting for the most popular player on the team….
“I’ve never had the opportunity to pick a Mario Lemieux, a player who has all the physical attributes and skills to step right into the NHL and dominate a game,” Blues head scout Jarmo Kekalainen told NHL.com. “Rarely, in fact, do you find any kid who is physically ready to step into the NHL and make an impact.
“To me, we’re charged with the opportunity to identify skill, hockey sense, character and intelligence in a youngster and then calculate his future. We try to find players with the upside who can become an impact player. You might get a guy that will make your team right off the bat. But you can’t get carried away with that. If it takes four years to get him to the NHL, but he plays 12 years in the league, I’d much rather take that guy than the guy that makes it in the league the next year, plays 100 games and then vanishes.”
from John Grigg of The Hockey News,
One squad I see having a good chance to surprise again this year is the St. Louis Blues, who finished an eyebrow-raising sixth in the Western Conference last season, but are still considered by many to have been the beneficiary of a weak second-half schedule and plain old good luck.
But in February, March and April last season, St. Louis managed to earn 68 percent of its possible points – winning 20 of 34 outright and earning a loser point in six others. Nine of those wins came against eventual playoff teams, so it wasn’t just about weak opponents and blind luck; the Blues were playing some pretty damn good hockey. And I think that’ll continue; the Blues are for real – a Central Division dark horse, even….
Would I bet my house on St. Louis finishing the season as a top-three seed in the West? No. But would I drop $25 on it in Vegas? You betcha.
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Two months ago, Blues defenseman Eric Brewer was recuperating from his second back surgery in four months and readying himself to repeat a slow rehabilitation process. Both Brewer and the club were optimistic that he would be available at the start of the 2009-10 season.
They are still optimistic. But while Brewer has shown some improvement with the sciatic nerve issue that affects his right leg, the Blues are acknowledging for the first time that their captain might not be in uniform opening night in Sweden, on Oct. 2.
“Progress has been made, so we’ll live with that,” Blues President John Davidson said. “If there was no progress by now, we’d be nervous. I’m a glass half-full guy, so that’s how I’m looking at it. (But) if he can’t play, the emphasis for us will be to have a good start with healthy players.”
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
What lies ahead for the 2009-10 season, in the words of Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, is “the most challenging regular season we’ve had since the early 1990s.”
The Red Wings have won the Central Division every year since the Blue Jackets joined the league in 2000-01, an eight-season run that ranks as the longest current streak in the NHL.
But one must wonder whether a changing of the guard isn’t on the horizon in the Central.
from Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Bernie Federko is out of the Blues’ broadcast booth after 12 seasons and will be replaced by Darren Pang, who has been an analyst for NBC, ESPN, ESPN2, ABC and Canada’s TSN.
from Norm Sanders of the News-Democrat,
Playing before an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 at St. Louis Mills on Wednesday at the team’s pro orientation camp, (Erik) Johnson gave fans a sneak preview of what they can look forward to in 2009-10.
He’s bigger and stronger, having added 10 pounds onto his 6-foot-4 frame. So now he’s back on the ice with rookies, prospects and tryout hopefuls trying to regain the form that made him the first overall pick in the 2006 draft.
“It’s part of my journey I guess, to hopefully becoming an elite NHL player and an elite NHL defenseman,” Johnson said. “I’m having a lot of fun. Not that I can say I expected to be back here, but I feel fortunate to be back here, being a leader and a mentor to some of the younger guys and also getting some quality ice time for myself.”
He also had no negatives to report on his surgically repaired right knee following Wednesday’s practice session.
From Darren Dreger of TSN, via his Twitter, Ty Conklin has signed with the St. Louis Blues for 2 years.
According to James Duthie on the TSN broadcast, the deal is for $2.6 million.
ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Blues President John Davidson announced today the club has signed free agent goaltender Ty Conklin.
“By signing Ty, we have deepened our goaltending position,” said Davidson. “Ty had a solid year last season and along with the job Chris (Mason) did for us, we look forward to having two solid goaltenders next season.”
from Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
With Erik Johnson, Eric Brewer and Alex Pietrangelo returning – and with McKee and Woywitka leaving – the Blues defense will be much better with the puck. Expect fewer turnovers next season, better outlet passing and better quarterback play with the man advantage.
If the Note can add one more offensive defenseman, via free agency or trade, this will become the most improved defensive unit in the league. This team’s biggest weakness would become its strength….
So the team has few pressing needs. John Davidson, Larry Pleau, Doug Armstrong and Co. are shopping for a goaltender (Josh Harding? Craig Anderson? Scott Clemmensen? Ty Conklin?) to replace Manny Legace and another offensive defenseman to boost the transition game.
At forward the Blues are in excellent shape.
via Jeremy Rutherford of the Morning Skate at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
The Blues today bought out the final year of defenseman Jay McKee’s contract. McKee was due to make $4 million for the 2009-2010 season, completing a four-year, $16 million contract he signed in 2006.
“I was at the gym and missed some calls,” McKee said. “I saw my agent and Larry Pleau called, so I assumed something was up. It’s not something I expected, especially after my most productive season in St. Louis. But I understand they had a decision to make and I was one of them. …
“The bottom line is, I didn’t fit in their depth chart and my salary was probably a hindrance to their payroll,” McKee added. “They have their reasons and I accept that.”
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.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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