Bio not provided
If that's accurate, and if it's allowable under the current CBA, I'd have to think that Armstrong is looking at trading his rights. Given that it sounds like Sobotka wants to play elsewhere, and given that there's no guarantee he'll come through a season over there injury-free, the best chance to get some value for him, if that's necessary, is likely now. Or, at least, shortly after the arbitration session, so interested parties would know what they were getting into contract-wise.
Really, it's a shame. I like Sobotka. I think the Blues would be a stronger team this season with him instead of (gag me) Steve Ott returning. But if it is what it sounds like, then it's probably time to get while the getting's good.
1 week, 4 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/report-sobotka-will-spend-one-year-in-khl-before-returning-to-new-nhl-team.html
Stastny between Schwartz and Tarasenko? That could be fun. I still want to see the Lehtera/Tarasenko pair, since they've got some history (and chemistry) from their Sibir days, of course, but given Hitchcock's penchant for tinkering with the lines, we'll probably end up seeing a bit of everything before the year's done.
Elliott 1, Allen 1A or B? Not surprised in the slightest, for reasons we've gone over before. And, just like I said before, I expect it'll still be a fairly close split at the end of the year, barring injuries or one of them showing a truly hot hand.
Ott... It's still Steve Ott, so that's strike one in my book. He's a forth liner with potential to play third line occasionally, as opposed to Sobotka's third line ability and occasional slot into the top six, OR down to the fourth in a pinch, so there's no gain in flexibility. (Granted, with the adds of Stastny and Lehtera, there's less *need* for someone you can run all the way up and down the lineup in a pinch, at least as far as Hitch's normal line juggling goes.) And, to go along with that, not that Sobotka was ever going to be an offensive giant, but Ott's toolbox is smaller in that regard as well. I just can't buy in to what Hitchcock is saying here.
2 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/the-most-interesting-quotes-from-ken-hitchcocks-latest-interview.html
@David Rogers Somehow, the prices they're charging for normal games are already getting paid. But you're right, if the average hockey fan in the states heard what Toronto might charge for those events if they landed them all, they'd probably run in terror. ... At least, I know I would.
2 weeks, 1 day ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2014-articles/toronto-maple-leafs-want-to-host-everything-for-their-100th-birthday.html
Rather than the Winter Classic, put them in the Heritage Classic, against the Habs. Tough to beat that for a birthday bash. Other than that, the St. Louisan in me appreciates things with history too much, so I'm all for giving them whatever they can convince the league they should have for their 100th celebration.
@David Rogers Since nobody seems to think that Jordan Binnington would be ready to step in (and since he doesn't even have any AHL experience at this point, I'd buy that argument), my expectation would be that Armstrong would have to sign a goaltender from the free agent pile mid-season, with the idea being that whichever of the regular tandem is uninjured would play basically all of the games.
Granted, I haven't seen or read anything that makes me think this, but I can't really think of anyone out there who's A) on the market, B) worth having under contract for that just-in-case situation, and C) would want to be under contract in that situation playing in the AHL until and unless needed.
3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/ken-hitchcock-on-goaltending-this-is-brian-elliotts-job.html
@David Rogers Agreed. As long as he holds the line in the starts that he does get, though, I figure it'll even out pretty much in line with what I predicted above. I suppose I could reasonably see a situation in which the split ended up being 55E/27A, but barring a spectacular run or injury by one or the other, that'd be the upper limit of my expectation.
3 weeks, 1 day ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/ken-hitchcock-on-goaltending-this-is-brian-elliotts-job.html
If they'd like to go back to the 1A/1B arrangement from Hitch's first season, I wouldn't be against it. Or ride the hot hand. Whatever you want to call it. Personally, I don't really foresee a situation outside of injury where it doesn't end up as roughly a 45/35 split (Elliott/Allen), but, of course, that's just a guess.
@David Rogers I've heard a lot of complaints about the piping over the years now, but that's never really been part of what I didn't like about the current sweaters. At the same time, I'm certainly not married to it staying in place. I don't know that it does a whole lot for the road uniform, but I think it does a decent job of breaking up the home uniform's look. It might actually do really well at that, if those white patches weren't impinging on its gig breaking up the blue.
3 weeks, 4 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/
@David Rogers If I had to pick, I like the road whites more. There's something about the current home uniform, particularly, that doesn't do it for me. Mostly, I think it's the way the shoulders are designed. Either the dark shoulders, or the white patches, or both need to go. The design just seems too busy to me.
I idly considered getting one of the current generation uniforms while they're on clearance, but I still can't bring myself to really like them. (Hence why my Backes is a 3rd.) Definitely hoping that the speculation that the new sweaters are harkening back to some of the more historical designs are true.
As usual, I have to agree in general. But just to keep things interesting, I'll disagree on some of the specifics.
Goalie is certainly a question mark going in, from the point of view that Elliott has faltered at times as the starter, and Allen has limited NHL experience. However, I would argue that, particularly in the '12-13 season, that a lot of Elliott's woes can be traced directly to the lack of defensive support. If we go back in time to then, post-wise, I believe I made the point that it was not Halak or Elliott's fault, so much as it was the fault of a continuous, on-going breakdown of the team, and their ability or willingness to play Hitch's defensive system. And beyond that, that Allen's success when he was brought up during that run was less about his quality as a goaltender being higher than 1/41, but that the team, faced with a rookie netminder as their backstop, managed to batten down the hatches a bit in the defensive end.
In other words, my argument is not so much that Elliott or Allen can or can't do the job, but that, properly played, Hitch's system makes ANY goalie capable of putting forth at least average, if not well above average, performances. Therefore, I'm less concerned about the goaltending than I am about your second point...
The ability of the defense to move people, rather than be moved by them, has to have been nearly as obvious to Hitch, the coaches, and Army, as it is to those of us looking in from the outside. I do recall some talk around the early off-season that a strength and conditioning plan had been put in place to remedy some of this, but I can't imagine that that will suddenly turn the Pietrangelos and Shattenkirks of the Blues defensive corps into the second comings of Chris Pronger and Scott Stevens. And that, of course, makes the move to ship Polak out in return for yet another relatively light, stick-first, puck-moving defenseman more than a little odd.
I can accept the premise that more was wanted of Polak than he could reasonably give, that he was down last year compared to the physical force he was in years past, and that a change could be seen as a good thing. I can also accept the premise that, by and large, having D with the ready ability to get the puck out of the zone quickly is a good thing that disrupts opponents and leads to quality scoring chances. -- However, when teams are big enough, or fast enough, or just plain gutsy enough to come crashing in and disrupt that puck movement? That's the Blues, trapped in their zone, scrambling... again. It's going to beat a lot of teams a lot of the time in the regular season, but come time to dial it up in the playoffs, outlet passes don't seem to dial up nearly as well as the ability to knock an opposing forward off the puck, or keep him from knocking you off of it.
What I won't argue is that Gunnarsson isn't a better player than Polak. In terms of skill, it's a clear upgrade for the Blues. The question remains, though, is more back-end skill what the Blues really needed to acquire?
3 weeks, 6 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/two-big-questions-remain-for-the-st-louis-blues.html
The fact that he didn't take significantly more for significantly longer (from, say, Toronto?) was certainly a pleasant surprise. And compared to giving up any number of pieces for Spezza, I can't find it in me to complain. Now all he has to do is come in here and prove that he's worth what he's getting paid, and from everything I've seen, heard, and read, he should have a good go at it.
Meanwhile, the additional flexibility that bringing in Lehtera offers is maybe even more intriguing. Sure, the KHL isn't the NHL, but he's been near a point-per-game player over there. Add in the history playing with Tarasenko, and I'm every bit as curious to see how he fits in as I am to see the outcome of the Stastny move.
4 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/blues-sign-paul-stastny-to-a-four-year-contract.html
@David Rogers We takes 'em when we can gets 'em.
As to Stastny, I know what you mean. Three weeks ago, heck, even two weeks ago, I had it read is pretty meaningless background clutter in the arena of a role the Blues needed to fill, because I figured Colorado would just lock him back up. Now that we're, what, a week out from the official start of the free agent signing period? I have to think it's actually a possibility that exists. Sure, maybe the Avs are playing some kind of long con at Ottawa's expense, but I can't see why they would. Comparatively, some of the speculation about who they intend to lock up long-term C-wise makes a lot of sense as a driver for Stastny not having a new contract there already.
Meanwhile, figuring that the Blues take care of the offensive center slot some way or another, what would your read be on the third line going into the season? I'd have to expect that Sobotka's centering it, and making some poor opposing 3Cs absolutely miserable in the faceoff dot, and it isn't as though there aren't enough options for the wings, but I'm not really sure what of those options I'd actually avail myself of, if the choice was mine to make.
1 month ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/discussing-the-infatuation-over-jason-spezza.html
Personally, if I had to pick a bandwagon, it would be the "Sign UFA Stastny, trade for Kadri" bandwagon. Of course, this bandwagon operates under the assumption that Colorado lets Stastny hit UFA, but it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable.
I know I've said a few times before, but I've got some buddies in Ottawa, and naturally, I've talked to 'em about Spezza. Before I go any farther, let me point out that they're just fans, and I'm definitely NOT claiming some kind of insider information. That said, I do like what they had to say about Spezza: He has a strong offensive up-side. He makes his linemates better. He's reasonably defensively responsible, though he is prone to the more-than-occasional turnover at the opponents' blueline (so he'll fit right in, in other words).
So, in general, I could reasonably be said to be for a move to pick up Spezza. At the end of the day, there's no way to guarantee the health of any player - I'd be more concerned that we'd catch him on the start of the down-side of his career than I would be about his injury history. Injuries are going to happen in hockey, plain and simple.
At the same time, though, I'm not saying that that shouldn't be taken into consideration. Add in the fact that Stastny's a bit younger, and that signing him as a UFA would leave us more trade pieces to address other needs, and you've got the reason that I'd prefer him over Spezza, in a nutshell.
Now, having said all that, it's just as likely that any of these moves, or none of them, could be what the Blues need to get over the hump. It certainly isn't suddenly going to get any easier to get out of the Central, between the Blackhawks, and sudden growth of the Avalanche, and the continued persistence of the Wild. Clearing the West won't, either, for all the obvious reasons. But at least attempting to assess and improve on the scoring deficit and strength on the back-end can't hurt. (Well, we can argue that this is the last real chance to get it together, given what the Blues currently have available to them draft-wise and down-system in the minors, but I think that's a fairly separate argument for a team whose window is fairly clearly now.)
I blame geography. Clearly Los Angeles' physical location is in the wrong here.
1 month, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/
@David Rogers @miendiem I certainly don't disagree, but... Don't I get to irrationally like even one fourth-line grinder? heheh
2 months ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/blues-sign-joakim-lindstrom.html
This gives the Blues a fairly sizable contingent of guys who at least *can* play left wing. To me, this looks like direct competition for Magnus Paajarvi for the 3L slot, and otherwise, functional depth. Nothing I've read, though admittedly, that isn't much, doesn't parse Lindstrom out as someone to plug in on the fourth line in a pinch.
Meanwhile, I think this may be a sideways preview that the Chris Porter era is done with the Blues, though I suppose he still has the chance to catch on at the fourth line level. Not really anything to get excited about, certainly, but I like the guy enough for his speed that I'd be at least a little sad to see him go. Long live the CPR line?
Because the Central needed to become an even *tougher* division.
2 months ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2014-articles/pekka-rinne-named-mvp-of-2014-world-championship.html
Compared to a coach that can get the guys to put the puck on net, and a coach that can get the power play back to where it was for the first couple of months of last season, I'm not certain that goaltending coach needs to be all that high up the list of priorities. That said, if I had to pick one, I'd take Corsi... mostly because he's got his name on a Fancy Stat, and the other suggested candidates don't.
2 months ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/goaltending-coach-candidates-include-jim-corsi-mitch-korn-and-ty-conklin.html
@David Rogers Feel free to bandy it about on Twitter and PDL.
2 months, 1 week ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/blues-let-ryan-miller-walk-trade-was-an-expensive-rental.html
And now eyes turn, as they should, to see how Armstrong will address those needs that cropped up so clearly in the season's closing month, plus the playoffs. Issues that, not incidentally, have cropped up over the past couple of years as well -- Scoring, scoring, scoring on the power play, and some more nastiness on D.
I know I've said this before, but I'll reiterate it for fun and profit: The Blues need to find a way to bring in a playmaking center to put between Schwartz and Tarasenko. They likely need to address a third line winger, and if it has to be a veteran experience-bringer, let's pick the best goal-scorer of the bunch this time, shall we? And finally, one more person-moving D man to balance out the abilities of the pairs (yes, this is me advocating splitting up Petro and Bouwmeester again, given the right new infusion of talent).
Who will those guys be? I'm certainly not ready to venture any uneducated guesses at this point, but it should make for some interesting speculation and rumor-watching post-Cup Finals, eh?
I tossed in a yes vote, not because I think the D needs all that much shaking up, but because, depending on what ends up available, and at what price, in free agency, I think it might be necessary to deal one in order to bring in a true 1C to put together a second (first?) scoring line to go with the Backes/Oshie/Steen trio.
2 months, 1 week ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/
Unsurprisingly, I'm absolutely okay with this move. When we were post-mortem-ing the season and playoffs, I made the contention in some post or another that any competent goaltender put behind Hitch's system, with the relevant buy-in from the skaters, can post numbers like these, and that it therefore makes more sense to concentrate the pool of available money on improving the offense. Provided that management tries it, I expect we're about to find out if that's true.
Meanwhile, just for fun, who thinks that Brian Elliott will survive the Jake Allen era just as well as he's survived the Jaroslav Halak and Ryan Miller eras?
Shut up, Pierre.
2 months, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/
That was, indeed, pretty bad. But, as expected, Yakety Sax makes everything better.
2 months, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2014-articles/video-finlands-hilariously-bad-line-change.html
Personally, the more I look at the numbers, the more I'm convinced that any competent goaltender can post the kind of numbers Blues starters have been posting for the past three years backstopping Hitch-coached teams. His defensive system simply lends itself to that - and also seems to prevent a lot of chances to stop what might otherwise be stoppable pucks when pucks get only partially blocked, or the goalie is screened by his own defense. Clearly, given the roughly 2.20 GAA the past three seasons, on average, this is not a huge issue. Thus, I would propose saving the difference in what it would cost to keep Miller by letting him walk, because it seems unlikely that he would substantially upgrade the numbers the Blues have already been posting on the goals-allowed side for what it would cost to keep him.
I'm not trying to come across as "throw the bum out" here. There were plenty of issues in front of Miller down the stretch, and in the playoffs, that wound up reflecting poorly on his stats through little fault of his own.
That said, if the Blues are going to carry two goalies (likelihood: 100%), given the performance of the past three years, which would you prefer of the following?
Miller - In the $5-6M range
Allen - $850k (he's under contract through the end of next season for this amount)
Allen - $850k
Elliott (or equivalent) - ~$2-2.5M
And then take the difference, plus not bringing back an ex-Star or two, and put it into a scoring line centerman.
Now we'll wander well off into the weeds: Can you, or can you not, see the Blues ownership spending substantially more on payroll next season, if the cap goes up? (Again, with the whole Canadian dollar thing, it may not, but between now and when the cap gets locked in for next year, who knows?) If you can, then maybe scenario one makes more sense. If not, then I think it makes all the sense in the world to try to furnish the team with another scoring threat, preferably somebody who'll make a whole line better, and take the calculated risk that any competent goalie will do.
3 months ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/
@David RogersI'm not sure how I stumbled upon "people-moving d-men", but it sure does work, doesn't it?
Regarding Polak - That's the feel I have, too, but it's just a feeling. I only got to watch two of the games, and I don't really have any way to quantify it.
Now that you mention it, I wonder how the entire defense compares, two years ago, to last year, to this year. The reason I think of it is, while the Blues are still certainly doing well by the stat of goals allowed, and shutouts are at least somewhat reliant on not having bad bounces or excellent tips by the opponent, it seems like the Blues goals against has been creeping up since 2011-2012.
So, let's have a look:
2011-2012: (82 games)
Halak: 1.97 GAA, .926 Sv% (90G/1211SA), 6 Shutouts
Elliott: 1.56 GAA, .940 Sv% (58G/972SA), 9 Shutouts
2013: (48 games)
Halak: 2.14 GAA, .899 Sv% (29G/286SA), 3 Shutouts
Elliott: 2.28 GAA, .907 Sv% (49G/526SA), 3 Shutouts
Allen: 2.46 GAA, .905 Sv% (33G/346SA), 1 Shutout
2013-2014: (82 games)
Halak: 2.23 GAA, .917 Sv% (83G/1002SA), 4 Shutouts
Elliott: 1.96 GAA, .922 Sv% (53G/681SA), 4 Shutouts
Miller: 2.47 GAA, .903 Sv% (46G/474SA), 1 Shutout
The NHL doesn't seem to provide a convenient team Sv% statistic, so we'll go GAA only from here.
2011-2012 Team GAA: 1.89 (1st in league - 2 is LA at 2.07)
2012-2013 Team GAA: 2.38 (8th in league - 1 is Chicago at 2.02, 2 is Ottawa at 2.08)
2013-2014 Team GAA: 2.29 (3rd in league - 1 is LA at 2.05, 2 is Boston at 2.08)
Granted, expecting a sub-2 GAA and fifteen shutouts a year is probably unreasonable in the modern era. Also granted, the lockout-shortened season was... odd. But even on the "down" year, measured by goals against, the Blues were still a top ten team in the league, with room to spare. I'm actually rather surprised by the number from this season, especially with the penchant for giving up odd-man rushes that seemed to really overtake the team at times this year (and which, not incidentally, burned them several times in the Chicago series).
Out of sheer curiosity, let's also go back a couple more years, to see what was going on before Hitch came in.
2010-2011: 2.78 Team GAA (17th in league)
2009-2010: 2.66 Team GAA (T-11th in league, with MON/VAN)
2008-2009: 2.77 Team GAA (12th in league)
2007-2008: 2.83 Team GAA (21st in league)
2006-2007: 3.02 Team GAA (19th in league)
2005-2006: 3.46 Team GAA (28th in league - As a side note, 27th was Chicago, with a 3.40. Curses.)
Pretty clearly, the Hitch system, plus the maturing of the core, and the advent of the Halak/Elliott tandem on the back end, was worth about half a goal per game, defensively, compared to the three years prior, and nearly a full goal per game during '11-12. I'm sure that can't be easy to do, but that year's team was the only one in recent memory that I would say I felt at all confident in to stop the bleeding after a goal or two and mount a comeback. Recapturing that feeling for the team may wind up being every bit as important is a top-line center or a forward with a nose for the net.
3 months ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/blues-implode-tumble-out-of-the-playoffs.html
@David Rogers That's exactly why I opted to give him the own mention in the everybody else section, because I'd seen so many people calling for his head (relatively speaking). I get the desire to have puck-moving defensemen. Getting out of the zone quickly can solve a lot of problems. However, here's the other side of the coin: Those puck-moving d-men, by and large, aren't also people-moving d-men. And you need some of those, too, to dislodge opponents from the puck, behind the net, in front of the net, on the blueline... Hence the additional talk about splitting up JBo/Petro and adding one more people-moving d-man to the defensive pairings.
Not unlike the goaltending, I'm not saying that this is the solution to the Blues woes, but also not unlike goaltending, shoring it up with proven ability certainly couldn't hurt. (Comparatively, of course, the lack of putting the puck into the empty net, or even at times putting it ON net, would definitely solve the lion's share of those woes.)
One more note about Shattenkirk: Regardless of some of the defensive lapses, he was only -1, and was the top point-producer for the Blues this playoffs, while turning in the sixth-most points on the team in the regular season.
@David Rogers Hindsight being 20/20, if we could've gotten Paajarvi away from Edmonton for Stewart... heh
Again, my issues with Lapierre don't really stem from his play. Particularly, he actually showed up in the playoffs, which can't necessarily be said of some people with much bigger roles on the team. But at some point, my irrationality as a fan has to come through, and this is one of those times. See also: Ott, though he came with less playoff upside.
Also, I suppose I should clarify my "in-betweeners" section just slightly. None of that should be taken as me saying, "Dump them for the sake of making moves." The entire defensive corps is in that group, for starters. I don't see any reasonable scenario that there's heavy turnover within that group.
Finally, if the Blues do finally part ways with Bergie, what would "Teach Me How To Bergie" do for a team name in the Frozen Notes fantasy league?
Kevin Shattenkirk - It seems like he's getting more frustrating to watch on defense year by year. Sure, he chips in the points, but not at the rate necessary to keep forgiving the defensive softness forever. Jackman of two years ago made a good defensive partner for him, but it seems pretty clear that age is getting to Jax just a bit, and so what once worked well is now displaying significantly more vulnerability. As Jax is signed through next year, it seems to me that it's more on Shattenkirk to make the necessary fixes (as it should be), rather than expecting the team to bring in someone else who can cover for him defensively.
Magnus Paajarvi - This isn't really so much a comment on Magnus as it is a comment on what could be done personnel-wise. If the Blues feel they MUST bring in a veteran again, how about courting Jaromir Jagr to put on a third line with Sobotka's tenacity and faceoff wins, and Paajarvi's speed? Sure, there's no real reason to think that would be reality, and even if it did, knowing the Blues luck, next year would be the year the wheels finally come off for Jagr, but the combination of speed, puck possession, and a veteran with a proven, honest-to-God nose for the net (as compared to the Dallas retreads)... That could be an intriguing third line. (Again, accounting for the fact that it's total pie-in-the-sky, and the chances of that, or something like it, occurring are somewhere around 0.000000001%. And, before the screaming starts, this assumes money has already been committed to a #1 play-making center)
The Defensive Corps, Generally - Can we get tougher here somewhere, please? If there's absolute insistence on having a puck-moving D-man on every pairing, is it too much to ask to bring in a big, physical LHD, and split up the Petro/JBo partnership by making JBo another pairing's puck-mover?
The Holes, As I See Them:
(a.k.a.: The short version of what I just spent three replies saying.)
A top-line center to lead an actual scoring line.
A third-line right wing to round out Paajarvi/Sobotka/X.
Only that first one, I think, is a big ask. And it's entirely likely that getting it could wind up opening a hole somewhere else down the roster due to a trade. So be it. We're still dealing with a lineup that, by and large, went out in four to the eventual Cup champs, and then pulled back to back win two, drop four first round losses to the defending Cup champs. Aside from Tarasenko and Schwartz, I'm not absolutely married to anybody staying on this roster, if they provide the returns needed to actually make the Blues a post-season threat.
Okay, keepers, goats, and everybody in between. This... might run long.
This list is probably the list of everybody's no-brainers. This list is NOT "this player is absolutely untouchable", but it IS "this player is untouchable unless some other GM loses his mind and offers the sun, moon, and maybe a few stars for him."
Vladimir Tarasenko - Obvious, say no more.
Jaden Schwartz - Unless he mysteriously stalls out, I still expect him to be the next Blues captain after Backes.
David Backes - Say what you will about his offensive output, the guy is still a premier shutdown center in the league. Especially if a scoring line center can be found to put between 9 and 91.
Alexander Steen - Backes, part 2. Keeping what's been functionally the Blues top line together as a second line/shutdown line just makes sense.
T.J. Oshie - Can I copy/paste the Steen entry? Less goals, more assists, plenty of defensive capability to go along with the occasional offensive spark. If 9/X/91 becomes the true scoring line, and you consider 20/42/74 the first layer of "secondary scoring"... I don't know about anybody else, but that'd sure make me feel better.
Vladimir Sobotka - As 3C? Definitely. If he's centering 9/91 next year, something's gone wrong. Nothing against him, of course, as it clearly worked decently enough, but 3C, winning faceoffs and making opposing teams miserable is where he belongs.
Again, I'm not saying that any of these guys (aside from Frank, and maybe Schwartz) should be considered untouchable. Rather, that I don't think they *should* be unless something absolutely amazing comes along.
Patrik Berglund - Average regular season, again. Nothing to show for the playoffs but a -7. Not unlike the feeling with Stewart, I'm ready to see Bergie in somebody else's uniform. If he gets it together there, so be it, but he's pretty clearly not getting it together here.
Brenden Morrow - Exhibit A in the gallery "Dallas Retreads That Need To Go".
Derek Roy - Exhibit B in the gallery "Dallas Retreads That Need To Go".
Steve Ott - Exhibit C in the gallery "Dallas Retreads That Need To Go". Even if he had played decently for the stretch that the Blues had him, I'd want him gone. See also: Maxim Lapierre
Maxim Lapierre - He actually played well enough that, were this not based on my dislike for him as a player, his stats would dictate putting him in the great unwashed mess that falls into the "everybody in between" category. As-is, though, I'm still okay throwing the dirty goon out with the bath water. Unfortunately, he's under contract through next year...
Everybody In Between:
This is exactly what it says. I don't really think I need to detail everybody else - they can come back, or not, as finances and contracts and availability of other players to plug the same holes dictate. The late season proved that there are plenty of guys ready in the AHL to fill the Blues third and fourth line grinding needs. Whether we keep going with the ones we have here on reasonable contracts, or bring up the ones we have there to save some costs to bring in some more goals, if any are to be found in the off-season, it's pretty much all the same to me.
I suppose I'll finish this up with some open-ended speculation about a few players who fit in the "in between" category.
I was hoping for a little larger post-season body of work to judge the Miller trade on. As is, chalk that one up in the "Flops" column. As I've said at least a couple other places already this afternoon, Halak or Elliott could just as easily have backstopped a first round exit from the 2014 playoffs. If Miller was supposed to make a difference here, I'm not seeing it.
I'll reiterate some other comments I made here:
February 28, 2014:
The more I think on this, the more I can't make myself like it.
Statistically, I'm going to argue that Miller is a sidegrade from
Halak. We can have the argument that part of it is due to him playing
for a godawful squad in Buffalo, but here we go:
- 24-9-4 in 40 games, 83 goals against, 919 saves on 1002 shots for a
.917% save percentage, and a 2.23 GAA, with 4 shutouts.
- 15-22-3 in 40 games, 108 goals against, 1303 saves on 1411 shots for a
.923% save percentage, and a 2.72 GAA, with 0 shutouts.
Halak - 139-81-26 in 260 games, 589 goals against, .917% save percentage, and a 2.38 GAA, with 29 shutouts.
Miller - 284-186-56 (and one tie) in 540 games, 1370 goals against, .916% save percentage, and 2.60 GAA, with 28 shutouts.
April 25, 2014:
Quick stats, just because:
2014 playoffs - Blues/Blackhawks
Miller: 2.32 GAA, .911 Sv%
Crawford: 2.14 GAA, .927 Sv%
And, since the whole point here was the LA/STL comparison:
2013 playoffs - Blues/Kings
Elliott: 1.90 GAA, .919 Sv%
Quick: 1.86 GAA, .934 Sv% (Quick's numbers for 18GP)
Naturally, that was before the meltdown in game six. All that to say, goaltending was not, and really couldn't have been, the difference.
Meanwhile, when it comes to coaching, am I the only one who finds Hitchcock and his line-tinkering as irritating as LaRussa and his bullpen-juggling was? Having some lines actually build up some chemistry over the course of the season... that might've been nice.
As to the PP, is it too late to suggest that the PP should be: "Funnel the puck to Tarasenko, let him skate to the middle and take a shot"? Playing it to the point for the occasional slap shot is all well and good, but if there's no danger down low, everyone's just going to ignore it, stand in the shooting lanes, and block it.
Who won't, or shouldn't, be back might take a little more space than I have in a single comment section. So prepare for the follow-up! heh
@jd8305 The short version is this: The Blues could have accomplished the same thing without giving up everything they did to bring in Miller and Ott.
I'd say that anyone but Tarasenko, and *maybe* Schwartz, should be available if the right deal should come along to start stocking the cupboard with folks who a) know how to find the back of an empty net, b) have the puck find its way on net rather than off net or into an opponent's shin pads by at least a 3:1 margin (maybe 2:1 would do, in a pinch), c) have some actual gumption, fire, and belief in themselves when the scoreboard isn't tilted in their favor after a period or two.
More realistically, I think it's time to let the old hands (player-wise) from Dallas go, and use youngsters in their place, since there seem to be a few with the Wolves who are at least competent - use the cost savings to bring in somebody to center Frank/Jaden, and maybe also a winger with a nose for taking the puck to the middle of the ice, rather than trying desperately to send it back to the blue line.
3 months ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/blues-are-following-the-2013-script-in-2014.html
@David Rogers Well, two weeks later, I guess we can officially label this experiment a failure. That was an awful lot to give up for a first-round exit that could just as easily have been orchestrated by Halak or Elliott.
Of course, as usual, it comes down to the fact that goaltending wasn't the issue (with the exception of finally letting the game get away from them in game six) - scoring timely goals was. Again.
3 months ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/2013-14-ryan-miller-vs-jaroslav-halak-vs-brian-elliott.html
I'm not trying to say "Blow it up!" in a knee-jerk manner here, but if the Blues don't manage to make a positive change in the outcome of game 6, it's time to take a long, hard look at just what's working, and what's not. Yes, I know, injuries, sheer dumb luck, on and on, but everybody's playing under those conditions now.
Meanwhile, I seem to be hearing a lot of the same things, in Twitter and other venues, that I heard last year regarding the Blues. A lot of it boils down to, "It doesn't matter how good your goaltender is if your skaters/shooters don't X", where X is some combination of "score timely goals", "get pucks on/in the net", "score on open looks", "score goals (at all)". It's only more obvious because of the painful similarities to the Blues/Kings series from last year, but, at the end of the day, the goaltending hasn't really been the problem. We can certainly say "These (the Toews goal in game 4, the GWG in OT in game 5) were the goals we brought Miller in to stop.", and I'm not necessarily against that argument, but I think the truth of the matter is that the series is being decided much more by what's happening (or, should I say, not happening) in Chicago's end than what's happening in the Blues' end.
Look at it this way: At least they got the Avs part right. Think how badly it would've gone for them if it'd been something like Blues/Wings instead.
3 months, 1 week ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/nbc-sports-app-confuses-the-blues-with-the-wild.html
The easiest way to put it is that the goal was wholly Miller's fault, and the loss was wholly the skaters' faults. Too many grade-A scoring chances missed. Miller gave them every chance they needed, honestly. Not unlike game 3 last year, really... Pinning a 1-0 loss on the goalie is nonsensical, regardless of how soft the one goal was. The worst team in the league this year averaged nearly two a game, and neither the Blues nor the Hawks fall into that category.
3 months, 1 week ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/video-ryan-miller-allows-soft-goal-in-game-3.html
They've had to do it without my help so far, since I was traveling for Easter. Now, though... Can't wait for game time.
3 months, 1 week ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/
@David Rogers And if he could actually be a positive in penalties drawn versus penalties taken, I could see that being somewhat useful. As-is, though...
3 months, 2 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/steve-ott-jokes-about-having-one-of-the-nhls-worst-plusminus-ratings.html
@David Rogers The fact that I can't conceive of a way for him to be colder, stats-wise, than Ott is a frightening concept that I'm not quite ready to contemplate.
Regardless of the outcome of the Miller portion, this is the part of the trade that I'll never be able to make myself like, and his play certainly didn't help influence my opinion positively.
@David Rogers If there was some kind of skater-independent-goaltending advanced stat (think Fielding-Independent Pitching, but inverted, and hockey-ized), I'd love to see it for Miller's time with the Blues. I honestly don't think he's been as bad as the pure numbers would indicate, but it's tough to get at it past all the breakaways and X-on-1s that the Blues gave up down the stretch. It reminded me a lot of last year, actually, when the team was just hanging Halak and Elliott out to dry on a regular basis.
Quick aside, can we get the defensemen, at least, to switch to sticks that don't randomly explode at the most inopportune moment at the opponent's blue line MULTIPLE TIMES A GAME?
My expectations for this deal are still entirely tied to the playoff performance, but, again, if the team doesn't improve in front of him, it's a null equation from the get-go. I'm willing to admit that there have to be better hockey minds out there than myself, as they're running NHL teams, and I'm not, but I think that the real argument that should be made is not that Miller will or won't improve the team (though clearly, he's likely to do one or the other, and probably not by much in either direction, given just how good Elliott was the past two years, on average), but rather that the need that should have been addressed was scoring. And that, given the cost of, say, a Vanek rental at the deadline, versus what it cost to bring in Miller, makes for a very interesting argument indeed.
Frankly, the team has looked merely very good to good since about the beginning of February, and downright mortal since mid-to-late March, when it comes to putting the puck in the net. Normally, I would blame it on Hitch's defensive system (see also: the average offensive vs defensive output of the '11-12 team), but since the team defense I'd associate with said system is notably absent, I don't have an answer for it.
3 months, 2 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/2013-14-ryan-miller-vs-jaroslav-halak-vs-brian-elliott.html
I know I went on record saying that the trade couldn't really be judged until the playoffs. That's all it was made for. That said, how fair that judgment is going to be, dependent upon the recovery of half of the NHL roster's worth of forwards, is a bit up in the air. Of course, the Blues aren't the only team dealing with injuries going into the playoffs... see also their first round opponent, Chicago.
All that said, it seems painfully obvious, looking at the offensive numbers since Tarasenko went down, that what the team needs isn't an improvement in goal, or more grindy veterans (we can call those up in spades from the Wolves at will, apparently), but at least one more guy who can share the load of breaking the game open in a pinch. Tough to say, but it's true - if you don't score at all, it doesn't matter if you can resurrect Dominik Hasek in his prime, it'll be done in the playoffs early and often.
3 months, 2 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2014-articles/video-geoff-platt-scores-insane-khl-goal.html
Polak's all well and good, but doesn't Hitch look actively angry? Like the cameraman's not buying in, or something...
3 months, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/roman-polak-looks-thrilled-to-be-in-the-team-photo.html
@David Rogers Agreed. That, and if Steen could recapture some of that lightning he had in a bottle for the first third or so of the season, that'd help, too. He pretty much had to regress toward the mean, of course, but a little last-minute fire gearing up for the playoffs would certainly help.
I'm not usually one to press the panic button, either, though I can see how someone could argue I am, with what I just got done saying, but here's the thing: I really wanted the Blues to have finally turned the corner on at least the scoring issue. Certainly, it doesn't help but magnify the problem that it's occurring right after locking in a playoff spot, with the attendant, "We want more, we'll shoot for the Presidents Trophy, etc, etc" talk that followed on the heels of the Blues punching their ticket to the playoffs.
At the end of the day, I'm a fan, not a hockey lifer with direct contact with the game on a daily basis, but don't some of these things have to get fixed eventually? I certainly won't even begin to claim to know how that's supposed to happen - Hitch has the Cup ring, not me. But things as fundamental as stick discipline to reduce the stupid, momentum-killing penalties, and getting the puck on net, not over or around it... There has to be a fix there, somewhere.
Saw the Tweet from Lou Korac after the game saying the Blues had 29 SOG, 26 blocked, 25 just plain missed. Even a quarter more of those on net is probably worth a goal through sheer volume, plus or minus one for a lucky bounce. Credit the other guys for playing the game, of course, but you get the same net result by getting half the missed shots on net instead of a quarter of the shots from each pool.
3 months, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/blues-struggles-are-disheartening-but-not-surprising.html
I really tried to hold off on saying this after the weekend games, but I'm going to go ahead at this point, because I suppose I ought to be on the record, so I can hopefully eat some well-deserved crow down the line.
Since the Blues got over being awful because ownership decided to blow up the team two lockouts ago to try to make it more sellable, they've had these problems in at least some measure:
We don't have an elite game-breaker. -- Sure, we can argue that Boston's built on the same model, but by and large, it's working there, and there are times when it just isn't, here... especially when the playoffs roll around.
We don't convert at a high enough rate on rebound opportunities. -- It's just a feeling, but sometimes it feels like every team in the league outperforms the Blues at getting those in-close, dirty, second-and-third-chance goals.
In concert with the two previous items, we don't seem to have the guts, gumption, call it whatever you want, to actually stick to the game and swing a comeback out of it. -- The exception being the 2011-2012 squad, who actually seemed to get fired up to stay in games. Where'd those guys go? So many of them look like they're still on the bench and in the lineup here...
We don't have the extra gear/playoff gear. -- Part of this may be that the Blues play at higher than what one might call the average level normally. Semi-playoff hockey, if you will. And it beats a lot of teams in the regular season. But when everybody else actually gears up and hits their playoff stride, the Blues continue struggling to match it.
We take too many penalties. -- Especially the idiotic, offensive-zone, power-play-destroying variety. 4min PP against the Caps tonight? 30-ish seconds in, Blues penalty, almost like clockwork. I'd really hoped that this particular bugaboo had left on the plane with Perron to Edmonton, but sadly not.
And, while it's not something that I've been really cognizant of until the past year or so, we just can't hit the net when it counts. -- I usually listen to the radio feed, unless I'm out with friends (hooray, GCL blackout restrictions!), but I cringe every time Kerber calls yet another shot high or wide. Sure, putting the puck straight into the goalie's chest isn't the most effective shot in the world, but at least it has the chance to bounce oddly, or slip through his arm/side gap, or land in the crease to be whacked at and maybe stuffed in. The shots off the back boards and back glass, by and large, don't.
There are plenty of other things I could say, but these, to me, are the big, long-standing ones. The ones that are really standing between the Blues and the promised land of deep playoff runs, and, God forbid, maybe even a Cup in my lifetime.
P.S.: Can we bring back the defense that crafted 16 regular season shutouts and the Jennings Trophy from two seasons ago? If we're not planning to score much, we're gonna need it.
Oh, hockey, your oddities are so... odd.
3 months, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2014-articles/nathan-horton-may-score-a-goal-in-a-game-he-doesnt-play-in.html
"Hey guys, I've got the Headless Horseman over here!"
3 months, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2014/photo-ref-freaks-out-when-roman-polaks-head-vanishes.html
Still scary to think that the 99-00 team put together 51 wins without having the shootout. Who knows what that win record might've looked like if they'd been allowed to break their 11 ties with the SO.
More interesting will be to see if they can actually chase down the President's Trophy like the 99-00 team did. Certainly doesn't seem like Boston is going away, and Anaheim is still well within shouting distance. Frankly, it looks a lot to me like it's Boston's to lose, given their remaining schedule. Everyone's dangerous at this time of year, sure, but I'd sure feel better about the Blues chances to come out on top in points if they got to play Philly, Minnesota, Winnipeg, Buffalo, and New Jersey instead of Colorado, Chicago, Washington, Minnesota, Dallas, and Detroit.
3 months, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/