Greetings one and all and welcome to the chat. Not much going on this week, so I'm curious to see what people want to talk about.
Just kidding! In any case, let's get started.
Seems like a good place to start with the search for the third on that line. He doesn't have the shot that Tarasenko has -- not really a whole lot of candidates for that anyway -- but he is a tenacious worker and will battle for pucks. He has shown a few times in his career that he could score goals. The thrust of that line may have to shift to where Schwartz has to be scoring more. If he has the numbers like he did at the start of last season, that won't be good. Blais may be the best of the options, though I wouldn't be surprised to see Steen in that role too. Unless Blais steps in and the line takes off, I would expect players to rotate through spot in the near future.
The simple fact for the Blues is this: They are not as good a team today as they were at the start of Thursday night. There is no one player on the team who will score 30 goals, and I don't know that are three guys who will score 10 more goals. The Blues are now in a position where they need Blais, Sanford and Fabbri all to be 15-goal scorers this season, maybe more. If all three of them could do it, I would be pleasantly surprised. The best way to make up for that loss of goals will be to allow fewer. The Blues are a lot less likely to outscore opponents this season; 6-5 wins won't be commonplace. It's not just on Binnington; it will be on the whole defensive unit. There were way too many odd-man rushes against Detroit. If the Blues give up four goals in a game, they will be hard-pressed to win. If they can keep the goals down, the pressure on these guys to score won't be as high. As for the goalies: soft goals will hurt even more this season.
I think it was an accurate assessment of how he's done this season. We may have seen as many soft goals this season from Binnington, or goals he'd like to have back, as we saw all last season. There were probably two in the Detroit game that he would have liked to have had. The go-ahead goal seemed to catch him by surprise. Binnington's numbers so far, a 2.67 GAA, a .912 save percentage, are not as good as last season, and are about average. The Blues are 16th in the league in GAA, and almost all of that is Binnington.
Yeah, I probably should have put him in there. The thing is, the Blues really like him on the line with Bozak, and on the occasions, they have moved him off the Bozak line, or he's been out of the lineup, that third line has just dried up. So they're keeping Thomas there so because when that line has been Sanford, Fabbri and Bozak, it's been nothing.
Tarasenko already is on long-term injured reserve, so the Blues have a little under $7.5 million of available space they can use while he's out. Pietrangelo has a no-trade clause. I don't think a blockbuster trade to acquire a goalscorer is coming. Not only would it be hard to make the numbers work, I don't think giving up Pietrangelo for a goalscorer makes the team better. It's just shifting the problem.
I don't think it was just Hitchcock. Coaches think in pairs, as you said. O'Reilly and Perron are joined at the hip now. Then it's a matter of plugging in a third and seeing what works. You can get a good idea of the "pairs" in situations like 4 on 4s or OT, where there are only two forwards on the ice. This season, the plug-ins, as it were, are Blais, Sanford, Fabbri and Steen. (And MacEachern, if you want to consider him, though he's only going to play on the fourth line.) Mix and match as you see fit.
Pietrangelo's shooting percentage this season is 10.8 percent, which is 10th best on the team. Last year, he was 7.7 and 10.8 would be higher than any full season in his career, in some cases three times higher. I would expect that number to come down over the course of the season as he takes more shots. But right now, he has been more accurate.
I'm sure the Pietrangelo camp looked at the Josi contract with great interest and smiles of approval. Doug Armstrong, maybe not so much. In case you missed it, Josi signed an 8-year contract with a $9.059 million AAV.
The Josi deal does set a high bar. The Blues were likely to go eight years on a Pietrangelo contract in order to keep the AAV down, because a four- or five-year deal, the years you're really interested in for Pietrangelo, will otherwise cost too much. But if it wasn't Josi, there likely would have been someone else to set a high bar for the Blues to get over. And much like with Schenn's deal, who knows if Armstrong is around in eight years to have to deal with the ramifications. Or, for that matter, who knows if I'm around to write about it.
Nathan Walker could well be the first player to get called up, quite possibly on Thursday, but I think in the short term, he'd be a healthy scratch and around for depth. While he's putting up good numbers in San Antonio, he's not someone who's going to come in and start scoring left and right. Remember, he signed a two-way deal with the Blues as a free agent, so other teams weren't exactly knocking down the door to get him. I don't see him playing above the third line. But who knows? Maybe he's this season's Jordan Binnington, only a forward.
What's weird -- and Fabbri kind of agreed about this yesterday -- is that Fabbri was playing some of the best he'd played all season right before his most recent run of scratches, which I think has left him shaking his head. My colleague Jim Thomas, who is recording a podcast as we speak, asked Fabbri today if he was in the lineup tonight and he said no, but didn't want to talk about it any further. Of the nine games he's played this season, Games 7 and 8 for him were probably the best, though in the Vancouver game, he played just six minutes. He had a run of games and seemed to be picking up speed, though picking up speed has seldom been Fabbri's problem. But he has one goal in nine games and in those early games, wasn't much of a factor. If he doesn't get in the lineup often, there's no way he'll show that season wasn't a fluke, though after two knee surgeries, fluke may not be the right word. Had he stayed healthy, more seasons like that would have followed. Right now, he's losing out to Zach Sanford, and as long as MacEachern is in the lineup, there isn't room for both of them. In some ways, Steen is the key to all this. If the Blues want Steen to play higher in the lineup, they need someone who's a good fit for the fourth line, and that's MacEachern. If Steen goes back to the fourth line, MacEachern sits and it opens a spot for Fabbri. More games wouldn't hurt for Fabbri.
Disagree away! I'm just saying this is how I think the Blues see the situation. The Blues are much higher on the potential of Sanford and Fabbri than they are of Walker. At the end of camp, I asked Berube about the various guys headed for San Antonio who were still around and how they figured in, and his answer was that basically they're all third- or fourth-line guys. Things change, but if Walker scores in the NHL the way he's scoring in the AHL, it would be surprising.
Kostin is still 20. If he was a North American, this would probably be his first year pro. The team thinks he still has some learning to do and seasoning to get in the AHL. They like very much how he is progressing this season. They liked his camp and like how he has been doing in San Antonio. Right now, Sanford and Fabbri, who have been in the NHL and played in games in the Stanley Cup Final, are more advanced in their careers and have yet to show that they can't play in the NHL. So jumping Kostin ahead of them doesn't make sense. With a chance to play real minutes with real quality players, maybe one of those guys, or Blais, takes off. One way or the other, you need to know what you have with those guys. This is the way to find out. Kostin's play in San Antonio, or the play of Sanford, Fabbri or Blais in St. Louis, may force the Blues hand on this matter. The Blues are one forward injury away from really needing someone. Kyrou, is more ready to go, is a different case. When he's healthy, he'll get a look. The clock is running for Sanford and Fabbri.
Still learning, and the personnel keeps changing, even more so with Tarasenko out. On the road trip, they plugged Parayko into Tarasenko's spot and it seemed to work great. When they worked on the power play in practice yesterday, Parayko wasn't out there. (If my notes are correct, it was Pietrangelo, Perron, O'Reilly, Schwartz and Schenn on one unit, Thomas, Faulk, Blais, Bozak and Dunn on the other.) There's a fair amount of leftover clutter from last season, and a need to change their mindset as much as their strategy. When it looks good, it looks very good. When it looks bad, it looks awful. It sure got them a goal they needed on Sunday.