Should Sharks fans boo Brian Campbell?


soupy2.jpgFor a scant two months two seasons ago, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell patrolled the San Jose Sharks blueline. His occasional spin-o-ramas and useful offensive skills were a breath of fresh air for what was then a mostly rugged D core at the Shark Tank. (Of course, the team one-upped Campbell by the next season when they acquired high-scoring defenseman Dan Boyle)

Campbell wore teal for what seemed like a blink of an eye, but Sharks devotees haven’t forgotten. How does Campbell and anyone with a set of ears know that? Because those fans boo him every time he touches the puck. Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun has more.

Brian Campbell, for gosh sakes! The carrot-topped Chicago defenceman is a sweet skater and a nice puck-handler but he isn’t anybody’s idea of a villain. But evidently the good people of San Jose have memories like elephants, because two seasons ago – for all of two months – Campbell was a late-season rental who elected not to re-sign with the Sharks when free agency season opened.

The fans ought to throw him a parade. No knock on Campbell, who had cost the Sharks a first-rounder and winger Steve Bernier to acquire from Buffalo, but his decision to sign in Chicago that summer made San Jose GM Doug Wilson go beat the bushes for another offensive defenceman, and the result was Tampa’s Dan Boyle.

And if the Shark faithful can’t figure out that’s an upgrade, they’re not as smart as they think they are, here in the most underrated hockey market in the National Hockey League.

I couldn’t agree more. While I think that both rush-leaders come at a hefty price, Boyle’s even lighter on the Sharks’ soon-to-be-troubled salary cap than his ginger counterpart. (Campbell is making about $7.1 million per year, compared to Boyle’s $6.6 million hit.) When you consider the fact that Boyle is, frankly, quite a bit superior to Campbell then what is there to complain about?

Then again, fans can often be as silly as they are sophisticated. Any goalie with a two syllable last name will receive a derisive chant, even if they’re dominating a game. (Bonus points for those moments when fans try to mock a goalie with a less chant-friendly name.) Ultimately, it’s silly to jeer Campbell, but fans earn the right to be silly geese when they buy tickets.

It won’t change the fact that it’s kind of dumb that they do it, though.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”