Kovalchuk decision expected today


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ilyakovalchuk6.jpgThe decision in the Ilya Kovalchuk contract grievance is expected to come down at some point today. We’ve analyzed what will happen depending on how the decision comes down, and while we’re expecting that systems arbitrator Richard Bloch will approve Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract, we still know that funny things can happen when it comes down to a court case. You know, like sometimes Clarke MacArthur walks away with a $2.4 million award.

If you’re big into your NHL history, however, having the decision come down on August 9 helps make this an even bigger day when folks will look back upon what’s happened. On this day in 1988, Wayne Gretzky, two months removed from winning his fourth Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers, was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in the biggest single transaction the sports world had seen. Gretzky, Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski were all sent to the Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million in cash and three first-round picks. The Gretzky deal taught nine year-old me at the time a life lesson I’ve yet to forget: If Wayne Gretzky can be traded, anyone can be traded.

If you’re big into numerology and how it’s spooky that the same number can keep cropping up, Kovalchuk’s number 17 has played a prominent role in things. He wears number 17. His contract is for 17 years.  Today is August 9 (8/9; 8+9 = 17). Kovalchuk mentioned at his press conference that his father passed away on the 17th of month. A decision in his case is due by the close of business today at 5:00 p.m. which in military time is 17:00. This entire fiasco feels like it’s taken 17 days to get settled (it hasn’t). There hasn’t been this kind of wacky numerology since the movie “The Number 23” starring Jim Carrey.

One way or the other, I think we’ll all be happy once Richard Bloch’s decision comes down because either we can finally move on to other news or the summer got a lot more interesting.

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.”