Will Roberto Luongo still be the captain of the Canucks this season?

robertoluongo2.jpgLots of fans thought it was a curious decision last year when the Vancouver Canucks elected to make goaltender Roberto Luongo the captain. After all, the league doesn’t exactly enjoy this, even to the point where they won’t allow goalies to wear the captain’s “C” on their jerseys. After the Canucks bowed out in their second straight playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks, a series that saw Luongo still play poorly against Chicago, questions were raised as to whether or not Luongo was distracted by being the team captain.

Now, it appears those questions are being addressed and Luongo might not be the team captain next season. Matthew Sekeres of the Globe and Mail does some digging to find out who might be the next captain in Vancouver.

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis denied an Internet report Tuesday that claimed goaltender Roberto Luongo had been stripped of the C and that centre Henrik Sedin, the NHL’s most valuable player, would take over as captain. Gillis said he had yet to meet with Luongo about the matter, but expects an audience in Vancouver next month, when the goaltender arrives prior to training camp.

After losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for a second consecutive season last spring, Luongo said he would review his captaincy, particularly its media demands.

Gillis said the organization wanted Luongo to determine whether the captaincy had become a distraction. He added that the team made lots of changes this summer, and wanted to give the goaltender ample opportunity to digest a revamped roster.

“I don’t think it is [a distraction], but it comes with certain expectations that may be, at times, a distraction,” Gillis said. “It can be challenging answering similar questions over and over again.”

Being a team captain doesn’t just mean being the guy on the ice that gets to talk to the referees, it also means being the focus of the team off the ice and in the locker room during post-game interview scrums. Luongo, while making for a great quote after the game, doesn’t always come off as the most complimentary guy of his teammates, defensemen in particular. Switching off to a guy like Henrik Sedin makes sense in the big picture sort of way, especially after winning the league MVP award.

If the Canucks are going to make a change, however, don’t be shocked if centerman Ryan Kesler turned out to be the guy. Kesler is a guy that plays with a tough edge and plays leading by example on the ice. During the Olympics, Kesler was a force on the ice for Team USA. Bringing that sort of tenacity to the captain’s position could do the seemingly heartless Canucks (judging by the playoffs the last two years) a boost they sorely need.

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.”