Blues' young forwards happy to play without 'glass ceiling' provided by Tkachuk, Kariya

keithtkachukgoodbye.jpgThe St. Louis Blues more or less completed their transition from a mixed bag of veterans and newbies to one of the youngest teams in the NHL thanks to the retirement of Keith Tkachuk and the near-retirement of Paul Kariya this off-season. Some might wonder if this will harm the team’s chemistry, but the Blues seem to think that the removal of that “class ceiling” will be a major weight off the team’s backs. (Tkachuk weight joke … kind of intended.)

Budding power forward David Backes thinks of it as a passing of the torch, as he told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“It’s kind of a ‘passing of the guard,’ the way USA Hockey did it in the Olympics,” Backes said. “It’s happening here now. They were guys that you knew could get it done. But they’re not here anymore, so someone else has got to be the guy that’s going to get that clutch goal, or produce on a regular basis. It’s an awesome opportunity. Really, there’s no ceiling, no limit.”

Rutherford points out that the minutes that went to Tkachuk and Kariya (well, whenever he actually played) will go to the team’s younger forwards.

Tkachuk and Kariya averaged 30 minutes, 39 seconds of ice time per game last season, and now that ice will be divided among David Perron, T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund, among others.

“When players get more ice time, you’re into the game more,” former Blues defenseman Al MacInnis said. “You’re not thinking, you’re reacting. Most guys at this level, they bring their game to another level because of that. You’re not even thinking about making a mistake; you’re just going out there and playing the game.”

I’ve gone on record of saying that the Blues would be a great fit for veteran forward Bill Guerin and I don’t think all the “glass ceiling” talk would excuse the team from relying too much on an aging player. Still, if the team truly wants a resounding emphasis on those wet-behind-the-ears scorers, then they’ll get just that.

We’ll see if they break through that glass ceiling or end up wounded in the process.

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    Video: Crosby to Dan Patrick – Subban fight ‘wasn’t as bad as it looked’

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    Listerine, the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and a growing rivalry. Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban battled it out at the highest level not so long ago, but some of that action looked worse than it actually was.

    At least, that’s the message Crosby sent on “The Dan Patrick Show,” as you can enjoy in the clip above.

    As a bonus, Crosby also discussed his favorite Stanley Cup traditions – hey, there can be traditions when something happens three times – and how Mario Lemieux inspires some especially creative ideas:

    Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

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    For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

    Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

    Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

    Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

    Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

    Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

    Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

    Daley – 33
    Girardi – 33
    Hainsey – 36
    Campbell – 38

    In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

    As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

    When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

    Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

    At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

    Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.

    Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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    Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

    The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

    Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

    The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

    That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

    NCAA star Spencer Foo chooses the Flames

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    NCAA standout forward Spencer Foo decided to sign with the Calgary Flames, as The Sports Corporation and team confirmed. The signing might not be official until free agency kicks off on Saturday, July 1, but he apparently made his decision.

    After managing 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Union College, Foo exploded in 2016-17, racking up 26 goals and 62 points. You can see some of his highlights in the video above.

    He didn’t go drafted, so this could be a case of another scorer blossoming late.

    Foo is an Edmonton native, so playing close to home in Calgary likely factored into his decision. He was connected to the Edmonton Oilers in earlier rumors while MLive.com’s Ansar Khan indicates that his final choice came down to the Flames or the Detroit Red Wings.

    Calgary is already classifying him as a RW. Perhaps he’ll be that long-desired fit for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? There’s another positive aspect for the Flames, as this might help to soften the blow of giving up a bundle of assets in the Travis Hamonic deal.

    The Sports Corporation tweeted out a photo of Foo, 23, in a Flames jersey: