Canucks GM Mike Gillis to talk with Roberto Luongo about captaincy today

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for grinningluongo.jpgIf you’re a Canucks fan that’s been sitting on the edge of your seat hoping to find some news about whether or not Roberto Luongo will be the team’s captain again next season, first of all, relax. Secondly, we’ve got an update for you. 

Canucks GM Mike Gillis is finding his hands full of drama and training camp hasn’t even begun in earnest. First he’s dealing with the injury situation surrounding the team’s top prospect Cody Hodgson and now he’ll be sitting down for a pow-wow with Luongo to discuss the team’s captaincy.

“I think that the expectations that go with that position, with that title, in a Canadian city can be a distraction,” Gillis admitted. “I will discuss that with him (Monday), and I will find out whether he feels the same way, and get his thoughts on the process.”

Apart from the fact the captain of an NHL team is expected to speak to the media at nearly every practice, morning skate and after every game — a serious task with the growing media horde surrounding these Canucks — the bigger problem came in the playoffs when the Canucks’ play lacked, particularly in the shot-blocking department.

It is at times like that when the captain needs to step up and publicly state where the team needs to improve. But when a goalie chastises his team in the media for failing to block enough shots, it comes across as the goalie pointing the finger at teammates.

It’s a good bet the captaincy goes to Henrik Sedin when the season starts in October.

“I know (Luongo) desperately wants to win a Stanley Cup, and he’s going to do everything in his power to do that. If he feels it’s a distraction or hinders his play in any way I’m sure he’ll make the best decision for the team first and for him second,” Gillis said.

Given how much talk there is about whether or not Luongo should even be the team captain should be indicative of how much of an issue this is to everyone concerned with the team. The fact that this is such a public discussion shows that the Canucks might need training camp to start sooner than most teams to escape such crazy talk.

Perhaps I’m a bit too old school when it comes to matters of team captaincy, but apparently we’re past the days when the guys on the ice would elect a team captain. I realize that being an NHL captain calls for more demands for your time off the ice as well as responsibilities on it. That said, goaltending is a position that demands mental focus at all times and having your goalie have to face the media after each game and handle the community tie-ins as well seems like more of a burden for a player shoulder than necessary.

Moving the “C” to Henrik Sedin or Ryan Kesler would likely be more of a benefit to the Canucks than they realize. Once they weather the initial storm of taking it from Luongo, they’ll be better off for it.

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.”