Thrashers prospect Patrice Cormier looks to put ugly past behind him

atlanta_thrashers_2000.gifTo call Thrashers prospect Patrice Cormier’s last year turbulent would be being nice. The former Devils prospect spent the better part of the last year looking to get past being labeled as a reckless and careless player after a vicious elbow he laid on Mikael Tam during a QMJHL game last season, one that saw him get suspended indefinitely by the league as well as brought up on criminal assault charges.

After being shipped off to Atlanta in the Ilya Kovalchuk deal, Cormier is looking to redeem his image and his career with the Thrashers and so far in rookie camp it appears he’s done just that and is gunning for a spot on the roster with the Thrashers this year as Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution finds out.

General manager Rick Dudley called Cormier “one of the most mature kids I’ve seen at his age, physically and mentally.” Team officials went so far as to say that once Cormier was included in trade talks for Ilya Kovalchuk, the deal was promptly struck with New Jersey. The Thrashers sent their franchise player to the Devils for Niclas Bergors, Johnny Oduya, Cormier and a first-round draft pick in February.

“He was as big as any part of that trade,” Dudley said.

Such homage would seemingly place plenty of weight on the 20-year-old center. Following rookie camp, which ends Thursday, Cormier will take part in the Thrashers’ training camp, where he will essentially be trying to jump straight from junior hockey to the NHL.

“I don’t think there is a lot of pressure on me,” Cormier said. “Maybe there is, but I don’t put any pressure on my shoulders. I don’t worry about that. I can’t control what the organization is going to do with me this year. I just control what I can do. That’s work hard on the ice, help my teammates, be a good leader.”

Cormier was a second-round pick of the Devils in 2008 and he’s a player that Devils GM Lou Lamoriello liked quite a bit. Seeing Cormier grow up the way he apparently has and harness his game for good could help make the Kovalchuk trade look even more helpful to Atlanta.

Having Cormier become a major contributor to the Thrashers potential success along with Niclas Bergfors would be just the boost the franchise and GM Rick Dudley could use. The Thrashers struggles since joining the league are certainly not a secret but if Cormier’s reclamation can spur the Thrashers to rise from obscurity and help fans forget former GM Don Waddell’s shortcomings, it’ll turn Atlanta into a reclamation story of their own.

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.”