Bruins enforcer Brian McGrattan does not care much for Ottawa’s Chris Neil

The enforcers community in the NHL is generally one built upon respect for other enforcers since they know how hard one another’s job is in the league. After all, playing the role of public defender of your teammates on the ice and designated brawler with other enforcers is a tough job despite not logging a lot of minutes on the ice. Of course, when a player goes astray and breaks the rules of “the code” especially with players who aren’t enforcers, that tends to stir things up in the fighting community.

Case in point, Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators picking a fight with Dennis Seidenberg of the Bruins on Saturday night in the final five minutes of the Sens 4-0 loss to the Bruins. You can see video of the scrap here on YouTube. Bruins enforcer-in-waiting Brian McGrattan, who was just called up from a conditioning assignment, was asked about his former teammate Neil picking a fight with noted non-fighter Seidenberg and much like how he plays on the ice, McGrattan pulled no punches with his thoughts on Neil as Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe notes.

“I heard about it,” McGrattan said of Neil’s actions. “That’s typical Chris Neil. I had to protect that guy for three years when I was there. He’d do that and I’d have to fight all his battles for him the next time we’d play a team after he’d do something stupid like that. It doesn’t surprise me.”

Neil and Seidenberg were tagged with fighting majors. Neil was given an additional two minutes for roughing.

“That’s the way he does it,” McGrattan said. “He’ll do something where he knows he’ll get kicked out of the game and won’t have to come back and fight anybody. I’ve been around him long enough to know he does that. Then I’m the one who usually has to fight his battles the next time. It’s typical.”

Neil’s reputation amongst virtually anyone in the league is about as sparkling as this scouting report from McGrattan seems to indicate. All McGrattan was missing from this was calling Neil a few colorful names and insulting his family. Perhaps that chatter gets saved for on the ice.

The one advantage that Neil has over McGrattan is that Neil has somehow carved himself a decent NHL career out of being a fighter and agitator. Meanwhile, McGrattan’s lone skill is throwing punches with other players and has the distinction of holding the AHL single-season record for penalty minutes.  If you were going to give me the choice of which guy I’d lay my fake money on to take a fight, I’d put it on McGrattan over Neil. There’s not many fights McGrattan has said “no” to in his career while Neil has developed the knack for picking on guys that are either smaller than him or guys that don’t fight at all in which to brawl with.

This is just a lot of mindless banter for now, but should McGrattan get to suit up for a game against Ottawa, Chris Neil had better be ready for action. McGrattan seems to have a bit of a long memory for these things.

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.”