Tomas Fleishmann

Capitals trade Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado for defenseman Scott Hannan

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The Washington Capitals are toughening up the blue line. The Caps traded frustrating centerman Tomas Fleischmann to the Colorado Avalanche for physical defenseman Scott Hannan.

When Fleischmann is on his game, he’s an instant injection of offense to the lineup. Last season, Fleischmann broke out during the regular season with 23 goals and 28 assists. When the playoffs came around, Fleischmann struggled and earned the ire of many Caps fans for being a soft player unwilling to get into the dirty areas to score and battle for pucks. He’s a fast skater though and in Colorado he’ll fit in fine with Joe Sacco’s speed attack system. He’ll also help fill in offensively while Chris Stewart is out the next 4-6 weeks with a broken hand.

When the Avalanche acquired defenseman Matt Hunwick from Boston yesterday, it gave the Avs quite the logjam on the blue line, injuries or not. Losing Hannan will allow Ryan O’Byrne to pick up the slack defensively and with Kyle Quincey back in the lineup and Adam Foote’s return on the horizon, Hannan was the odd man out. Having a salary cap hit of $4.5 million also makes his departure more sensible. Hannan did have a no-trade clause in his contract, but waived it to go to the Capitals.

For the Caps, Hannan is just the kind of guy they need on the back line. Hannan is a prototypical defensive-defenseman. He’s positionally sound, delivers thumping hits on occasion and isn’t afraid to mix things up with forwards that get a bit too daring crashing the net. Hannan also comes with the full approval of Alexander Ovechkin who once referred to Hannan as the “toughest defenseman to play against.”

This is a deal that, on paper, looks to be a winner for both sides. Hannan’s results won’t be noticeable for the team until it’s time for the playoffs. He’s a guy that’s meant to be a problem solver for the team when dealing with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Mike Richards. Fleischmann steps into an immediate need in the short term for Colorado and gives them an older presence amongst a pack of very young forwards. Fleischmann isn’t old himself, but he’s had more NHL time than a lot of guys they’ve got. It’s fun to see a deal like this work out for both sides but we’ll see if Scott Hannan is the answer the Caps need on defense and if Tomas Fleischmann can find his scoring touch again in Denver.

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.”