Action and reaction from a whirlwind Fantasy All-Star Draft


Last night’s All-Star Fantasy Draft provided a lot of fun for the players and for those of us in the media looking to have some fun with such a new, quirky way. Asking the guys about strategy and about where they’d like to end up, getting the pre-draft and post-draft reactions provided some of their own entertainment.

A lot of attention was focused on team captain Nicklas Lidstrom. After all, having to lead the way in choosing sides, it’s all part of the job. Lidstrom said he went into last night’s fantasy draft with no real game plan to run with.

“No, no scouting at all for this game,” Lidstrom chuckled. “I know the players pretty well as it is so I didn’t need to do any scouting for them. Kenny (Holland) says ‘defense wins championships’  but I don’t think that will work for a game like this.”

Once the draft was over and Lidstrom’s squad was set up with a host of current and former Chicago Blackhawks alike in Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Dustin Byfuglien and Martin Havlat, Lidstrom was happy to spill the beans why his team has a distinctive Chicago flavor.

“Kane had some part in picking those guys but I don’t mind it either. I faced those guys all the time so it’ll be nice to play with them instead.”

One guy who had a man-of-the-hour flair about him was Team Staal’s first overall pick Cam Ward. Going into the draft Ward was hopeful that he could end up being Staal’s first pick and after winning that recognition, he was more than happy and a bit surprised to get the nod.

“I was surprised. Staal’er wouldn’t lay down his cards and tell me what he’d do. He’s a good friend but I didn’t know if he’d want me to sweat it out down there either.”

Ward was also really excited about having his teammates Staal and Jeff Skinner all together on the team.

“We talked about how great it would be to have us all together on one team and how good it would be for the home fans and it’s nice that it worked out that way.”

One of the more amusing side dramas for the night came for New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. Staal was passed on by his brother Eric on multiple rounds leading to an amusing quip during the draft from him saying how disappointed their mother would be in Eric for not picking him.

Making matters a bit worse for Marc is that his brother also chose his teammate Henrik Lundqvist ahead of him as well. So which one is worse, being made to sweat it out or being picked after his teammate?

“I think giving Henrik bragging rights was worse than waiting.”

So how does one deal with potential Swedish goaltender heckling? Marc’s got a good way to deal with it.

“I don’t know how much I’ll hear from him. I’ll just hit him with a slapper in practice if he does though.”

The key aspect from everyone here is that the players all had fun doing this. From seeing how relaxed the players are in dealing with the throngs of media here to just having fun with the whole thing it’s got to be a relief to be able to just let loose for a few days with your buddies from around the league.  How much that fun stuff shown off on the ice when it comes time to show the pride in your team remains to be seen just yet, but so far for the NHL their mission to make the All-Star Game more interesting is working.

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.”