Alex Kovalev

Mike Comrie and Alex Kovalev won’t be Penguins next season

If you’re a Penguins fan and you were left feeling empty by the end of the season that’s understandable. After all a first round playoff loss stinks and leaves you feeling like it all came to an end too soon. The Penguins are looking ahead to next season, however, and they’re already making choices about who’s staying and who’s coming back.

A pair of names that won’t be donning the Penguins sweater next season are a pair of more famous names. Penguins GM Ray Shero said today that while he’s looking ahead and working on deals with some potential free agents in house, he won’t be bringing back either Mike Comrie or Alex Kovalev next season.

Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gets the details from Shero about why Comrie and Kovalev won’t be back.

Shero said he isn’t sure what Comrie’s future holds but that it’s possible the hip surgery Comrie had in December will hinder his prospects of playing in the NHL again. Comrie, 30, was signed as a free agent last summer but after a strong preseason got hurt. He had a goal and five assists in 21 games and did not appear in the playoffs after he had been cleared to return.

Kovalev, 38, was obtained in March from Ottawa but never recaptured the magic he had during his first tour with the Penguins He had two goals, seven points in 20 regular-season games and one goal, two points in seven playoff games.

It’s not shocking that either of these guys won’t be back but both players offered different brands of disappointment. Comrie’s injury obviously made things more difficult for him and knocking him out for the better part of the year made life harder for him and the Pens given the other injuries they had to deal with during the year. Comrie was signed as an inexpensive option for the Penguins in that if he was able to find the form he had previously in his career and having him play alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin would’ve netted great results. Instead injuries conspired against all of them to make their season more difficult.

Kovalev was acquired midseason to try and give the Penguins an older, but familiar, lift while they were without Malkin and Crosby. Instead, Kovalev couldn’t get quite rejuvenated and couldn’t produce the offense the Pens hoped for. Given how old Kovalev is now, you have to wonder if this is perhaps the end of the road for him as his production has fallen off in each of the last three seasons.

How the Penguins opt to fill ranks in the offseason with Malkin looking to come back from knee surgery ready for training camp and a watchful eye on Sidney Crosby’s continued rehab from a January concussion continuing  will make free agent season worthwhile for the Penguins. When it comes to Ray Shero, always expect the savvy move to be made rather than the big splash.

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.”