Jaroslav Halak

More interest bubbling up in buying the Blues? Sale expected before season starts

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It’s the summer of selling teams in the NHL and for one team, hopes are high that they’ll have a deal to be bought in place by the start of the new season. While teams like Phoenix and Dallas continue to fight for attention in the wealthy sectors to be bought, the St. Louis Blues are apparently not having similar problems.

We’ve seen former attempted buyer of the Coyotes Matthew Hulsizer get his name tossed around recently as interested in buying the Blues as well as a few other names including Blues minority owner Tom Stillman. Current majority owner Dave Checketts is looking to get out of owning the team and focus his efforts elsewhere and, fortunately for him, there are people calling to get involved.

Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tells us about how the interest in buying the Blues has those closely involved feeling positive about the team’s future.

Robert Caporale, chairman of Game Plan LLC, the company retained to handle the sale of the team, said there has been a spike in activity over the past 10 days. Game Plan has identified five “very interested parties” in acquiring the National Hockey League team, potential buyers that are prepared to submit binding bids.

“Things are definitely heating up,” said Caporale, who said he expects the sale to take place before the start of the season. The Blues open the season Oct. 8 against Nashville at Scottrade Center.

Game Plan has established a data site for prospective buyers to do homework, kick the tires and determine if a business marriage is viable. The sale includes the team, the management contracts on the Scottrade Center and the American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria, Ill.

This kind of progress is huge for the Blues who have seen their fortunes on the ice fall off in recent years as they’ve missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. With the Blues, for now, playing in the very difficult Central Division with the likes of Detroit, Chicago, and Nashville they can’t afford to have any extended slip ups during the year and unfortunately for St. Louis those other teams have all been too difficult to overcome.

While better success on the ice would help draw interest from buyers, St. Louis is a solid hockey and sports market and should things get turned around there, business should pick up fast. As it is, the Blues aren’t having problems drawing fans as they sold out every game last season and with that kind of draw for a team, especially one that’s been losing, that presents future owners a huge opportunity to get things right to get the team back to the playoffs and make demand for tickets even greater.

Still, when it comes to selling a franchise these things take time and given how we’ve seen things get bogged down with other teams (yes, Dallas and Phoenix alike) patience is required for Blues fans in the process. The Blues are a solid team in a great market that loves the team and something will get done, iit just doesn’t happen overnight unless you’re named the Atlanta Thrashers.

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.”