Los Angeles Kings v St. Louis Blues

Today marks the deadline for St. Louis Blues’ ownership bids

There are a handful of NHL teams hoping to find a new owner in the near future, but the St. Louis Blues’ situation hasn’t received a whole lot of attention. That makes sense, too, because the perception is that the process could be much smoother than the headache-inducing struggles suffered by the Phoenix Coyotes of the world – at least relatively speaking. Of course, just because something should be simple doesn’t mean that everything will flow like smooth jazz.

With that always-lingering potential for chaos in mind, we’ll be keeping an eye on news about the Blues’ ownership situation. Today will be a good day to do so, because August 22 marks the deadline for hopeful new ownership groups to submit their bids to purchase the club from current owner Dave Checketts. The hope is that the Blues can get a prospective owner in place for approval by September 20 – the latest round of the NHL’s Board of Governors meetings – but that remains to be seen.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford reports that former potential Coyotes owner Matt Hulsizer and current Blues minority owner Tom Stillman are among the most prominent candidates bidding for the Blues. Rutherford focused on noted (and deep-pocketed) hockey enthusiast Hulsizer in his story on the bidding.

Hulsizer, however, never lost his love for hockey, and two months after pulling out of a complicated deal to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, he could be joining “the club” in St. Louis. According to sources, Hulsizer has already made one offer to buy the club, and although it was unsuccessful, he remains interested.

A relative unknown in NHL circles two years ago, Hulsizer would be a slam-dunk to gain NHL approval. In December 2010, the league’s 10-member Board of Governors’ executive committee unanimously approved his application to buy the Coyotes.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly labeled the group’s conversations with Hulsizer as “a very good interview.”

Not many details about other potential owners have surfaced at this time, but the Blues are a team in a respectable market and with a lengthy history in the NHL. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like the Blues are one of the healthiest teams that have gone up for a sale in quite some time, with strengths that make them comparable to the recently sold Buffalo Sabres.

Rutherford points out that it’s possible that the team will receive offers after today’s deadline anyway, so it’s a fluid situation. We’ll keep an eye out for details on this still-developing story, whether a frontrunner emerges today, later this week or some other time in the near future.

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.”