Stephane Auger

Stephane Auger to officiate first game in Vancouver since Burrows incident


TEAM 1040 radio in Vancouver is reporting that Stephane Auger, assigned to referee tonight’s Blues-Canucks game at Rogers Arena, will officiate in Vancouver for the first time since the infamous Alex Burrows incident.

As a refresher, here’s what transpired between Burrows and Auger on Jan. 11, 2010:

Burrows, who scored two goals in Vancouver’s 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday, received a 10-minute misconduct with four seconds left in the game after complaining to Auger, who penalized the Vancouver player twice in the third period.

“After my second penalty, I skated by him, and he said, ‘If you say a word, I am going to kick you out,’ so I didn’t say a word because I still thought we could come back and win the game,” Burrows said after the game. “But with three seconds left and the faceoff outside the zone, I thought I could tell him what I thought about him.”

Burrows said Auger — an NHL official since 2000 — told him during the warm-up that Burrows made him look bad when he drew a major penalty after Predator Jerred Smithson charged him in Nashville on Dec. 8.

“It was personal. It started in warm-up before the anthem,” Burrows said. “The ref came over to me and said I made him look bad in Nashville on the Smithson hit.”

Smithson got a major penalty and a game misconduct for a charging penalty on Burrows.

“He said he was going to get me back tonight, and he did his job in the third,” Burrows said.

After an NHL investigation, Burrows was fined $2500 for his comments, Auger received no punishment and Vancouver dreamed up a billion paranoid conspiracy theories about how the man was trying to keep it down. Or, as we refer to it locally, “the usual.”

You wouldn’t believe just how long this carried on for, even though Ron MacLean of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada had a lot to do with that. He ripped Burrows quite severely on the program, so much so that Burrows’ family filed a complaint to CBC (with Burrows’ father calling it “verbal assassination.”) That gave the story roughly 14 extra weeks of shelf life.

As for tonight’s game, there are three other officials working not named Stephane Auger. They are Dan O’Halloran (referee), Don Henderson and Thor Nelson (linesmen).

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.”