Youth movement underway on Boston’s blueline


The Boston Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup with a defense featuring Zdeno Chara (33 years old at the time), Tomas Kaberle (32), Andrew Ference (31), Dennis Seidenberg (29), Johnny Boychuk (27) and the baby of the group, Adam McQuaid (24).

Heading into the 2013-14 season, the unit will be decidedly younger.

While four key parts still remain — Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk and McQuaid — there’s a group of kids that will be leaned upon to fill the void.

Dougie Hamilton, who just turned 20 in June, is one, along with breakout playoff sensations Torey Krug (22) and Matt Bartkowski (25).

The trio only has 65 combined games of regular season experience — and most of that comes from Hamilton, who was the lone youngster on a veteran defense last season.

This year, Bartkowski acknowledged they’ll all be in line for more playing time.

“It’s shaping up that way and looking that way,” he told ESPN Boston. “I think Kruger, Dougie and me have gained a lot of experience the past year. Especially during the playoffs, Kruger and me gained so much experience, and you saw what he did. And then Dougie played a lot in the regular season.

“I think we gained their trust in the playoffs and they’re able to play us in more situations now. Their confidence in us rose, and because of that our confidence skyrocketed.”

Boston has taken a slow approach to remodeling its defense. Kaberle was allowed to walk following the Stanley Cup win, as was Ference following the 2013 Cup Final appearance.

Other veterans have come and gone — Shane Hnidy, Joe Corvo, Mike Mottau, Greg Zanon, Wade Redden — but with little available cap space and a dearth of defensemen on the open market, Boston must now to rely on its youngsters (two of whom, Hamilton and Krug, are playing on entry-level deals; Bartkowski makes a mere $650,000.)

It’s a movement that GM Peter Chiarelli is excited about.

“I’m okay with it and we do have a different look to our D. There is a freshness, a young look to it. If things aren’t working out as the season progresses I may look into that, but I’m okay with it,” Chiarelli told CSN New England. “What I saw with these guys is there’s going to be some bumps along the road.

“But the new guys that I think will be in the lineup are competitive. They’re young, they’re all good skaters and they’re going to make some mistakes. But I like what they bring in general.”

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.”