Goaltender Jonas Hiller #1 of the Anaheim Ducks stands in the crease prior to the start of the game against the Calgary Flames at Honda Center on March 2, 2012 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks defeated the Flames 3-2.
(March 1, 2012 - Source: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America)

Anaheim Ducks at a goaltending crossroad


Goaltender Viktor Fasth was one of the 2013 campaign’s most pleasant surprises. He made his NHL debut at the age of 30 and got things off with a bang by winning his first eight NHL starts.

Although he did have some rough outings along the way, he didn’t slow down significantly and ended up with a 15-6-2 record, 2.18 GAA, and .921 save percentage. Meanwhile, Jonas Hiller bounced back from a poor start, but after playing in 73 contests in 2011-12, he’s not the clear starter going into 2013-14.

Anaheim might even trade Hiller and put their faith entirely in Fasth, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them start the season with both goaltenders. After all, Fasth only has 25 games worth of NHL experience and as good as they have been, that’s an awfully small sample size to put your trust in.

In the short-term, it might make more sense for them to let Hiller and Fasth battle for playing time, but by the end of the 2013-14 campaign, they will be forced to make a decision.

Hiller’s entering the final season of his contract and if it’s a good one, he might seek a raise from his current $4.5 million annual salary. If they finish the season feeling confident with Fasth, then they might let Hiller walk if they haven’t already dealt him. If Fasth has a rough campaign though, the Ducks will be in a bit of a challenging situation.

They already have close to $42 million committed to 13 players in 2014-15, according to Cap Geek, so giving Hiller a raise might be painful. It will help though that Fasth’s contract with its $2.9 million cap hit expires in the summer of 2015, so if they opt to re-sign Hiller, then there will only be one season of overlap before their netminding costs get more reasonable.

In either scenario, you can expect Fasth or Hiller to be gone within the next two seasons. If one of them falters, then it wouldn’t make much sense to keep that one when Anaheim has some promising young goaltenders in the pipeline in John Gibson and Igor Bobkov. Even if both of them excel, it won’t be cost effective to retain both of their services for long given their contract situations.

So this is a key season for both Fasth and Hiller. Not only are they battling for the starting job, but they’re also fighting for their next gig, be it with the Ducks or another team.

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.”