James O'Brien

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via St. Louis Blues

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

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?

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    Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

    Ken Hitchcock
    AP
    3 Comments

    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.”

    It looks like Havlat won’t make Panthers

    Martin Havlat
    AP
    7 Comments

    As PHT’s mentioned before, the Florida Panthers stand as a fascinating contrast between youth and experience.

    Let’s not kid ourselves, though; fresh faces usually beat out gray beards, at least when it comes to teams that are still trying to build toward contender status.

    While it’s by no means official, two Panthers beat writers – the Miami Herald’s George Richards and the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov – report that the Panthers are likely to pass on Martin Havlat.

    It wasn’t just about the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leading the charge. Other young Panthers (maybe most notably Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley) made the team, thus making Havlat less necessary.

    One would assume that it might be tough for the 34-year-old to find work, at least if he insists upon only an NHL deal.

    Health issues continue to dog him, but he’s no longer one of those guys who tantalizes with talent when he is healthy enough to play.

    Havlat also doesn’t really bring much to the table defensively. While other veterans can kill penalties and show a little more verstaility, Havlat’s greatest selling point is scoring.

    Could this be it for a solid career that may nonetheless end with a “What if?” or two?

    Silfverberg is set to practice again after Torres hit

    Jakob Silfverberg
    AP

    Considering all of the controversy surrounding the 41-game suspension for Raffi Torres, some might have lost track of the guy who received that hit: Jakob Silfverberg.

    The good news is that, at the moment, it seems like he’s OK.

    The Anaheim Ducks announced that he skated on his own and will be involved in the team’s next practice:

    That falls in line with some of the fall-out from the hit, as head coach Bruce Boudreau let out a relieved “thank goodness” at the young forward seemingly dodging a bullet.

    Here’s video of the hit and the suspension decision:

    Silfverberg, 24, enjoyed a nice breakout in 2014-15, especially during the playoffs.

    Keep in mind that injuries can sometimes crop up later than expected, especially potential head injuries/concussions. Still, it seems like the initial reaction is that the damage was minimal.

    Ducks hire Preston as Boudreau’s assistant

    Calgary Flames v Colorado Avalanche
    Getty
    1 Comment

    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) The Anaheim Ducks have hired Rich Preston as the third assistant coach on Bruce Boudreau’s staff.

    The Ducks announced the hiring Monday.

    Preston is a veteran coach with NHL experience as an assistant in Chicago, Calgary and San Jose. He also has been a head coach in the WHL for Regina and Lethbridge, where he also served as general manager from 2009 to 2013.

    The 63-year-old Preston played for Chicago and New Jersey in the NHL after starting his pro career with Houston and Winnipeg in the WHA.

    Preston will work alongside Trent Yawney and Paul MacLean on Boudreau’s staff. Scott Niedermayer is expected to do more scouting than coaching in his hybrid role for the Ducks this season.

    The Ducks open the regular season Saturday in San Jose.