Author: Joe Yerdon

Paul Stastny

Blues need Paul Stastny to be their key to a Stanley Cup


When the St. Louis Blues signed Paul Stastny to a four-year, $28 million deal on July 1, many believed it to be the best signing of free agency. After all, who else can say they bagged a No. 1 center just by plunking down money?

The Blues have tried to keep the hype down regarding the 28-year-old former Colorado Avalanche pivot saying they don’t want him to be “Superman”, but when you look back the Blues’ recent playoff failures the pressure to do well offensively is plain to see.

Check out how the Blues offense has ranked out in goals per-game in the postseason the past three seasons:

2013-14: 2.33 (14th out of 16 teams)

2012-13: 1.67 (15th)

2011-12: 2.22 (7th)

Safe to say 2011-12 was an odd year if scoring just over two goals per game was good, but the point here is St. Louis’ offense has not gotten it done. Part of the blame there is thanks to Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings for the two times they bumped out the Blues. Corey Crawford looked to be very beatable in the most recent playoffs for Chicago, but Ryan Miller managed to be worse.

Call it excuses or point at other issues that have come up in recent years, but there’s no doubt adding Stastny to the lineup should help alleviate some of the goal production questions.

In his last three full seasons (lockout-shortened season excepted), he’s been a 70+ point per-season player. He’s good for 20-30 goals on his own and sets up others. That should work great for St. Louis’ goal scorers Alex Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko, and David Backes.

In last season’s playoffs, Stastny was a beast for the Avalanche with 10 points in the seven game series loss to the Minnesota Wild. While facing Ilya Bryzgalov is a bit different than facing Quick or Crawford, the Blues would be giddy to see that kind of performance in the playoffs. At $7 million per season, they’re counting on it.

Under pressure: Ken Hitchcock

Ken Hitchcock

We don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but things haven’t gone all that great in the playoffs for the St. Louis Blues.

Three years in a row the Blues have had huge regular-season performances, and all they have to show for it are two first-round losses and one second-round exit. A single series win over the San Jose Sharks isn’t anything to hang a banner over, and that’s something coach Ken Hitchcock knows.

What’s done in the Blues has been a mix of two things: Shoddy goaltending and a lack of offensive punch. St. Louis will look to answer those issues with a netminding tandem of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, and an offense that added Paul Stastny. They also hotly pursued Jason Spezza in an effort to further boost goal production, but Stastny’s addition was what helped make the Blues winners on paper in free agency.

We know the Western Conference is difficult and the Blues’ division got a lot more difficult last season with the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and Minnesota Wild all finding their way. Throw them into the mix with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Central Division is a bloodbath waiting to happen. Just what the Blues needed, right?

That’s why there’s so much pressure on Hitchcock.  Should the Blues make the playoffs and suffer another early exit, it will certainly lead to questions about his work behind the bench, as well as for the players on the ice. But as we’ve seen in the past, those kinds of battles usually result in the coach losing first.

Report: Habs owner stepped in to get Subban deal done

Geoff Molson

When P.K. Subban signed his eight-year, $72 million deal with the Montreal Canadiens, it’s easy to forget his contract was nearly settled by an arbitrator.

While Subban and Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin were unable to get a deal done initially and went through the full process of arbitration, according to Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette, it was Habs owner Geoff Molson who made sure the court’s decision would never be heard.

“A highly place source has confirmed our theory that it was indeed Molson who overruled GM Marc Bergevin, when it appeared that the club might be saddled with a single-year arbitration contract and a disgruntled star. It was Molson’s call to sign P.K. long-term and it was exactly right.”

Money is and has never been an issue for the Canadiens, so Molson stepping up and getting a deal done worth $9 million per year against the cap isn’t a big deal. Bergevin holding a hard line with Subban to the point where the Habs star may have become disgruntled about not being able to sign long-term is perhaps the most surprising aspect of this.

That said, Molson may wind up being hailed as a hero after all this. Fans in Montreal were eager to have Subban stay in the city and to not potentially go through the agonizing drama of seeing him go to free agency in two years and potentially end up with a rival team.

Call it whatever you want, but at the very least that’s smart business by the owner.

It’s St. Louis Blues Day at PHT

Alexander Steen, David Backes, Steve Ott

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The St. Louis Blues.

It’s been like a sad movie on repeat the past few seasons for the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues have had brilliant regular season performances sullied by crushing disappointment in the playoffs. Two years in a row it was the Los Angeles Kings ousting them from the postseason. Last season, it was their hated rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, giving them the boot in the first round.

Before the playoffs began, it seemed like it was all set up for St. Louis to make a deep run. They acquired Ryan Miller and Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres to help give them the boost they felt they needed in goal and the agitating penalty killer you need in the postseason.

Adding those two to go along with captain David Backes, surprising goal-scoring maven Alex Steen, rising Russian star Vladimir Tarasenko, Team USA standout T.J. Oshie, and young stud Jaden Schwartz gave the Blues the depth up front they’d been lacking.

With the forwards seemingly set and a defensive corps led by Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester the road to the Cup Final was there for the taking. Of course, things don’t always go how they’re drawn up.

Miller struggled in St. Louis. Whether that was due to the Blues tinkering with his positioning in net or not, the same bad goals Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott gave up in years past were also beating Miller. That combined with the Blues inability to keep up with the Blackhawks scorers netted Ken Hitchcock’s team yet another early start on the summer.

Suffice to say, if there are more playoff struggles next season there could be hell to pay.

Offseason Recap

The Blues were one of the most active teams of the summer.

They signed former Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny to a four-year, $28 million deal. He gives the Blues a true No. 1 center and a guy who is strong at both ends of the ice. While Backes was their top center last year, adding Stastny may help move him to the wing. That’s luxury.

St. Louis also re-signed Ott but lost Vladimir Sobotka to the KHL. That trade-off is one that made some scratch their heads as Sobotka is younger and seemed to be a perfect player with the Blues. Ott’s veteran abilities were valued by Hitchcock, however, and that always works out to have the coach on your side.

They also parted ways with Miller opting instead to keep Elliott and make him the starter and potentially give Jake Allen his chance to shine. Acquiring Miller brought on scrutiny for GM Doug Armstrong and the decision to let him walk to sign with the Vancouver Canucks will be put under the microscope.

The Blues also added forwards Jori Lehtera from the KHL and Peter Mueller from Switzerland. They also dealt Roman Polak to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Carl Gunnarsson. Blues fans may need a scorecard or a really sweet phone app to know who they’re rooting for next season.

Report: NHL working on new CBA with referees

Ottawa Senators v New York Islanders

Right when you thought it was safe to escape labor stories in the NHL, there’s some news on that front – just not with the players.

Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports the NHL and the league’s referees will meet in Toronto on Tuesday to try and and get a new Collective Bargaining Agreement set before the season.

The two sides last came to an agreement back in 2010 and came away with a four-year deal, as The Sporting News recalled. Is it possible things could get anxious and we run into a situation like the NFL had with their officials a couple years ago? It doesn’t look that way.

Back in 2010 the officials worked through the preseason before reaching an agreement before the season started.