To replace Pietrangelo, Blues defense should spread the wealth, specialize

To replace Pietrangelo, Blues defense should spread the wealth, specialize
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With Alex Pietrangelo out of town, some look at Torey Krug as his natural Blues replacement. Others believe that hulking, skilled right-handed holdover Colton Parayko will be the Blues’ go-to guy. Personally, the best answer is probably “All of the Above,” with Vince Dunn as option C.

Let’s begin with the Blues’ stated goal of more Parayko.

Blues view Parayko as “the alpha male” of defense after Pietrangelo leaves

Blues GM Doug Armstrong made no bones about it to Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic (sub required). It’s clear to him that Colton Parayko is the Blues’ No. 1 defenseman, and that could mean asking for more from Parayko on the power play.

“I’ve talked to Colton and, in my view, it’s his team on the back end right now,” Armstrong said. “He’s the alpha male. He’s been here the longest, he’s got the game to be the alpha male, and he wants the challenge.”

From a defensive standpoint, leaning that much more on Parayko, 27, makes a lot of sense. When you’re looking for possible missteps, going too far out of Parayko’s prior experience could be a mistake. At least when you factor in Blues personnel (more on that soon).

So, sure, Armstrong is right in turning to Al MacInnis and raving about Parayko’s howling slap shot. Yet, when Rutherford notes that Parayko’s taking some grief for being selective with said slappers, it’s possible Parayko is the one in the right.

A lot of hockey people allow an undeniable strength to morph into a predictable crutch. Consider how, say, Shea Weber is no guarantee for a great power play. As scary as Weber’s shot is, if you’re telegraphing to point shots, teams will take the lumps and load up on ice packs to block those howitzers.

Is there some room for Parayko to unleash that slapper? Sure, but don’t go overboard.

Judging by Parayko’s history by metrics such as his Hockey Viz charts, a mix of heavy defense and supplementary power play work likely makes the most sense.

Blues defense without Pietrangelo; Parayko Hockey Viz
via Hockey Viz

Again, Parayko can be a weapon. Just maybe not the primary one from the Blues’ blueline.

Get it Dunn

Instead, Craig Berube & Co. should cook up ways for the Blues to lean into everyone’s strengths. In some cases, that might mean realizing you have something of a hidden gem.

As of this moment, 24-year-old defenseman Vince Dunn lingers as a restricted free agent. If I were an opposing GM, I’d blow up Armstrong’s phone to find out how much the Blues actually value an underrated defenseman.

That’s because, based on an earlier look at the Blues’ depth chart, Rutherford indicated that Marco Scandella and Justin Faulk are likely to grab the second pairing roles, pushing Dunn down to the third. This sure seems like a mistake, unless Armstrong believes he can pull off a “pump-and-dump” trade to get a mulligan on the entire Justin Faulk era.

Now, sometimes you run into a chicken-and-the-egg argument with underused defensemen. Maybe Vince Dunn laps up the cushy minutes, and would shrink in greater assignments. The Blues should think long and hard about finding out what more Dunn can do, as much as anyone else though.

Consider the value Dunn brought to the Blues from a Goals Above Replacement standpoint, via Evolving Hockey:

Blues defense GAR 2019-20, Evolving Hockey
GAR chart via Evolving Hockey

Perhaps, instead of heaping possibly too much of a burden on Parayko’s broad shoulders, it would be better to spread the wealth?

The advice isn’t to dislodge Parayko, but instead to ask him to take baby steps forward rather than a leap.

Delightfully for the Blues, Dunn’s shown evidence of being a useful player both ways.

Theoretically, you could break up Alex Pietrangelo’s minutes by committee. A chunk goes to Parayko. Dunn can fill in various blanks as a competent two-way option. Maybe you trust Marco Scandella with some defensive headaches. And then you consider a serious weapon they just added …

Give most of those Pietrangelo PP minutes to Krug, don’t overthink this

If you polled hockey people about Torey Krug, you’d probably get mixed reactions about his all-around play.

Those hockey people would have to bury their heads pretty deep in the sand to ignore Krug’s work as a power play wizard, though. You know someone makes a PP impact when you need to make the Y-axis of a RAPM chart bigger:

Torey Krug RAPM chart via Evolving Hockey

Now, sure, you can nitpick Krug there, too. Chances are, Krug’s power-play work got a big boost playing with David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and the rest of the Bruins’ dangerous unit.

But, at some point, if you’re straining to prop up one option and downgrade another, maybe you’re risking leaving value on the table?

Blues should be open-minded with post-Pietrangelo defense

No doubt about it, losing Alex Pietrangelo hurts.

That said, the Blues could limit the damage if they’re smart, and willing to wring out every drop of efficiency they can from a still-potentially-strong unit.

Parayko is, indeed, likely the most crucial piece. That said, Torey Krug could replace a lot of Pietrangelo’s offense — or maybe even be an upgrade there — while possibly being more competent defensively than some realize.

But, most of all, the Blues’ defense could profit if they embrace the hidden gem they seem to have in Vince Dunn.

Really, with a potentially condensed 2020-21 NHL schedule, versatility could be quite important. Do you want to lean too much on Parayko if there are a lot of back-to-backs, or would you rather keep your workhorse (*sigh* /”alpha male”) fresh for the would-be 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Exploring these avenues could bring significant rewards for the Blues defense. Hey, you never know, maybe they’d even (gasp) end up ever-so-slightly better?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Sharks goalie James Reimer declines to wear Pride jersey

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    San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer won’t take part in pregame warmups Saturday night, saying the team’s decision to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community runs counter to his religious beliefs.

    Reimer said in a statement Saturday that he made the decision based on his Christian beliefs, adding that he “always strived to treat everyone with respect” and that members of the LGBTQ community should be welcome in hockey.

    “In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in life,” Reimer said.

    Reimer is the second NHL player this season to refuse to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys, with Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov declining to in January. Reimer was not slated to start in Saturday night’s home game against the New York Islanders, which is Pride night.

    Additionally, the New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    The Sharks said in a statement that they are proud to host Pride Night, saying the event reinforces the team’s commitment to inclusiveness.

    “As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”

    The You Can Play Project, which works to promote inclusiveness in sports, said the organization was disappointed in Reimer’s actions.

    “Religion and respect are not in conflict with each other, and we are certainly disappointed when religion is used as a reason to not support our community,” the organization said. “Wearing pride jerseys, like any celebration jersey worn, is not about the personal feelings of an athlete; rather the communication from the team that a community is welcome in the arena and the sport.”

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    Panarin, Shesterkin lead Rangers to 6-0 rout of Penguins

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    NEW YORK (AP) Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists, Artemi Panarin scored twice and Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves as the New York Rangers routed Pittsburgh 6-0 on Saturday night for their second win over the Penguins in three days.

    Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba also scored for the surging Rangers, who have won nine of their last 11 home games and are 12-4-0 in their past 16 at Madison Square Garden.

    Shesterkin won his fifth straight and posted his second shutout this season. He nimbly denied Pittsburgh forward Mikael Granland with a sprawling save five minutes into the third period to preserve the shutout, the 10th of his career. His other one this season was a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

    “When you put in hard and honest work, miracles happen,” Shesterkin said through a translator. ”We played wonderfully today – scored many, many goals. Honestly, I hope the fans loved it. We’re playing for them.”

    The Penguins lost their third straight and trail the Rangers by 12 points for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, still in wild-card position, is trying to reach the playoffs for the 17th straight time.

    “Tonight was a humbling experience for all of us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. ”At this time of year, you have to have a short memory. We still have control of our destiny.”

    Patrick Kane and defenseman K’Andre Miller also had two assists apiece as New York improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine home games against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are five points behind the second-place New Jersey Devils, who lost at Florida on Saturday.

    “This was a big game for our goalie and our team,” Panarin said. “If you work at playing the right way, you have opportunities for goals.”

    Since Dec. 5, when they turned around their season with a 6-4 comeback win at home over St. Louis, the Rangers are 29-9-5.

    As he did on Thursday when the Rangers beat the Penguins 4-2, Zibanejad opened the scoring. He got his team-leading 36th goal at 5:10 of the first, beating Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Trouba and Miller assisted.

    Panarin made it 2-0 at 19:49 on the power play, whipping the puck past Jarry from the left circle off a pass from Adam Fox.

    Tarasenko increased the lead at 3:54 of the second with his fifth goal since joining the Rangers in a trade with St. Louis on Feb. 9. Tarasenko has points in 10 of his first 18 games with the Rangers.

    Kreider made it 4-0 at 6:43 with his 31st goal and third in two games against the Penguins. Kane and Vincent Trocheck assisted on Kreider’s 260th career goal, which moved the Rangers forward within two of Vic Hadfield for fifth place on the franchise list.

    New York won Thursday when Kreider scored the go-ahead goal in the third and added an empty-netter.

    After Casey DeSmith replaced Jarry in net following Kreider’s goal, Trouba beat the replacement with a sharp-angle shot at 8:39 for his eighth to increase the margin to 5-0. Trouba has points in six of his last eight games.

    Panarin scored again at 16:38 of the second – his 22nd goal of the season – to make it 6-0, with assists to Kane and Filip Chytil.

    “We’re building chemistry, building every day and every game,” Kane said.

    Panarin has points in eight of his last 10 games and leads the Rangers with 77 points overall, while Kane has seven points in his last six games.

    “It’s nice to see that many great players on your team,” added Panarin, whose first two NHL seasons were played alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks. “We’re happy tonight.”

    Zibanejad assisted on goals by Tarasenko and Trouba and has 25 points – including 14 goals – over his last 20 games.

    “It was just one of those nights when the puck goes in for us,” Zibanejad said. “And obviously Igor gives us a boost making all those saves.”

    NOTES: The Penguins were missing defenseman Jeff Petry after he was hit with an unpenalized elbow from Rangers forward Tyler Motte on Thursday. … Pittsburgh also scratched defenseman Jan Rutta and forward Dalton Heinen and played defenseman Mark Friedman for the first time since Feb. 11. … The Rangers were without injured defenseman Ryan Lindgren for the 10th straight game.


    Penguins: Host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

    Rangers: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

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    Coyotes sign Shane Doan’s son to entry-level contract

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    TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Doan is following his father’s footsteps into professional hockey.

    The Arizona Coyotes signed the 21-year-old forward to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2023-24 NHL season. He will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and play his first game against the Calgary Wranglers.

    Doan’s father, Shane, played 21 seasons with the franchise, many of those as captain, and followed it from Winnipeg to the desert in 1996. Shane Doan now serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer.

    The Coyotes drafted Josh Doan in the second round of the 2021, but he opted to play for the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

    Josh Doan set school records for goals (12) and assists (25) as a freshman last season. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with Arizona State this season.

    The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder also played two seasons for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

    Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has shoulder surgery

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    CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman had surgery on his right shoulder.

    The team said the operation was performed in Los Angeles. Team physician Michael Terry said the 23-year-old Guttman is expected “to be out of hockey activities for approximately four months.”

    Guttman had been a pleasant surprise for rebuilding Chicago. He made his NHL debut last month and finished the season with four goals and two assists in 14 games.

    Guttman was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 draft. He agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago in August 2022 that had a $950,000 salary cap hit.