Blues Inch Closer to Finalizing Roster
The Blues have cut their roster down to 29 players with three pre-season games to be played.
Several forwards continue to battle for two roster spots. You could make the case there’s really only one spot available as most believe Ryan Reaves has shown enough to begin the year in St. Louis.
Chris Porter, Evgeny Grachev, Adam Cracknell and Philip McRae are likely competing for one spot.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Porter has done nothing to hurt his chances as he’s been steady throughout camp. Late last season he finally began to understand the style of game he’s going to have to play if he wants to play in the NHL. He’s carried it over training camp as he done well in PK situations not to mention his ability to skate and be a disruptive presence on the forecheck. His forechecking ability was evident Thursday night vs. Minnesota as he was able to create a turnover which led to the Blues drawing a penalty.
I’m not going to go overboard on Porter who is what he is, meaning his game does have limitations. With that being said, if used properly he can be an effective player.
Grachev has received a lot of attention primarily because of the three goals he’s scored in the pre-season. He’s a big body with some skill, who doesn’t like that? But it’s important not to go overboard with Evgeny Grachev. He’s played very well in the pre-season but I’m not sure how he fits into the Blues roster. Can he play in your top nine the way it currently sits? Who are you going to take out? I guess you could use him in a fourth line role but that doesn’t excite me too much. If you’re going to expect offense from Grachev then he’ll need to put in position to produce offensively. Would it make more sense to have him in Peoria where he has a chance to build his confidence and play in every offensive situation? Obviously if a skilled player goes down with an injury he along with McRae would be one of your first options. To be fair Grachev, who can play center or wing, could play on a fourth line. The Blues have some options to play with if Scott Nichol needed to come out. Vladimir Sobotka could always slide over to center if you wanted to put Grachev on the wing.
At the end of the day I think he needs to play and having him in Peoria probably gives him the best chance to develop in the role the Blues see him playing down the road.
McRae has been the most improved player in camp. His skating has really improved and he hasn’t been out-muscled the way he was a year ago. He’s going to be a very good player for the St. Louis Blues in the not too far distance. McRae will see some NHL games this season and no matter where he’s playing his focus should only be on improving and getting better.
Cheechoo Train Fall off the Tracks…
To be honest I think most people didn’t know what to expect from Jonathan Cheechoo. I didn’t expect him to make the team but I thought he’d stick around a little longer. He played three pre-season games but never made much of a case for himself. He was able to get some shots on goal and was even named the third star in one of the games, but his skating is not where it needs to be to play on this team. At times he looked a full step behind and had some problems handling the puck as well. There’s no question he looks relatively comfortable in the offensive end of the ice. He knows how slide away from coverage and can get open. It’s just very hard to play at this level if you can’t get there. Cheechoo was a Kevin McDonald (Peoria GM) signing and the plan all along was for him to re-establish himself in Peoria. Personally I don’t think Doug Armstrong expected him to come in and surprise everybody.
I do know Cheechoo is disappointed to be going down this soon. He wants nothing more than a chance to prove he can still score goals in the NHL. He felt like he was having a good camp but I spoke to numerous scouts who felt otherwise. He was a starter in the AHL All-Star game last season before missing most of the second half with an injury. He’ll have an opportunity to play his way into callup consideration.
Elliott’s job to lose?
I’m not sure if I would go that far but I do believe if it’s a tie, Elliott’s experience gives him the edge over Bishop. In other words I feel there’s more pressure on Bishop to out-perform Elliott as opposed to the other way around. With Jaro Halak expected to get two more starts Elliott is not expected to see any more pre-season action. Bishop is expected to get one more start.
Cracknell’s a Professional
It’s hard not to be a fan of Adam Cracknell. He’s a great kid who goes about his business the right way. You’ll never hear him say a bad thing about anybody and he appreciates the opportunity the Blues have given him. Is says a lot in terms of what the organization thinks of this guy with the fact that he’s still here. I would never rule him out.
Ryan Reaves a Heavy?
Reaves may not be a defined heavyweight but he’s willing to take on all comers. At one time in junior he put up some points and he’s shown he’s more than just a fighter. This guy hits as hard as any player in the game today. I’m not overstating it either. Rarely do you see a guy pancake opposing players as often as this guy does. He will hit you over and over again and basically make you fight him.
He did the right thing in accepting a two-way contract this summer fully understanding he had no leverage to fetch a better deal. Plus he tells me he didn’t want to upset anybody in the organization and didn’t want to drag out the negotiations. Reaves tells me he loves the city and loves the only NHL organization he’s ever known.
Backes and EJ mix it up…
David Backes got involved with Avalanche D-man Erik Johnson Friday night after Johnson stepped up to deliver a hit on the Blues Captain. I wouldn’t read too much into it as they are friends off the ice. A scrum ensued and Backes reached back and punched a Colorado player right in the gut only to look up and see it was former Blue Jay McClement. Obviously McClement, another good friend of David Backes, was none too pleased. Backes tells me he had no idea it was him and probably wouldn’t have punched him if he knew it was McClement.
Nichol Feels Good...
Scott Nichol who has spent the off-season rehabbing a surgically repaired shoulder could see action in each of the three remaining pre-season games. He's yet to dress in the five games thus far.
Perron for who?
Who comes out of the lineup when Perron is ready to return? (assuming there are no injuries)
More to come,
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