Blues to Open Vs. Detroit?
Rivalry games may be the quickest way to get fans interested in the NHL once again.
Several teams have expressed interest in playing their rival right out of the shoot in an effort to drum up some enthusiasm. This is necessary for a sport that’s left much to be desired over the last few months.
Sources say the St. Louis Blues are likely to open against Detroit when the NHL season kicks off next Saturday. The Blues would follow that up with their home opener the next night at the Scottrade Center. Chicago is also a possible opponent but sources say the Red Wings is more likely. This remains unconfirmed at nothing official has yet to come from the NHL.
One of the games next weekend is expected to be televised on NBC. NHL clubs could receive the schedule as early as today.
The Blues opened the season a few years back with back to back wins over Detroit in Sweden.
European Vacation Over...
The Blues are in the process of returning a handful of players who have spent the lockout playing in Europe.
Vladimir Sobotka, who has 25 points in 27 games with Slavia Praha in the Czech League, is set to return Wednesday or Thursday.
Watch for Head Coach Ken Hitchcock to eliminate any excuses heading into the season. This includes a shortened training camp with no exhibition games. While a three week camp would be ideal, Hitchcock will look to get his club as focused as possible in such a short timeframe. Hitchcock feels 5-7 days is plenty of time to get a team ready to play simply because there is no other option. Every team is in the same boat and there’s no sense fretting about not having enough time to prepare. Telling his player’s the opposite will only help in building the mental toughness necessary to take on the grind of squeezing in a 48-game schedule.
GM’s Need Answers…
How many AHL players Doug Armstrong invites to camp will be determined by the answers he receives from the league. When do players start getting paid NHL money? Will players on AHL deals be paid AHL or NHL money during camp? When do waivers begin? How many players can he invite off of the AHL roster? Most importantly, when does training camp begin?
There are still plenty of questions that need to be resolved. Armstrong will be sensitive not to deplete the Peoria roster during training camp.
Ty Rattie by the way was eligible to attend Blues camp but Armstrong has decided to keep the former 2nd rounder in the WHL with Portland. When you evaluate the numbers it would be very difficult for Rattie to make this club and he’s probably best served helping his team reach the Memorial Cup.
There will be 15 forwards fighting for 14 spots when the Blues begin training camp. Will Jaden Schwartz make the club right out of camp? Otherwise Chris Porter could end up being the odd man out. Porter is on a two-way and would need waivers to play in Peoria.
The reality is with a compact schedule, teams will rely more on their entire roster than maybe we’re used to seeing in the past. It will be interesting to see how Hitchcock rotates players like Porter, Ryan Reaves, Jamie Langenbrunner, and possibly Scott Nichol or Matt D’Agostini in and out of the lineup. Especially when you’re playing three games in four nights.
Injuries will almost certainly come into play.
Back in 1994-1995 the Blues went through 34 players during the 48 game season. Only two players played every game.
Having depth is always an advantage and the Blues have lots of it offensively.
It’s a different story on the back end. I would have liked to see the club address a partner for Alex Pietrangelo last summer. He’s too important to this club to go into the season experimenting.
I am quick to give credit and respect to the Federal Mediators who helped during CBA negotiations, but let’s not get too carried away. This was going to be a deadline deal with or without mediators involved. Scott Beckenbaugh did great work but the calendar deserves the majority of the credit. The pressure of having to get a deal done forced the two sides to come to an agreement.
Look I’m not interested in hollow apologies from the NHL for the 113 day lockout but I’m having a hard time understanding why more owners didn’t apologize to their fans. I’ll give Stillman credit for stepping up and reaching out to his fanbase. I’m surprised how few teams did this with Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay being some of the others.
Captain David Backes joins me live this Wednesday out at Johnny Mac’s on Watson rd for Blues Buzz. The show starts at 6:00 and can be hear on am 590 the Fan KFNS.
Congrats to my friends John Kelly and Jeremy Rutherford on their new hockey show airing Sunday’s on 101 ESPN.
More to come,