Team is in no hurry to cast off assets
as it sits four points out of playoffs
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Sitting four points out of a playoff spot and teetering on the cusp of another season-ending run, the Blues have many questions to answer heading into the home stretch of the season.
To trade or not to trade?
That is the question.
And the answer is it appears the Blues will go down to the wire and run the gauntlet of whether to be buyers or sellers at this year's trade deadline, which will cut off on March 3 at 2 p.m. (central time).
The Blues have many commodities teams would covet that are firmly entrenched in playoff positions.
There are pending unrestricted free agents (Keith Tkachuk, Paul Kariya and Carlo Colaiacovo to name a few) as well as players teams would be interested in whose salaries fit their budgets.
But as the Blues (28-25-9) reconvened for the final 20 games of the regular season this week at the U.S. Ice Zone, players and coaches have one common ground: standing pat and getting the job done with the cast they already have.
"Of course," Blues captain Eric Brewer said Thursday. "I think we've played a lot better the last little while and it seems like we've got some pairings and some lines that are working. You always want to get better, but sometimes changing things isn't necessarily the answer. It's finding it within and being able to play well for a longer period of time."
Teammate Barret Jackman concurs.
"Keep every guy in this room and go for the playoffs," he said. "I think everybody in this room has the confidence that we can do some good things in the last 20 games and make a push for the playoffs and go a (long) way in the playoffs when we get there."
It all boils down to Blues President John Davidson and the rest of the team management. Which way do they want to go?
It's safe to say that the three-game winning streak the Blues have carried over from the Olympic break is definitely weighing on the minds of management.
"I really like the way we've been progressing as a team," Davidson said. "The big picture is you've got to get points, and we've started to do that. The big picture is we're winning at home. There was a real good week prior to the (Olympic) break. The big picture is the power play has gotten better. ... When you pinpoint it all, a lot of it has to do with the younger players ... if you look at a book, there's a page over here that are freshmen, the page is going like this (moving forward) where it's starting to turn, so you get this sense that these freshmen -- who were freshmen last year -- are now getting to become more the sophomore and junior type of players. It's helping us become a better team.
"We know as an organization we have to develop our players. A lot of them are developing in front of our eyes right here, and we're seeing them get better. You can see it starting to make our team better by winning games."
And winning games has Davidson appreciating not only the dedication the team is putting forth but also the desire to remain in tact.
"I appreciate that," he said. "I think from an organizational standpoint, when you get towards the trade deadline, it's what professional hockey is. You look at every aspect of it and you try and do what's right for your organization. That's the way we'll look at it going into it this time."
Despite an Olympic freeze in order through Sunday, teams still had the luxury of talking and setting up deals during the time off.
Surprisingly, Davidson says things have been pretty low-keyed.
"I get a sense that it's pretty quiet right now because with everybody going away (for the Olympic break), everybody now filtering back to their teams, starting to practice again, everybody reassessing their injury situation, every aspect of your organization ... it'll all start to come to fruition the next few days," Davidson said. "It's a little but early yet to be frank. There haven't been many phone calls in the last week or so. It's pretty quiet."
And have the Blues been quiet?
"We've all taken a little time off together to gather our thoughts," Davidson said. "We've had a lot of discussions and we'll continue it. ... You don't know where it's going to go. What you have to be prepared for could be, what might happen, what might not happen. Somebody might phone up and it could be something that might knock your socks off, so you have to look at it. It could be something that is smart for us to look at for any direction of your franchise."
The Blues embark on a six-game trip that begins Tuesday in Phoenix. Judging by the three previous wins -- all at home -- over Detroit, Toronto and Washington, it's safe to say the team is feeling a sense of deja vu.
They can only hope to make life more difficult on management in regards to selling off pieces to the puzzle.
"I've got good memories of our last three outings," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "The outing prior to that was obviously the Colorado game (a 5-2 loss in Denver) and then you look at the three previous games prior to that -- the two Chicago games and the one San Jose game -- of the seven games, I think we can safely say we liked six performances. The Colorado one was one we needed to respond from, but of those six performances, we got four wins against some good hockey clubs. We feel that you take that momentum, that style of play and with this group, we like where we're at for sure."
If the Blues become buyers, it may tinker with the ever-rising chemistry that is obviously developing.
"If (a trade) fits, but I really like the team we have," Jackman said. "I don't see any problems. I think we have some high-end talent, I think we have some young guys that really work hard. We have the grit, we have some D-men that are playing well and our goaltending is a solid 1-2 punch. I'm the one that sits in the dressing room and gets to go on the ice and play. I really enjoy playing with these guys and I think we have the team to make the run."
One thing is for certain, teams better not inquire about the Blues' young brass, because Davidson is making it clear that he'll have none of it.
"We're trying to win a Stanley Cup here, and it's a process," Davidson said. "And we're in the middle of it."