Deal with new investors close to being
finalized; Blues looking for five in a row
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Seven months ago when TowerBrook Capital Partners announced it was divesting it's equity in the team -- they owned roughly 75 percent of the franchise -- Blues fans began to cringe at the thought that another relocation process was about to begin.
But current owner, Dave Checketts and SCP Worldwide, reassured hockey fans that the Blues were here to stay and that he would be able to replace the TowerBrook with another equity firm.
On Thursday, Checketts announced that SCP has rounded up a new investment firm that also includes local investors along with TowerBrook now not pulling completely out of the equation.
"I can see the light at the end of the tunnel," Checketts said. "Our investor group is 95 percent assembled ... now during the next few weeks, we'll work on league approvals and getting everything done and wrapped up.
"I said in Florida at the (NHL) Board of Governors meeting that I thought this would happen in the early part of the year, and I think that's still true."
The plan is for Checketts to have everything in order by the NHL All-Star break (which is the weekend of Jan. 30) but it's not a guarantee.
"I don't know if we'll have it done in time for the All-Star break, but that would be a worthwhile goal to be talking to the league about our investor group and having them do all of their background work around the All-Star break, or maybe even a little bit later in February," Checketts said. "But this is going to happen in the next couple of months."
The identity of the new investors is not known at present time, but it includes more than one grouping. And to the surprise of many, TowerBrook will now keep a vested portion of its equity in the franchise but not nearly the 75 percent it currently holds.
Maybe it has something to do with how well the franchise is holding up and how well the current Blues are playing.
"They're thrilled about how things are going, and the way the club is playing," Checketts said of TowerBrook. "... As we got into the fall, it didn't hurt that we got started (with a record of 9-1-2), and the business dramatically started to improve, and we got the opera house deal all done ... and then looking toward the new (NHL) television agreement. All of those things created a situation where they notified us that they would be willing to continue to play a role and we accepted that with open arms.
"So TowerBrook is actually not exiting completely, but is going to stay in for a major chunk of the equity, and that makes it that much easier for us to not only stay in control, but to continue to run the things the way we are."
TowerBrook, SCP Worldwide and minority owner Tom Stillman have been the investment structure up to this point but now will include the unknown group of investors.
Checketts is expected to stay on as the Blues' governor.
"Between Towerbrook and our new investors, they are very, very supportive of us continuing to run the franchise and be in control," Checketts said.
With team president John Davidson's five-year contract set to expire in June, expect the Blues to announce soon an extension.
* 'Yotes stand in the way -- The Blues (19-12-5) will be seeking their fifth straight win when they entertain the Phoenix Coyotes (17-12-7) today at 7:30 p.m. (Versus, KMOX 1120-AM).
It'll be the second meeting between the two Western Conference foes, with the Coyotes winning 5-3 on Nov. 13, a game Blues coach Davis Payne said was not one of the Blues' better efforts.
"We were really slow to get going," Payne said. "It was far too methodical, we got picked apart there on the PK ... two five-on-four goals and a five-on-three goal, which is uncharacteristic of our group. We know that we'll have to be sharp there but making sure that we start with good, solid work (and) good, solid energy is something we didn't think we were fully engaged at the start of that hockey game. That was one game a long time ago. There's been a lot of hockey played since, there's going to be a lot of hockey played after this, but (Phoenix) played a solid hockey game (Wednesday) night and I'm sure they'll have lots of intent on copying that one and bringing it to St. Louis. We've got to be ready."
The Blues, 6-2-1 against Phoenix in the last nine, will look to even the season series.
"They absolutely thrive on turnovers, so it's going to be a big, big part of tomorrow night's game, especially when you've got a guy that can transition as quickly as (defenseman Keith) Yandle can," Payne said. "He can skate through people, he can skate by people, he's a guy that not only do you have to pay particular attention to in the offensive zone based on where he is but he'll be in different spots. We've played against a lot of guys who have been effective in that way. He's just a guy we're going to have to pay attention to. His ability to come up ice and come up ice quickly is something that we're going to have to be aware of and make sure we stay on the right side of that."
* Janssen vs. Bissonnette -- Blues enforcer Cam Janssen got his teammates and the crowd going early in Tuesday's 3-1 victory over Chicago when he took on the Blackhawks' John Scott two minutes into the game.
It might be the same scenario tonight when Janssen is on the ice with Phoenix enforcer Paul Bissonnette, who's not short on words.
Janssen and Bissonnette locked horns in Phoenix and the Coyotes enforcer for the best of this round.
"I fought him this year and didn't perform as well as I would have wanted to," Janssen said. "So we'll see what happens. I know he's been getting in a lot of scraps lately and I'm sure his hand's not feeling too good. But mine doesn't feel good either. We'll go out there and play the game and whatever happens, happens. He's a tough kid. If it needs to be done, it will be."
Janssen said Bissonnette is a tough out.
"He's got a long reach," Janssen said. "He took care of me pretty good early this year, but it was the first fight coming back in a long time after my concussion. You've got to get back in the mix of things. No excuses. I never make excuses for losing fights by any means. ... I'm not going to go with the same approach I did last time."
* Flexible D -- While most squads prefer to use a stabilized group at both forward and defense, the Blues have been forced to mix and match for the majority of the season, particularly on the back line.
"It's a flexible group caused out of necessity a little bit," Payne said. "Guys have been in and out of the lineup, so they've had to adjust, they've had to play with a lot of different partners. We look back at our combinations, I think we've used about 12 different combinations in the last eight or nine games. That's just part of it. You'd like to see things stabilized, you'd like to see lines stabilized, you'd like to see d-pairings, PK units and power play units all stabilized, but that's not how it is for us right now so we'll just keep adapting and overcoming."
* Schwartz sidelined -- Blues top draft pick Jaden Schwartz, who's sister Mandi has been dealing with multiple bouts of cancer, will be sidelined a minimum of six weeks after fracturing his left ankle playing for Canada at the World Junior Championships.
Schwartz, who has a goal and two assists in two games for Canada, was injured against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
Schwartz was the Blues' top pick (14th overall) in this past summer's NHL Entry Draft. He had 11 goals and 15 assists in 17 games during his freshman season at Colorado College.