Monday, February 27, 2012

Blues stand pat as trade deadline comes and passes

Team financially strapped, will move forward with
what they have, hope to get injured players back into lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Doug Armstrong wasn't kidding when a few weeks ago he stated that he'd like to see what his club looks like going down the stretch without making any changes to the Blues' lineup.

It's still a mystery when some of the injured players would return or if they will at all, but as the Blues play their final 19 games of the regular season: what you see is what you get.

While the Central Division teams around the Blues made moves hoping to solidify their lineups at Monday's trade deadline, the Blues stood pat and did nothing , which wasn't much of a surprise.
(Getty Images)
If the Blues improve their roster, it will come in the form of injured players
returning to the lineup, such as Alex Steen (right).

It's not for a lack of effort by the Blues' general manager, but when your ownership situation is so in flux and your management team is cash-strapped, all one can do is idly sit by and watch the other dominoes fall.

The sale of the team continues to drag on, as a group led by Tom Stillman continues to work on a resolution and subsequent conclusion. But until the final sale comes to fruition with current ownership, led by Dave Checketts' SCP Worldwide group, Monday's results -- or lack thereof -- will be the ending conclusion.

"We were trying to see what type of depth we could add to our group and there wasn't a proper fit there," said Armstrong, who basically was working on addition by subtraction if there was anything feasible to be done. "I went in not expecting a lot of transactions, and at the end of the day, it didn't seem like we were involved in much."

Asked if the club was close on any deals, Armstrong said: "Not really, no."

And with that, the Blues (39-17-7), whose greatest obstacle is themselves with the injuries they've suffered, can only hope that they can have their deck stacked as the playoffs approach. That means getting Alex Steen, Matt D'Agostini, Jamie Langenbrunner and Kris Russell back into a lineup that would look pretty impressive with the gritty group that continues to soldier on.

So the Blues' only move came Sunday, when they sent Peoria goalie Ben Bishop to Ottawa for a 2013 second round draft pick. Meanwhile, Nashville seemed to make the most noise within the division with acquisitions of Montreal winger Andrei Kostitsyn and Buffalo center Paul Gaustad while Chicago picked up Winnipeg defenseman Johnny Oduya. Rick Nash, this year's biggest name dangled at the deadline, stayed put in Columbus, who did trade away gritty center Sammy Pahlsson. Detroit didn't add any players either but dealt defenseman Mike Commodore to Tampa Bay.
(Getty Images)
The return of Matt D'Agostini (36) would also belefit the Blues' lineup, as
they made no moves at Monday's trade deadline.

The Blues' win on Monday pulled them into a second place tie in the Western Conference with the Red Wings and two points behind Vancouver for tops overall in the NHL.

"When you're sitting fourth in the NHL, you should have some expectations that you can win," Armstrong said before the win over Calgary Monday. "And so I have expectations that these guys are going to continue. The playoffs are what they are. It's the first guy to win four games in the first series before you worry about the second, third or fourth. But I think we have a team that can compete with anybody in the first round of the playoffs. If we do that, then we'll see where go and who we're playing against. Their fourth in the NHL right now in winning percentage and that's with the group that we have."

The Blues, who are uncertain how long Russell, who suffered concussion symptoms during Thursday's shootout win at Nashville, will be shelved, so they have decided to keep d-man Ian Cole on the team's NHL roster for the rest of the season and is not eligible for Peoria's playoff roster. Forward T.J. Hensick was put on the Rivermen playoff roster but will stay with the team for at least through the remainder of this six-game trip.

"That will give us the proper depth in that (defensive) area," Armstrong said of Cole. "Ian has done very well for himself and has earned the right, so he'll spend the rest of the year up here. And we've recalled Hensick now, using one of our four recalls, and that's our group."

The Blues have an unlimited roster after the trade deadline but have only four minor league recalls.

So even though the Blues are in the bottom of the NHL (23rd overall) in goals scored per game at 2.49, they'll continue to ride their top-rated d-unit and goaltending, which have surrendered an NHL-low 1.90 goals per game.

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