Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Blues get vote of confidence from ownership, management

Team gets added tools for playoff run;
Redden dealt to Boston for 2014 seventh-round pick

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It was a message sent loud and clear from Blues ownership led by Tom Stillman and management led by Doug Armstrong: we believe.

By adding Jay Bouwmeester (Calgary) and Jordan Leopold (Buffalo) through separate trades in recent days, despite being on the cusp of the Western Conference playoff cutoff line, the Blues (18-14-2) have added pieces to enhance the team's chances of not only making the playoffs and taking a run this year but also looking at keeping the future bright as well.

The message to the players on the ice?

"Maybe a little bit of a kick in the butt to everyone in this room that new bodies can be rolling in here at any time," captain David Backes said. "We've got to solidify and keep proving yourself every day.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Adding Jordan Leopold (33) was one of the moves the Blues made
to boster the team's playoff hopes.

"I think they've shown that this isn't just a sit back and hope what we have is enough. We're in this to do some damage. A vote of confidence that they're behind us in getting this thing done."

No argument from defenseman Barret Jackman on the commitment from ownership.

"They give us two really good pieces to the puzzle," Jackman said of Bouwmeester and Leopold. "They're showing faith, and yeah, the ball is back in our court. We have no excuses.

"We can't say we don't have a left-handed D to play with Petro (Alex Pietrangelo) or we don't have this, we don't have that. You get two really great players come in here and make us that much better. You look around our dressing room, we have everything we need. It's now up to us to put that on the ice and win."

It all begins with Thursday's daunting task of winning in Chicago, a place that's been a gauntlet for the Blues. Their last win at United Center came Feb. 3, 2010 (0-4-4 since).

"I've been on the other end of that where you've seen the organization kind of sell at the deadline," winger Andy McDonald said. "That's certainly not enjoyable. It's an exciting time for this group to realize the organization is making an attempt and they believe in this team that we can win and we're adding. That's exciting. We're right there and we've got to play our best hockey. It's the most important time of the year."

Armstrong has indicated since the beginning of the season that if a trade can be made, they'll do it for the right price. They won't reduce the current roster, which has been done in previous seasons to stockpile picks and/or prospects. And that's the case here.

"I think we were looking at it all year to improve the team, looking at ways we could do it that made sense," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Making sense means that we also know what's on the horizon. We also know that there's a lot of younger players we're going to have to make decisions on long-term within the organization also.

"I don't think we wanted to go and do anything panic-wise. We got Leopold really for the stretch run and take a hard look at him. We like him, and obviously we got Jay to be part of the group for long-term. We like him, too. These are additions ... part of it is ti help is win now, but also part of it is to augment the team for future down-the-road type play. I like the fact management is willing to making us better. They're not just sitting and watching the group there. They're doing their own level of work, too. I think the players are impressed by this. They feel even a higher sense of obligation to try to help out as much as management is helping them."

Trade deadline day is never easy for a player, as any number of them can move with the stroke of a phone call. And the Blues lightened their defensive load by one when it was announced at the final moment that veteran Wade Redden heads back to the Eastern Conference, traded to the Boston Bruins for a reported conditional 2014 seventh-round pick that becomes a sixth-round pick if Redden plays in one or more playoff games with the Bruins.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Chris Stewart (right) and the Blues have been bolstered for a playoff
"You never know what can happen," Jackman said prior to the deadline passing. "You never know what direction the management and the ownership want to go in. They're definitely showing the faith in this team. When 3 o'clock eastern comes around, there's obviously a couple deals that are through the office still, but it's something that everybody breaths a sigh of relief and it's back to business."

Added McDonald: "I think that's one of the difficult things about being a hockey player. You're a phone call away from being on another team. We saw it happen with Matt (D'Agostini) a couple weeks ago. He was out in Whistler (British Columbia) with us and gets a phone call to fly across the country to join another hockey team. Hopefully, this is the team. Guys can take a deep breath and realize that we've got a great team here. Now we can calm down and focus on making the playoffs."

* NOTES -- The Blues also announced that they signed 2011 second-round pick Dmitrij Jaskin to a three-year entry-level contract.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Omsk, Russia native Jaskin, 20, played 51 games for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was fifth in the league with 99 points [46 goals, 53 assists]. He will report immediately to the Rivermen.

Jaskin is an NHL-ready combination of size and skill," Blues’ Director of Player Development Tim Taylor said in a statement. "His offensive prowess, physicality and hockey sense give him the versatility to play up and down the lineup and contribute in a variety of roles."

Jaskin was the 41st overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

. . . Bouwmeester, who was not on the ice for Wednesday's practice, but the Blues were hopeful he would get his working visa worked out in time to join the team in Chicago and be in the lineup against the Blackhawks.

"I don't know where the visa stuff is right now," Hitchcock said. "As soon as I get through with (the media), I'll go back and see where that's at. The assumption is that if (Jarome) Iginla can get in Pittsburgh in that period of time from Calgary, then we’re hoping Jay can get in quick too."

. . . Oshie, who will not play in Chicago after being placed on injured-reserve Tuesday, could come off in time for Friday's home game against Columbus but it sounds like it could be longer after he was injured against Los Angeles, believed to be a bruised foot blocking a shot.

"When a guy goes on IR like Osh, now you're in week to week," Hitchcock said. "Osh can come off on Friday, but we'll see. He certainly hasn't been able to skate yet and I doubt he'll be able to skate tomorrow."

1 comment:

  1. I like the additions of Bouwmeester and Leopold. Blues will get stronger defensively. I like the Blues chances down the April stretch of making it into the playoffs. They have some injury problems right now, but I think they can get through those.

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