Sunday, November 16, 2014

Leopold was locker room favorite

Blues move on after trade, Butler next in line to add to defensive depth

ST. LOUIS -- Jordan Leopold wasn't just any teammate. He was a teammate well-liked in the Blues' locker room.

So after the most complete victory Saturday night, a 4-1 victory against the Washington Capitals, there were enough well-wishers offering up kind things to say about the 34-year-old Leopold, who was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday morning for a 2016 fifth-round pick.

By day, Leopold, who has 66 goals and 210 points in 660 NHL games including one goal and eight points in 49 games with the Blues, was a Blue at the morning skate Saturday. By night, he was a Blue Jacket that helped his new team defeat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 by playing 17 minutes, 11 seconds.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jordan Leopold (33) spent parts of three seasons with the Blues before
he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"Hopefully, Leo gets some playing time there," Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz said. "We're going to miss him. He was a great guy for us. Hopefully, he does well there."

It's never easy losing a teammate, especially one so well-liked, but Leopold was a healthy scratch seven straight games and would have been for an eighth consecutive one Saturday night had he been with the Blues.

"Really tough," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "He's a guy who brings a lot of experience to the locker room. More than anything, he brings a likeness to the locker room. He comes in with a smile on his face every day and gets everyone cheered up. 

"It's tough. That's the worst part of this. This whole business is seeing guys go. Obviously you only wish the best for him and now it seems like he'll have an opportunity to play. That's great for him. ... A guy that's been around it a while, it's tough (to sit out). Everyone wants to play. When you were younger, in the lineup and a big part of it. He comes in this year and he kind of gets put in a seventh role. He took it like a real veteran and a real professional."

"Awesome teammate," Blues captain David Backes said of Leopold. "A guy who was here for three years. Very good character guy. I just think he wasn't playing much and a guy that's 34 and wanting to show that he's still got game left. Columbus has had a lot of injuries and he'll be able to go there and play." 

It was just a case where the Blues had no room for Leopold, who was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres for 2013 second- and fifth-round picks. The emergence of Ian  Cole, plus the steady play of Barret Jackman, who Blues GM Doug Armstrong said is playing better than he has in the most recent past few seasons, made Leopold expendable. And the fact that it gives the Blues some flexibility with the salary cap doesn't hurt either.

"Ian's showed us that he wants the job," said Blues associate coach Brad Shaw, who works with the defensemen. "He's done enough good things. Still lots of learning to do for him, but he's really come a long way since he's been with us. He's a real functional piece for us right now. We've tinkered with him on the power play, I know he can kill penalties in a pinch if we need him. We've played him in a lot of different roles already this year. He's been successful at most of them. He's where we'd like him to be. He's a guy that looks like he's got a real good future going forward, and he's helping us win games right now as well."

Chris Butler, a Kirkwood native who the Blues signed to a two-way contract from the Calgary Flames, was recalled from the Chicago Wolves and will join the Blues at practice Monday and be the seventh defenseman moving forward.

"He brings pace," Shaw said of Butler, who had nine points in 14 games in the American Hockey League. "He brings a guy with a lot of games under his belt in that seven-role that he's going to have when he gets here. It's tough when it's a guy who's only got a handful of games. He's played a bunch of years at this level. With that comes a little bit of wisdom that there's not a lot of surprises on the ice. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Chris Butler (right) and Ryan Reaves were opponents last season. They
will be teammates moving forward after Butler was recalled from the AHL.

"I talked to (Wolves assistant coach) Mark Hardy in Chicago who said he's playing night and day from when he got there at the end of training camp to now. He's said he's by far their best defenseman on their team, playing in a bunch of situations down there, which builds your confidence and allows you to sort of get back to the 'A' game that you'd like to have."

The emergence of Petteri Lindbohm also gives the Blues flexibility. Lindbohm could find his way to the NHL sooner than expected after strong training camp, the most surprising of any player.

"We'll have Chris Butler, Lindbohm, whoever it is ... 'Buts' for now that are very capable players," Backes said. "We've got great depth. The next man's got to step up and fill that role. We feel that 'Buts' is a heck of a guy, heck of a player and great to have him here."

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