Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blues trade for Goc fills a need, according to Armstrong

GM likes newcenter's ability to add "stability" to 
fourth line; more reaction on Brodeur retirement

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Both Blues general manager Doug Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock, in a roundabout way, liken the trade that sent Maxim Lapierre to the Pittsburgh Penguins that brought back in return Marcel Goc to the trade the Blues made over the summer with the Toronto Maple Leafs involving defensemen Carl Gunnarsson and Roman Polak.

Both teams had a need and traded away players that were valuable to them but ones they were willing to part with at the time to fill that void.
(Pittsburgh Penguins photo)
Newest Blues center Marcel Goc was acquired Tuesday
from Pittsburgh in exchange for Maxim Lapierre.

The trade Tuesday involving Goc and Lapierre is not of the same magnitude as the Blues-Maple Leafs deal, but it falls in line with the same thought that both teams traded for players that fill an area both felt they lacked.

For the Blues, getting the 31-year-old Goc gives them a player that plays a safe game without as much reckless play as Lapierre gave them. 

Both are similar in that they are bottom-line centers, both are decent on face-offs, and they both play important roles on the penalty kill.

The change for the Blues allowed Lapierre's former linemates (Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves) to play with more of a reckless edge knowing they have a buffer in Goc, who plays more closer to the vest.

"The one area, I think it's going to free Ott and Reaves up to be a little more reckless down on the forecheck," Armstrong said. "Marcel is a very confident, very established player and very responsible and I think it's going to allow maybe our forecheck to be a little more intense off the wings.

"It just adds a little bit of stability to that line. ... Sometimes in the games, we saw we were getting caught giving up odd-man rushes and all three players, Lappy, Reaves and Ott really like to get in on the forecheck. I think this is going to give us a little more reliability at that center position. It's a small trade. I think Pittsburgh was looking for the exact opposite, a little more recklessness from that position. We were looking for a little less recklessness and a little more stability. I think it's a deal that both sides think they're getting a little better in their needs."

Hitchcock admitted he had three players that played with an aggressive edge and perhaps needed someone mixed in that can provide some safe avenues.

"It's a different type of player than Lappy was," Hitchcock said. "Lappy was a hunter and very good at it. He was a strong forechecking player, very good at it. Goc manages the ice in a different way. ... This is kind of a small trade that can help both teams. Pittsburgh needed a certain element in their team to enhance their fourth line and we felt we needed something different on our team to enhance the guys that we have playing on the fourth line. 

"One of the things we had going for us is we loved the energy of the fourth line, but when you looked at scoring chances for and against, they were exactly the same every night. So we were giving up and getting at the same pace. This allows us to have the two guys that play there be hunters and then we have a guy that's backing up the hunting and playing that 'in-between-the-dots' role that we think we need from that position."

Lapierre was a popular guy in the locker room. He was one of the more lively, jovial players that kept everyone loose and always smiled. T.J. Oshie said Wednesday he and Lapierre had their respective daughters in music class together, but from a linemate standpoint, it will be an adjustment for both Ott and Reaves.

"It's tough to lose him, I've played with him for two years," Reaves said of Lapierre. "We had good chemistry together, but management saw a change needed to be made. I think (Goc) is a little more defensive than Lappy. I think we had three reckless players, and sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn't.

"I think if the centerman stays a little more at home, I think it allows me and 'Otter' to play the way that we usually do. Not to say that Lappy wasn't responsible, but I think Pittsburgh was looking for a guy a little more reckless and we were looking for a guy that stayed at home a little more."

"(Goc) is a good player," Ott said. "I've played against him going back to (when Goc was with San Jose and Ott was in Dallas). He is a very reliable player. He's hard to play against and coming in with me and 'Revo' obviously it will take some time to adjust and figure each other out quickly. But in doing so, he's a good veteran player that should be able to read off us easy and build on that chemistry." 

Unlike Lapierre, who was confined to the team's fourth line, Goc is someone the Blues can move around in the lineup if needed.

"I know you can bounce him up and play him in the three-hole if you needed it and if you had injuries and stuff like that," Hitchcock said of Goc. "It gives probably a little more flexibility.

"I think the biggest difference is you've got a player who demands the puck. From our standpoint, that's what we needed. We needed a player by the way be played his position, he demanded the puck, whether it's from a defenseman or a winger whereas Lappy played a very strong territorial game. Lappy wanted the puck once it got below the hash marks in the offensive zone, but before that, he wanted to play a territorial game and we just felt like what we needed was to find little bit more puck  control so we're hopeful we can do this and see where it goes."

* More reaction on Brodeur -- The mood around the Blues and Hitchcock on Wednesday was one of peace and relief all rolled into one.

With news of Martin Brodeur's retirement to become official Thursday, players are sad to lose a teammate they barely knew but respected the heck out of, but on the other hand, happy to have Brodeur on board in a front office position.

"I've never learned so much in two months from a single guy," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "The knowledge of the game he has on the offensive side, the defensive side, just in general, it's  pretty impressive. 

"It's tough to see him retire, a guy of that stature who's had a lot of success in his career. We're glad to have him."

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who grew up watching Brodeur as a kid, agreed.

"To have the opportunity to really see him at a young age and see him walk in the locker room for me was a cool experience for me," said Shattenkirk, a New Rochelle, N.Y. native. "He's the greatest goalie that's ever played, and really just to say you've been able to play with him and get to know him as a person is a fun experience. He brought a lot of knowledge to our locker room and the short time that we had him is still going to be beneficial for us.

"... He's a guy that's accomplished everything, and that's not something that many people can say they've done."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Martin Brodeur will announce his retirement from the NHL on Thursday.

Hitchcock has lobbied for Brodeur to stay with the Blues in any capacity, and when he learned of Brodeur's decision to remain with the organization was music to Hitchcock's ears.

"The impact he had here was very positive, very helpful of every aspect of the competition side, whether it was the coaching staff, the scouting part of goalies, the players themselves, the trainers, he had a real positive impact," Hitchcock said. "He appreciated every day he was here and it showed in his personality. It was really absorbed in a positive way by the players.

"Moving forward with me, Marty's got this volume of knowledge of winning that  everybody wants to tap into. You can gain 12 months of knowledge in a coffee  for an hour with him, and that's what we're looking from him; just picking his brain, talking to him about what he sees. He observes things that a lot of people don't have the knowledge to observe."

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