Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ott retires, joins Blues as assistant coach

Forward played in NHL for 14 seasons, including 
three in St. Louis; he joins Sydor on Yeo's coaching staff

ST. LOUIS -- In a bit of a surprise move to those on the outside but not so much to him, Steve Ott called it quits on a 14-year NHL career on Thursday to join the Blues as an assistant coach to Mike Yeo's staff.

Ott, who played for the Blues from late in the 2013-14 season through the 2015-16 season, signed a three-year contract.

Ott, 34, signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings on July 1 last year after leaving the Blues as a free agent and had seven points (three goals, four assists) in 53 games with the Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens this season. He had no points in six Stanley Cup Playoff games. His final game was the Canadiens' 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round on April 22.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Steve Ott (9) and Alex Pietrangelo will join forces again after Ott retired
from the NHL Thursday and joined the Blues as an assistant coach.

Ott had 288 points (109 goals, 179 assists) and 1,555 penalty minutes in 848 NHL games in 14 seasons with the Canadiens, Red Wings, Blues, Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars. He was selected by the Stars in the first round (No. 25) of the 2000 NHL Draft.

"To be honest with you, it wasn't as tough as probably most (players)," Ott said. "I'm real proud of my career, and I know it's time. I feel like at this situation in my career I've kind of been prepping for for the last few years to say the least and kind of mentoring players. When you do so and you work so closely with some of the coaches I've had before, it was a role for me that's been building. Now it all kind of comes together, obviously it's going to feel a lot better on my body going forward, but mind and work ethic, I'm totally excited to put the work in with the staff we have."

Ott joins Darryl Sydor, who was hired on Wednesday, on a coaching staff that did not bring back Rick Wilson, Ray Bennett, Steve Thomas and goalie development coach Ty Conklin. Assistant general manager Martin Brodeur is leading the search for a goalie coach.

"Everything that I've heard about Steve through the course of the season, even after the season was what a great leader he was, what a great teammate he was, how he helped the rest of the group and hearing the same things about him and his time in Detroit and hearing the same things about him in his time in Montreal" Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "When you're trying to fill a coaching position, the No. 1 quality you're looking for is leadership and he fills that in a great way."

Ott began conversations with Blues general manager Doug Armstrong last week about the coaching position and it all came together quickly but the two have spoken a few times to gauge where Ott's playing days were.

"Me and 'Army' have talked a few times seeing where I'm at in my career and kind of going forward. We talked there last week and started to feel what's the next best situation. Quite frankly, I told him it was time. And talking with my family and other people that are influential in my career as ex-coaches, ex-teammates and players that have kind of done both sides of this. 

"With the knowing of St. Louis and what I feel about the organization, the opportunity to grow and learn under Mike Yeo I think is a big thing for me as well and my next step in my career."

Ott admits he doesn't know Yeo all that well, but the two got the chance to sit down recently in a get-to-know meeting.

"I don't know Mike that well. We've had some great chats, and I've respected his career and what he's done firsthand of winning a (Stanley) Cup to his playing days to assistant coach and earning to becoming a head coach," Ott said. "Being able to meet him lately and being able to talk to him face to face, the respect I have for him obviously is very high. He's a great man and when you have to work with a great man every single day and to have an opportunity to learn, you want a guy like that."

Yeo and Ott spoke on the phone initially, then got together and sat down for a conversation and hit it off immediately. 

"There's certain qualities that you need to be a good coach," Yeo said. "You don't want to just pick up and have a job. You have to be prepared for the commitment that's required and he is certainly very eager to take part in that. He really wants to start this next chapter in his life and I think he's got an awful lot of potential."

Ott didn't define what his specific role will be, and Yeo said if was too soon for that.

"I'm going to have a lot of duties in the sense of some of the things might be secondhand, some stuff might be hands-on," Ott said. "Being able to know all the guys in that dressing room and I've played with almost every single guy in that room and knowing them firsthand, I think the players are know the type of person I am and the mutual respect will be there from the get-go. It'll be a hands-on experience."

Yeo remembers coaching against Ott when the Blues and Minnesota Wild played in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015 and offered what many feel about Ott:

"The thing you learn about coaching and playing and being a competitor is people you generally hate the most are the ones you end up having the most respect for," Yeo said. "If you're completely OK with somebody on the other side, then that's not a very good sign for them."

One thing is for sure: Ott will replace what the Blues were missing when Kirk Muller left to become associate coach in Montreal. Muller was a highly respected coach among all players, and Ott was a highly respected veteran presence as a player here within the locker room walls that should see no problem translating to the coaching ranks.

Ott was a teammate with 20 of the 23 players that finished on the roster this season.

"When you're a role player for most of your career, I think I rely on structure in my game, so it's been something for a lot of years that I've wanted to do," Ott said. "Since I got into the league, I thought, 'One day, I can't wait to become a coach and help my players and help my teammates.' As a player, I always took that same attitude to get the most out of players or help young guys out on the bench or different situations. I really loved being able to do that.

"My leadership obviously starts with work ethic and that's exactly what I'm going to bring to my coaching as well. I think the guys know what type of respect I have for them but also the mutual respect that comes back."

When Ott did leave St. Louis after helping the Blues advance to the Western Conference Final in 2016 for the first time in 15 years, he got the chance to return to the Red Wings and play close to home where he played for the Windsor Spitfires before getting traded to the Canadiens for a late playoff push.

But it was certainly time to hang the blades up.

"I think it's been building over time to say the least," Ott said of retirement. "As a hockey player, you think you can play for the rest of your life. That's what your heart tells you, but my mind and body and family know it's time. To have this opportunity back in St. Louis where we absolutely loved the organization, the people that are involved with the organization from the ownership down to Doug Armstrong. You know how special it was to me and my family firsthand. Now to be able to work back in the organization and hopefully add an element I think I can bring to the coaching staff ... we all want that same goal. We want a chance to win. I never got to do it as a player, but I'd be sure proud to do it as a coach with a group and team I know we have there as well.

"Those things are always really hard (leaving St. Louis). For three years, you have great friends and family from the ownership down to the players and you called it home for all those years. It's always tough to leave home, but when you have an opportunity to go back home, it's always fun and knowing the familiarity with the organization, that's a huge determining factor going forward and being able to grow and learn in a great atmosphere and a great situation."

The Blues still need one assistant coach slot to be filled, and Chicago Wolves coach Craig Berube's name continues to pop up as a potential landing spot here.

Armstrong said recently he'd like to have the coaching staff in place by the NHL Draft, which will commence June 23-24 in Chicago.

Sydor named assistant under Yeo

Two worked together for five seasons in Minnesota, gets three-year contract

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues on Wednesday revealed one of the worst kept secrets regarding their assistant coaching vacancies.

Darryl Sydor
The team announced that former Blue and Chicago Wolves assistant coach Darryl Sydor will become an assistant in St. Louis after signing a three-year contract.

Sydor, who played for the Blues in 2009-10 as part of an 18-year career in the NHL, will likely take the spot vacated by Rick Wilson and work with the Blues' defenseman.

Sydor, 45, was a logical choice after working with Blues coach Mike Yeo when Yeo was coaching the Minnesota Wild from 2011-15.

"I am excited to have Darryl back on my staff," Yeo said in a statement. "He was an outstanding teacher during our time in Minnesota and will add a wealth of experience and knowledge to our team."

Sydor spent last season as an assistant with the American Hockey League's Wolves under Craig Berube, helping Chicago finish first in the Central Division in the regular season and reach the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. 

Sydor also served as an assistant on Yeo's coaching staff with the AHL's Houston Aeros in 2010-11.

Before beginning his coaching career, Sydor, the seventh overall draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings in 1990, played in 1,291 NHL regular season games in 18 seasons with Los Angeles, Dallas, Columbus, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh, before playing his final NHL seasons with the Blues.

Sydor is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, winning with Dallas and Ken Hitchcock in 1999 and Tampa Bay in 2004.

Berube and Wolves assistant Daniel Tkaczuk are expected to receive consideration for the remaining open spots on Yeo's staff after the Wolves moved on from the Blues and affiliated themselves with the expansion Vegas Golden Nights beginning next season with a five-year agreement.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo

ST. LOUIS -- Alex Pietrangelo completed his first season as Blues captain, and the 22nd in franchise history.

There were trials and tribulations during the defenseman's first season wearing the 'C,' but one that proved to be vital in his continued growth as a leader moving forward.

Pietrangelo was once again the Blues' leader in ice time per game (25:16) and eighth in the NHL. He breaks down the season, what the first year as captain was like for him and moving the Blues into the future along with an addition to the family:
Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo

How do you reflect on season?
It still stings. I think a couple days of reflection, you've got to be proud of the point that we got to. I bet you halfway through the season not many people thought we'd be where we are, you know today, having this conversation. So, obviously still disappointing. The ultimate goal was obviously to win the Stanley Cup and to watch somebody else do it this year again is extremely frustrating. But again, we've got a young group here, we feel like we've built some things here, and I think we've really got an opportunity to take a really big step next year.

What your first year as captain what you expected?
I didn't expect to go through all the things that we went through. Obviously went through a coaching change, never an easy thing. But I've got a pretty good supporting cast in here and those guys are really helpful and alleviate a lot of that pressure off me, so a learning experience for me and I can get better in that aspect and that's what this reflection period is for.

What got your team back on the rails when it looked like things were looking bad there?
It came from within the group. We knew we had a better team than what we were showing. We had a few meetings and kind of turned things around. Obviously Mike (Yeo) came in and changed a few things and that really kind of kick-started that whole process, but it came from within this group. Even those injuries and what-not, the young guys came in and the veteran guys stepped up and it was a good combination we had going.

What do you have to do to get over the hump?
We've got to be obviously more consistent. You look at the way we lost, we played well for a lot of spurts throughout the series, but not the way we wanted to play every single game. Even last year, it's difficult to win. We played well ... this year, we got into a lot of good spots in games, we just weren't able to really close it out. Again, obviously we need to be better because we're not where we want to be, but a couple of those games were pretty close. You get a few bounces here or there and we're in a good situation.

How further are you ahead because Yeo came in this year?
It’s never easy to go through a coaching change in the middle of the season. But I think the advantage we did have is Mike was in here early and he understood us and he got to know us as players and people and that transition was easier than having someone come in from the outside. He's basically got a full year under his belt with this group as players, so he knows what to expect next year and he's a got a good opportunity in the offseason to do what he wants.

Do you expect anything to be any different next year?
I'm sure they're going to look over things and see what we need to do to get better, why we lost and all that stuff. As the season went on, Mike’s changes became second nature to us. We implemented them pretty early and 30 games in they end up becoming your habits. It’ll start from day one next year; Mike will really put his imprint on what he wants, but I think we know what to expect.

Do you have an identity?
Yeah we do. I think obviously 'Fabs' (Robby Fabbri) will be healthy next year, too, and it adds another element to our group that we didn't have. We've got a good combination right now of young guys with speed and tenacity up front and it's looking good.

Was it good to see Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson play so well and develop into a shutdown pairing?
Yeah, they were fantastic. Obviously watching them last year, you knew they were going to be real good this year coming in and just to see the way they played, especially in the playoffs, is pretty impressive. They're 24 now, turning 25 next year, they're at a point right now where you can really see that they're special players. We're lucky to be able to have those two guys together, two young guys together, playing at that level.

How do you feel physically?
I'm good. You know, wear and tear, maybe just need a tune-up, maybe an oil change. That's a lot of hockey obviously going back to the World Cup and when you think about preparing for the World Cup, starting to train earlier, everything was earlier this year. It's a lot of hockey, but again, I wish I was playing more hockey than I am right now.

Did Vladimir Sobotka provide more than Blues expected?
It didn’t surprise us. We knew he was having success over there. He played in the World Cup, we watched him in the World Cup. He’s still the same player as when he left. It’s an element that he brought that every team wants. He can play in all situations, so it was a great addition there, especially at that point in the season. He was great in the playoffs.

Does it seem like Sobotka is more offensive-minded now since returning from KHL?
Yeah, I think even a guy like 'Schwartzy,' (Jaden Schwartz) those guys who are tenacious on the puck, especially in the offensive zone, they’re going to create chances regardless of who they’re on the ice with or against. He can play in all situations, he played on the power play, he played offensive zone starts, he played shutdown, so he’s a guy that really contributes everywhere.

What does the summer entail for you? Are you going to get away?
Yeah, we'll get away from it a bit, take care of my wife, who's having a baby in December. We'll deal with that for now. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Blues center Paul Stastny

ST. LOUIS -- As one of the veteran guys on the team, Blues center Paul Stastny has a voice in the locker room that resonates as much as anyone.

Stastny completed his third Blues season and was part of a makeover that included a mid-season coaching change and helping incorporate an influx of younger players into a lineup that was to be considered a transition year for the Blues.

Stastny, who sustained a broken foot in March and returned in Game 5 to help the Blues eliminate the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, talks about returning to the lineup, his reflection on the season, on making something good out of a situation of losing veterans after a Western Conference Final run and a variety of other topics:
Blues center Paul Stastny

With the time that you missed, how are you now?
I'm alright. I'll get there. You obviously come back and feel good, but there's always little things that you're going to feel throughout. But I think a couple of weeks just being away from the ice not being in a boot will kind of clear all that stuff up.

How do you reflect after a couple days to think about the ending?
It's still a tough pill to swallow. The whole playoffs, every game's a coin flip. One day, you get a little luck, one day you don't. It's just that tough and I think when you're out of it, the next day you wake up, you're almost kind of lost because you have that same routine all the time. Hopefully we can use that motivation to kind of go into the summer and know next year, we'll have a fresh start with a fresh coaching staff and kind of use that motivation from this year to next year but like I said every year, I think every summer, you've got to go in here and plan on getting better just because ext year's going to have a lot more teams battling and in this cap kind of era, it just gets tougher and tougher and it's a lot more balanced throughout the league.

From the players you lost and what you were able to accomplish, can you be proud of what you were able to do this year?
Yeah, absolutely. That's just part of the nature of the business sometimes and it kind of happens. There's always turnover throughout a team, whether it's big players or small players. It's always going to affect the guys and that's how it is. The more you win, there's obviously less turnover. Even the more you win, everyone's having better years so that just tends to happen, but it was kind of an up-and-down year and I thought we did a good job of kind of coming together. Obviously 'Yeozy' (Mike Yeo) came in and helped out and right before we had that long stretch where we were on the road and played seven in 10 days and that's where we really came together as a team.

How do you explain what happened to the power play in the postseason?
I think it was stagnant, I think there were a couple things that you can work on, might change in the summer and watch what other teams do, but I think there were nights where we kind of took it for granted and just weren't quick enough. A lot of times, we'd just hold onto it, holding onto it for an extra second before we move the puck and then we're kind of too predictable where the puck was going to go and what the next move was going to be.

How should we remember this team? What's the legacy of this team?
I don't think I ever take a legacy from any year. I think you have a good group of guys here and you have a lot of guys that are going to be back that want to play for each other, that want to win for each other and I think that's the culture that we've built around here and I think that's the goal we want to keep moving forward with.

How much has it sped the changeover from Hitchcock to Yeo since Yeo got his feet wet sooner than expected?
I think that's good. I think you have a feeling of what to expect next year. I think the systems will be a big difference and I think we know his systems or we know what he's going to play that worked for us. I think right when he came in, he changed a few things and we became better defensively and we started giving up less and started playing more as a unit of five instead of as individuals. We know that we can be successful. We've just got to build on that.

Is it reassuring knowing the young guys can contribute?
Absolutely, and I think all those guys, they're so young that every summer they grow into their bodies and get more and more comfortable. For them just to get 10, 15, 20 games and some playoff games, they know how much harder it is and how much more work they have to put in. I think it's promising for those guys for the future for sure.

Is it a good feeling knowing this roster will not change much as opposed to what you lost last season?
Yeah, when you have a good team ... you obviously always want to keep the roster, especially when you know you have a good group of guys that played for each other, that played well together, but like I said, with the expansion draft, the summer, there's always going to be turnover no matter what. We've got to be ready to lose some guys, whether it's young guys, older guys. They'll find guys within the system that they'll pull up, they'll fit right in. When you look at new guys, with this culture, this team always does a good job in embracing whoever comes in makes them feel at home right away.

What are your thoughts on Jake Allen and the turnaround he had?
He was hot, but I think that's how good of a goalie he is. I think we expect that out of him, not the games where we expect to give up 50 shots and he makes those saves that's unbelievable. I think he had that stretch early in the season where he was just in a funk a little bit. It's a mental game and then when you're getting pulled after every goal, how are you supposed to get better? How are you supposed to battle through? So sometimes that's kind of tough, but I think he's old enough, I think he's experienced enough where everyone goes through those things a little bit and we knew throughout the year that he was going to bounce back from it. Both him and 'Hutts' (Carter Hutton) were unbelievable for us the last two months of the season basically. They stole some games, but other than that, they made some big saves that we counted on them to make and from there, our confidence went up even more.

Thoughts on getting Robby Fabbri back next year?
You don't think about it during the playoffs and I think after you look back, you kind of look at that, but obviously he's a pure scorer. He helps out the power play. He's excited to get back. I think he's still a work in progress, but I think he's had a long time to get ready and I think he's as motivated as anyone.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Four Blues assistants wont return next season

Bennett, Wilson, Thomas, Conklin won't have contracts renewed; affiliation with 
Wolves comes to close, will keep certain players in Chicago for 2017-18 season

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will have a new makeover of coaches starting next season, and their affiliation with the Chicago Wolves came to an end -- sort of -- on a busy day of decisions made by the organization on Tuesday.

The Blues announced that the contracts of assistant coaches Ray Bennett, Rick Wilson and Steve Thomas as well as goalie development coach Ty Conklin will not be renewed and all four will not return to their posts for 2017-18, and the Blues announced that their direct American Hockey League's Wolves will not go beyond the 2016-17 season. The Blues will instead as general manager Doug Armstrong said, will "associate with the Vegas Golden Knights and supply players to the Golden Knights’ AHL affiliate next season."

The Knights, who begin play in the NHL next season, and Wolves announced a five-year partnership beginning in 2017-18.

As far as a new coaching staff, despite starting with coach Mike Yeo midseason, the Blues are going with a fresh, new staff for Yeo to work with moving forward.

Yeo did ask Wilson to return but Wilson chose not to be away from his family any longer. They are in Dallas, where Wilson will be a candidate to join Ken Hitchcock's staff with the Stars.

"Talking to Mike, I felt and we discussed it, having Mike start his first full season with a fresh staff I think will rejuvenate the organization and it also gives Mike a hand in  picking his coworkers right from scratch," Armstrong said. "With the situation where we are now, I thought the timing was right. We're just continuing to build foundation, and I think for Mike to have the best chance for success, I want him to have full control over the people that he's going to choose to work with."

Yeo, who finished 22-8-2 after replacing Hitchcock on Feb. 1 and led the Blues to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs this season before losing in six games to Nashville, has a select group in mind.

"The first place I think we need to look is Chicago with the guys down there and the job they've done, but what it comes down to really is sort of a vision of how I see the staff playing out and then filling it in with the right pieces," Yeo said. "In my mind, I've got a pretty good sense of the qualifications and sort of the resumes of the people that we're looking to bring in. Now just begins the process."

It will start with Wolves coach Craig Berube and his assistant coaches Darryl Sydor and Daniel Tkaczuk.

"I think all three of those guys did a very strong job for us this year in the American Hockey League, not only winning the division and advancing into the second round of the playoffs but also the development when we brought up a (Magnus) Pajaarvi, we brought up a (Ivan) Barbashev, we saw real improvement, not only in their physical part of the game but their preparation and mental part of game was at a level where we were very excited about, so I think all three of those guys did a fantastic job," Armstrong said. "Mike and I have talked and all three guys are in consideration to be discussed in some form or fashion for Mike's staff, but we're not just going to limit it to that group right now. What we're going to do is see if they are the best guys after a thorough review, that's who we'll go with, but we want to talk to those guys but we also want to keep mind open to different people."

Berube, who led the Wolves to a 44-19-8-5 record which was good for the second-most points in the AHL (101), is a former coach with the Philadelphia Flyers and has made it known he'd like to coach in the NHL again but may have to go the route of an NHL assistant before getting another shot.

"We haven't really gone down there," Armstrong said. "I think when we hired Craig last year to work with our organization, he had opportunities to go as an assistant coach or an associate coach last year in the NHL but felt that what he had gone through in Philly, he thought maybe getting back and running the bench in the American Hockey League was something he wanted to do and he and I will discuss that. His ultimate goal was like all assistant coaches to make sure is one day be an NHL head coach and Craig is no different. He;s got that experience. We'll have to discuss that with him and more importantly, I think Mike has to discuss that with him on Mike's philosophies. We all have areas of strengths and weaknesses. What I want to do is for Mike to be able to accent the areas where he might believe that he's not quote as strong and maybe Craig or Darryl or Tkaczuk or someone else can do that. I have nothing but praise for what Craig Berube did and if he and Mike feel like he's the right fit, then I have no issues with that."

With the Blues' futility on the power play in the playoffs (a league-worst 2-for-30), someone with a specialty in that area will certainly draw interest.

"Honestly, I'd rather not get too deep into it because the people that might be interviewing obviously have a chance to read this stuff and I want to be able to ask questions that they're not prepared for, but certainly when you're building your staff, you look at guys that can challenge you as coach, that can bring up new ideas, that can hold a strong opinion, hold players accountable when you're not around, and obviously the ability to work with special teams unit is going to factor in as well here," Yeo said.

As for an AHL affiliation, Armstrong said the Blues tried to get another destination in place for the 2017-18 season but nothing developed, so in the meantime, they will work with Vegas, send their prospects to Chicago and look to have a permanent home in place for 2018-19. 

Armstrong said there won't be any sort of competitive disadvantage with housing prospects, as long as it's for one year.

"I would think if it extended past this season it would be," Armstrong said. "Part of my comfort level is A) my relationship with (Vegas GM) George McPhee. He and I have talked extensively on the benefits of this relationship. When you look at the American Hockey League, you look at the veteran rule and the number of players you're allowed to have over a certain age. Vegas isn't starting with a new group of players, the players they draft this year, if they go the major-junior route, it's hard to get those 18-year-olds right into the American Hockey League now so I think it's really quite honestly a competitive advantage for Vegas and us to join forces. We could put some of our better prospects into their environment and also the experience I've had with watching expansion drafts in the past, they're going to get a lot of quality players and they're not all going to get to play for Vegas at the same time. I think they're going to have a really good group of veteran players. I think we can supplement them with their younger players. Now if this was to move past next year, then that would be a competitive situation that we'd really want to hone in with our ownership group. In all honestly, we saw this coming and we looked at some different opportunities to maybe get our own affiliate for the 17-18 season. It wasn't there, so we're now full throttle to make sure that we have something for 18-19, but we see a really good synergy with Vegas because of their birth into the NHL and now the American Hockey League needing maybe some younger players and the positive is that Wendell Young, who had managed Chicago for a number of years, is familiar with some of our younger players. Hopefully when he and George talk, he can give good recommendations on some of the players George and I decide on sending there."

It was written in this space on Nov. 30 ( 
that Kansas City will be a destination for the Blues in the future, perhaps as early as the 2017-18 but now that possibility remains hopeful for the 2018-19 season.

"I don't want to really get into the areas that we've talked to out of respect that they may have worked or they may not have worked or may not have worked but may have worked in the future," Armstrong said. "I'm going to keep that behind closed doors.

"... We were hoping to have it done this year so it's not something we're starting from ground zero on today. We have had some irons in the fire but they didn't take hold. We talked to a couple groups about coming in for this year; it didn't happen, but we really have to put that at the forefront of our thought process. We hope to have something done that will (have) 31 NHL teams next year and 31 American Hockey League affiliates."

The Wolves didn't part ways with the Blues without Chicago owner Don Levin offering some parting shots at the Blues. In an article on, Levin said his partnership with the Blues was "a painful relationship for periods of time.

"St. Louis would like to see their guys win but wouldn't put any effort into doing it," Levin told the publication, saying Wolves players signed to AHL contracts produced more on the ice than those signed to Blues contracts. "They didn't do what we expected them to do, and it was difficult."

Armstrong didn't have a response to the comments other than to wish the Wolves luck in the future.

"No, I think I'll just let Don speak his mind," Armstrong said. "From our point of view, we appreciated our time with the Wolves and we wish them nothing but the best."

Let it be known that Blues prospects or property (Kenny Agostino, Wade Megan, Andrew Agozzino, Vince Dunn, Samuel Blais, Barbashev and Morgan Ellis led the Wolves in scoring during the regular season, and Agostino, Blais, Agozzino, Chris Butler, Dunn, Adam Musil, Jordan Schmaltz, Petteri Lindbohm and Ty Rattie were the team's top scorers during the Calder Cup playoffs.

So working with another NHL team filtering two sets of players into one AHL team for next season, the Blues will be left with some that don't have room to play there.

"We've talked to other organizations about assuming some of our players," Armstrong said. "I don't think that's going to be an issue just because of the veteran rule. If we have very good propects or a prospect or players that can fill another roster, probably a third or half of your American League roster, I don't want to say fill-in players but players that are there to accent your youth group. You're always looking to bring in players from different leagues anyway, so I think we'll be able to for one year to peace meal our group together but we're all hoping this isn't the case a year from now."

The Blues have made it known that they'd like to have their assistants in place by the NHL Draft, which is slated for June 23-24 in Chicago.

Assistant GM Martin Brodeur will continue to spearhead the search for a goalie coach and  developmental coach within the organization to replace Conklin.

"We hope to have everything done by the draft," Armstrong said. "I think that that's a common theme. We have our development camp right after, and then obviously I want Mike to recharge his batteries in July, so I'm hoing we can press this through and we can get this done by the draft; we can have some meetings at the draft. I also think it's important for the coaches to get to the draft and meet the rest of the staff also. Our goal would be by the draft. I don't see a reason why we won't be able to reach that goal.

"What we've asked Marty to do is compile a list of candidates and he'll bring a smaller group to Mike and myself and then the three of us will then meet with these guys. We've asked Marty to take the lead on it but ultimately, those candidates will interview with Mike because Mike has to work with these guys on a daily basis."

Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson

ST. LOUIS -- Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson, much like partner Colton Parayko, was able to take a tremendous jump in his second NHL season.

Edmundson doubled his goal total from the regular season (three) in the playoffs, hitting it in 11 games that took 69 in the regular season to accomplish; he also finished plus-12 in the playoffs.

Part of the 3-4 defensive pairing, the Brandon, Manitoba native Edmundson talks about his season, the Blues' season, moving forward and what youth meant to the Blues and what it will mean moving forward:
Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson

How do you reflect on this season?
That final stretch and the playoffs was an exciting time for us. I think our group did a good job of kind of taking over the situation. That's the type of squad we have in here. The leadership, the older guys, the young guys, it's a good group of guys in here. We're looking forward to the future.

Personally, what started going well for you?
I don't know, it's playoff hockey. Something gets the best of me. I thought our whole backend, even the goalies, everyone just had a good playoffs. For myself, I stuck to my own game, got lucky on a couple goals, which kind of helps. I'm just happy I could help the team get the success.

Goals aside, were you and Parayko a shutdown pair out there?
Yeah, before every game, we're talking with each other reminding reminding ourselves that we're shutdown defensemen. Let's just do our job, make 'Snake's life easy. That's our mindset going into every game and if we can chip in offensively, that's just a bonus.

How much more comfortable were you this year than your rookie year?
A lot. Just having a full year of experience. With going through playoffs last year, definitely the confidence was there this year. I think that's what's going to be good for our group moving on into the future.

You expect that to grow next year as you come back?
Yeah, for sure. Every year, it just keeps on getting better. It's good to see the young guys get into the lineup in playoffs. They all played really good hockey. That gets us pretty excited, too.

Do you not feel like a young guy anymore?
I don't know. Right now, the body feels pretty old with all the wear and tear, but I feel like I've been around long enough where I can definitely show and lead the way for the younger guys.

Was there a chip on this group's shoulder with all the players you lost coming in, people saying you might not make the playoffs? Was there pride in what you were able to accomplish?
Yeah, we lost some key guys. 'Brouw' (Troy Brouwer) and 'Moose' (Brian Elliott), guys like that last year. I think 'Army' did a good job of filling their spots. We still believed we had a team that could win the Cup this year, so it's still disappointing. We lose a guy like (Robby) Fabbri midway through the season, it kept on piling up. (Alexander) Steen was playing through injuries. We felt like we still had a team to do it, but we've still got to be proud of that and we can walk away with our heads held high.

Even trading Kevin Shattenkirk, it was another sign of waving the white flag. How were you able to regroup?
It was either pack it in or put our head down and get back to work. We knew what was at stake and we wanted to make that playoff push, so we put our heads down and that's when the battle started.

Are you happy for Parayko going to the World Championship?
Yeah, it's not really a surprise. He's a helluva defender. It's really good to see that and it's a young guy gets to go play, it's going to be a good experience and hopefully he can bring that experience back to this team next year. I wish him nothing but the best of luck. I've got a couple guys on the team that I know. It should be a fun time over there.

What does the summer have in store for you?
My summers are pretty boring. I just go back to Manitoba. There's not much to do there on the weekends so I just try to travel every other weekend, go see my buddies or something. Just a lot of hours in the gym but also some rest time, too.

Is it exciting knowing this roster could all be back next year?
Yeah, I think that's what keeps us excited. This is the group that's going to be here for the next few years. We're a tight-knit group in here. We have a whole lot of fun. We've just got to carry that over to the ice and it should be a fun training camp.

What's the feeling of the expansion draft knowing someone in here will be going to Las Vegas?
Yeah, that's the reality of it, but I don't think anyone's really thinking too much about it. If it happens, it happens, but you have no say in that, so at the end of the day, that's just hockey gods I guess.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Blues defenseman Colton Parayko

ST. LOUIS -- Blues defenseman Colton Parayko just completed his second season in the NHL and continues to garner plenty of league-wide attention.

Parayko, who is currently representing Canada at the IIHF World Championships in Paris and Cologne, Germany, raised eyebrows playing with fellow second-year NHL partner Joel Edmundson; both solidified their spots as the Nos. 3-4 defenseman on this team after the trade of Kevin Shattenkirk.
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko

Parayko recently turned 24, his stock continues to soar and he talks about the Blues' season, their future moving forward and his expectations as he enters free agency as a restricted free agent:

What was your biggest takeaway? What do you feel is going to benefit you in the future?
Just stick with the process. Things don't always go your way or the team's way and when the team comes together and works together as a unified unit, it's pretty special. We're a very good hockey club, we're young and we have lots to look forward to for sure.

How did you feel about the playoff you and Edmundson had?
It was a lot of fun for us. I think we benefit each other in our games. He's a big body, he plays really well, he's smart with the puck, he skates well. He's just an overall well defender. It makes it easy for me to play with him because he's great out there.

Do you see growth in Edmundson's game?
Yeah, he continues to grow for us. It's one of those things where you can kind of come every day and you almost learn new things every day just because things move fast, at a fast pace but you want to keep getting better. He's done a good job of kind of grasping those things.

How far do you feel you've come along in two years?
I think I'm improving. It's one of those things that you want to just continue to get better. There's so much to learn throughout the whole season that you kind of try to take as much as possible and take everything that's there.

Is it meaningful to you that Mike Yeo trusted you and Edmundson in a lot of key moments?
A hundred percent, especially when you get that kind of confidence from your coach and the players, it's pretty special and only boosts our pairing's confidence. When you get that, you always want to put everything on the line for the team and make sure that we're there to get wins.

Do you like how it looks that almost everyone is going to be here next year as opposed to last summer?
A hundred percent. I thought we had a great group, our character was unbelievable, especially with how things were going and the way we responded was pretty special and to be a part of that was pretty cool because I think it's a huge learning curve for us and it's a good opportunity for us to see how we can play. Obviously we have a younger group but we also have a lot of veterans because those guys have been since Day 1 for me, just from a personal standpoint, they've been unbelievable for me to follow, for me to learn from. They've taught me so much. It's an exciting time for us I think because us young guys are learning lots and hopefully moving forward.

Do you feel like a leader now at 24?
Not quite. Maybe hopefully give myself a few more years, but I'm still in a position where I want to keep learning so much. I still want to grow my game a ton. I wouldn't say that quite yet. I want to obviously be a leader. I want to try to help, but I'm in a role where I continue to learn.

Is there a specific aspect of your game right now that you want to work on?
Not really. I think overall, just my whole game. Defensively obviously. 

Would you like to get your contract settled sooner rather than later?
I don't know. It's kind of not for me. I'm honestly just kind of letting it go. This is my first time through it, so I think it's one of those things where we're in no rush, I don't think. It's one of those things where I want to learn a lot through the process, so I'm in no rush, I don't think. I don't know. I just want to learn from the process, enjoy it and go from there.

Is it a good feeling that you've put yourself in that position?
Yeah, hopefully. I guess so, I don't know. Hopefully.

Are you going on to the World Championships? (Asked before it was confirmed)
Yeah, I think so. I think I'm going to head out tomorrow or the next day. I'm looking forward to it. It's a good opportunity to get over to Europe and just keep playing hockey, I guess.

Has it been a long year for you?
It has been, but I feel good. I was thinking if we were still here playing, I still have a lot of energy, so I could have kept playing here. Now I'll go there and enjoy it and have some fun.

With each game being so tight in Nashville series, do you have a feeling you should have won it?
We did have some good pushes. It's one of those things where you see it often and playoff hockey's so tight. You can run into a hot team, a hot goaltender so quickly. That's kind of what it was. I thought we had great efforts. We had a lot of good looks each game. Obviously our goaltending was great all series long, all playoffs long I guess for that matter. They gave us a chance to win every night. It was a fun process to be a part of. It's one of those things where we can definitely gather as much as possible because with the group we have, it seems like we're going to recapture everyone and I like our chances with this group.

What should be the expectations for you guys now moving forward?
Keep going forward. Expectations are to be going deeper into the playoffs and potentially obviously going all the way because every guy in the locker room wants to be on a championship team. Our expectations are only going to get higher because like you said, people have considered it a transition year, but I thought we had a team with a great group in here. We were close to getting back to the Western Conference Final obviously, a couple goals away. It's one of those things where you kind of bring this group back and what we've now been through, I'm excited.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Blues goalie Jake Allen

ST. LOUIS -- Jake Allen's season for the Blues could be split in two.

The one from October through Jan. 31 had good in it but a three-week period was more of a rocky road. 

The one from Feb. 1 on, store him, stash him, memorize what he did and duplicate him.

Those that watched Allen prior to Feb. 1 wondered if this was someone that could handle being a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, let alone be that for the Blues. But given Allen's workload and consistency from that date on proved a coaching change to Mike Yeo and ensuing working relationship with Martin Brodeur gave him the shot in the arm needed.
Blues goalie Jake Allen

Allen gave the Blues a chance to win on a nightly basis, helped them win a series against the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and gave the Blues a chance before falling to the Nashville Predators in the second round.

Allen discusses his season, his relationship with Brodeur and moving forward:

Now that it's sunk in for a couple days, how do you reflect?
It was definitely still bitter (Monday), but I think when we look back on it, a lot of it is a positive. I think when we look back on it, a lot of it is a positive. There's a lot of positives to take away and obviously we didn't go as far as we wanted, but I think we showed a lot of growth, a lot of maturity. I think we have a lot of players in here that are going to be here still for a long time. We've still got a really solid group.

When there's the talk of regression, a team in transition, losing big pieces, coaching change midseason, trade Shattenkirk and still made it this far, how did you take that and is there some satisfaction knowing you made it this far?
I think there is. Obviously it's sort of the underdog mentality a little bit. You're right, a lot of people probably counted us out, maybe potentially making the playoffs, maybe squeaking in, but I think even with the struggles that we had midseason, we proved that we almost caught second place in or division and were still there. We've still got a lot of great pieces that have been here for a while. We have new players that are up-and-coming. A lot of us are still pretty young, we've still got a lot more years left in us. I think we build a solid group over the last three or four years. Now it's continuing to build with some new pieces to the foundation.

From Feb. 1 on, how do you feel in the regard that you're the No. 1 here?
I knew I was the No. 1 all year. Honestly, I'm pretty happy with my year. I thought I had a good playoffs, I thought I had a pretty good year, subtract those three weeks, and I'm happy with it. I felt that not counting those three weeks, I gave the guys a chance all year to win games, to get points. That's my objective as a starter.

It's hard for a goalie to say that you've arrived, but that's perception around the league. How do you feel about that?
It's good. I need to make a case for myself. I still want to get better every year. I want to be one of the best in the league. I still got a ways to go, but I feel like every season, when I've looked back on it, I've gotten better in different ways. It's my objective.

At what point did you feel like you arrived and everything started clicking for you?
I felt really good coming into the season. I thought I had a good year last year as well. I think just from February on, I was zoned in. I knew what to do. I just needed to get back to doing it. It's gone well. I've got a lot of work to put in this summer, take a little break here, hopefully come back next year and really get off to a good start. I know training camp's going to be a little different next year with Mike around. I think we're all already looking forward to coming back.

How did you overcome that tough stretch? Was it soul-searching? How did you get back?
I'm not a very vocal guy. I didn't really talk to many people about issues or problems. I sort of just stayed within myself. It was just a matter of time. I knew deep down that I still had it. When I finally did it, I knew I was in the clear. It was tough, but I just really dug down deep in myself and got it done.

Was it a little bit of a challenge knowing that Yeo didn't get you guys from the start to implement his system?
Yeah, it was tough for him obviously too to come in and switch things around, but I think it was beneficial that he was here since the start. He understood our team, he's played against us a lot coaching Minny, and the system wasn't really too much different than the one we played before. The guys in here are very adaptable; you have to be in this league. They adapted, they implemented the system and it worked. 

Do you feel like the way you finished under Yeo that it creates a lot of positive buzz moving forward and what you can potentially do under his leadership?
Yeah, I think so. I think we all love playing for him. That's why we're going to be chomping at the bit to come back. It goes to show the finish we had, the sacrifice the guys would do and lay on the line for each other, for him, for the playoffs. It was impressive and I think training camp is going to be hard, but it's going to be fun. He did a great job.

What was the experience like for you to work with Brodeur?
It was cool. I've been very fortunate to play with him, him be my boss, now my goalie coach, now back to my boss. He was great for me. He was great for 'Hutts'. He was light, didn't change much and I think that was a key. I think if he came in here and tried to swing things around, it could have gone a different way, but he didn't. He just gave us some confidence, he was a good sounding board and it worked out really well. Who knows what next year holds, but this year was great.

You were talking to Brodeur at locker cleanout again. Does he provide offseason tips?
No. He just asked me about maybe getting out for a round of golf before I go home (to New Brunswick).

Is there a different feeling this offseason because you know who's coming back?
Pretty much most of us all have contracts for next year. You never know what can happen. There's the draft, there's trades, it's the nature of the business and also there's an expansion draft. It's going to be the first one for a lot of us to have partook in one of those. We'll see how that goes and what that holds. Each team's probably going to lose a guy to that and it's just the nature of the business and we'll see what happens with that.

What's the biggest takeaway that you take from the season yourself personally?
The adversity that I faced. I think I battled back, I came back stronger, I thought I got better as the season went on. It was a positive for me. I think just consistency at the end of the season and the playoffs and giving the guys chances to win and I think that's really what matters, especially into those playoffs.

What does standing out in the playoffs do for you going into next year?
I can enjoy it for now, but once next year starts, we've got to make the playoffs, and that's not easy. I think we've made the playoffs, I don't know, five or six, seven years in a row here now and that's rare in this league. Not many teams say they can do that. I don't think we're just gonna walk in here thinking we're going to make the playoffs. Our division's not easy. That's the focus is just coming back, playing hard, especially against divisional opponents and see where it goes.

How do you attack your summer now?
Kick around here for a couple more weeks, then head home. I'll at least get back in the gym June 1st, slowly get back at it. Three solid months of working out and skating, I probably won't skate until July. I'll get with my goalie coach (David Alexander, goalie coach of the American Hockey League's Syracuse Crunch) that I've worked with my whole life back home, enjoy myself, relax. I've got a four-month at home, so it'll be a fun summer.

Is it nice to get to go home and be a full-time dad for a bit?
Yeah, it will be. Not too many of my family members or Shannon's have met her yet, so it's going to be a hectic first couple weeks at home, busy house. It's going to be relaxing, so a lot of fishing and just enjoy it. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Blues forward Alexander Steen

ST. LOUIS -- Jack of all trades forward Alexander Steen, who is a left wing by trade but lines up at center and on the right wing when the Blues need him to, stood in the team locker room at the conclusion of the season, there with his teammates cleaning out their belongings before heading off for the summer.

Steen, wearing a boot on his left, and no, it wasn't a cowboy boot picked up in the Music City, played the entire postseason -- all but Game 5 of the second round -- with a broken left foot and took injections to freeze the area affected. 
Blues forward Alexander Steen

It's what hockey players do to sacrifice a chance at winning the Stanley Cup, but now that the Blues' season has come to an end, the Blues' assistant captain talks about his injury, a reflection on the season and what Blues fans can expect from this team moving forward:

Can you reflect now after a couple days of thinking about it?
Yeah, it's still fresh. I think you look back at the season as a whole, there was some obvious ups and some obvious downs. I think this group was resilient. We stick together in good times and in bad. I think that really showed this year into the playoffs, I think with the type of game that we were playing and how much more consistent we were with our game and the fact that when things weren't really bouncing our way or going our way, we upped our work ethic and fell back on our structure and obviously our goaltending and (we) kind of pushed forward. It's a tough series against Nashville. It's a good club. They play hard. It was very tight games and what stings is we had such good goaltending, and when you have such a good goaltender and he gets hot on top of that, it can go a long way and to have that fall short against Nashville was tough to swallow. But saying that, now moving forward, we have a good group. I think we're excited. We've got a big summer ahead of us. We're going to put in the work this summer and then next season, whatever happens with this Vegas draft, we'll deal with that and obviously we'll get 'Fabs' back at some point, beginning hopefully of next year. The young guys we called up from Chicago when we needed them. We had some injury stuff. They not only came up and took a spot, they pulled some heavy weight for us. It really helped us move that ball forward. They're going to be key next year, too.

You're one of the constants in this transition in this league. How do you feel about the young core overall?
Like I said, I feel good. I think the biggest thing for us or that we have is the unity that we have and I think the pride that we have in the room, not only to execute what we want to do internally us as players in the room, but we have a strong belief of the fact that we're representing our city and the fans of St. Louis and how much support they give us night in and night out. When we were going through our tough time there and early on in the season, it didn't sit well with the boys and obviously we had a coaching change and had to take a real good look at ourselves in the mirror. Like I said, resilient group, stuck together, found a way to battle our way through that time and that's what you've got to do. 

What did it take for you to keep playing despite your injury?
It's playoff time. It's something that all the guys go through both sides, both teams. I'm sure Nashville's sitting over there with some injuries. We had some guys that felt like were in beast mode. 'Bobbo,' (Robert Bortuzzo) I told him he was in beast mode all the time. He was just sacrificing throwing himself in front of shots, 'Stas' (Paul Stastny) comes back from a significant leg injury, 'Uppy,' (Scottie Upshall) he's going to take a shot-blocking course this summer; he was throwing his face in front of some of them. It's just part of our identity as a team, I think.

Is it a broken bone you have?
Yeah, it's broken on the left toe, outside, and then the reason I missed Game 5 was (blocked a shot in Game 4 at Nashville) ... I don't even know how to explain it. It's basically a bone bruise to the navicular bone, or something like that. You can talk to the doctors.

Did you take pain shots before each game?
Yeah, we have a good group of doctors. The reason why I didn't practice was it was difficult to get my foot in a skate, but the doctors did a good job. The game days we'd go in and take a shot about a half hour before warmups and off we went.

When you were talking about the tough times you went through, was there a common denominator that pulled you guys together?
I think I said it after the game last game that ... I'd love for everybody to see what goes on inside these four walls. Not just when you guys are not here but before games and things like that, the unity, when we're on the road, the camaraderie we have and the ... I don't even know what words to put in; you get the picture. It's a proud group and it's a pleasure playing with these guys. To see what a lot of the guys went through during this playoff run and in previous playoff runs, it's a good group.

From a veteran perspective and moving forward, what should the expectations of this team be heading into next year?
I think we should be very excited. I think we have work to do. We've got to make sure we have a good summer here and prepare ourselves for another season of battles. The league just seems to get tighter and tighter. Our division's a good division. There's going to be some changes. Some of the teams that finished under us are going to be pushing for next season, too. We've got a lot of young guys that are playing well. We've got a lot of veteran guys that are extremely dedicated, not only to the on-ice stuff but to their bodies but to the off-ice workouts and treatments and everything that goes into being at the top of your game so you can win a championship. I talk about 'Snakey' all the time, he's in my opinion, one of the best goaltenders in the league. When you have that, you have a chance. It's up to us to come back next year, use that excitement and have that feel-good feeling and go from there.

How much value is there in having a young coach that has that experience of what a Stanley Cup champion looks like?
I think the biggest thing was when he took over, he had a clear plan, a clear understanding of how he wanted us to play. I think having been here through the beginning of the season, he saw firsthand what he wanted to change, I guess, and the little details that he wanted to implement. I think at that time, we were extremely receptive. We needed to get out of that funk and he runs a calm and good bench. He really set the tone for us and then from there, the rest of the group just kind of grabbed that ball and kept pushing it forward.

Are you tired of going through so much rehabbing?
Yeah, this one's fine. It'll heal in a couple weeks. (No surgery required)

How nice is it to talk about this group when 95 percent of it will be back next year, if not all of it?
Yeah, we'll follow this Vegas draft and see what happens. Obviously that's something we'll keep an eye on later in the summer, but we'll be getting guys back. 'Fabs' will be back at some point, hopefully the beginning, the sooner the better. It's a great group and we're extremely hungry. Like I said, it's tough to swallow when you feel like you had a really good team and your goaltender's as good as 'Jakey' and he gets hot on top of that. I have a lot of optimism going into next season and I'm extremely excited.