Monday, August 31, 2020

Blues president of hockey operations/general manager Doug Armstrong

ST. LOUIS -- Doug Armstrong could have been angry but wasn't.

The Blues' president of hockey operations and general manager knows the circumstances surrounding the team's chance at defending the first-ever Stanley Cup in franchise history was different.

In playoffs past, there certainly has been anger and disappointment from Armstrong's perspective because the Blues have had high expectations for a number of years after solid regular seasons, only to underachieve in the playoffs.
Blues president of hockey operations/general manager Doug Armstrong

But this year, sure, there's disappointment in bowing out in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs inside the bubble atmosphere in Edmonton, but had there not been such unprecedented times during the 2019-20 season, the Blues put themselves in a good position of repeating as Cup champs. But COVID-19 put a halt on not just the NHL, but the entire sporting world and basically, life in general. And when the NHL resumed play four-plus months after the league went on pause and the Blues were first in the Western Conference after 71 games (42-19-10), it was tough to recapture what they had accumulated through March 11.

Armstrong talks about the Blues fighting an uphill battle from the moment the NHL's Return to Play Plan began, Vladimir Tarasenko's uphill fight through another shoulder surgery, his interest in bringing back Alex Pietrangelo, among other key decisions moving forward heading towards the 2020-21 season:

Why it didn't click for you in Edmonton?
We're still sort of digging through that. I thought coming into I guess it would have been Phase 3, there was a lot going on in our organization. We had of our regular players, I think we had 20 percent of those guys that had COVID at some point. Their mindset was to always be competitive and to play hard, but they had a lot going on around them. I think four or five guys just had babies or were going to have babies. The information of the COVID was changing every day on how it was going to affect older people, younger people, babies and it took us a while ... I thought we got most comfortable when we finally got to Edmonton. I didn't think we were comfortable leading into Edmonton, and I think that showed early on in our first couple weeks there.

Do you think the COVID affected any of the fitness level/conditioning of some of your guys?
Yeah, it did just because A) when they were quarantined, they couldn't go to the gym, they couldn't do certain things. It affected each player differently. Some lost considerable amount of weight. They all felt some form of a symptom. It wasn't that they had it and they didn't feel anything.

What's the update on Tarasenko and how limited was he in his play in Edmonton?
It was obviously very limited. He had shoulder surgery obviously at the start of the season. He rehabbed, he came back, we had to do another MRI. He wasn't feeling good. That surgery didn't take the way we had hoped. It wasn't successful. He's going to go back in and have more surgery next week and it's serious in the sense that he won't be with us and he won't be reevaluated for five months after the date of surgery.

Do you think players believed seeding didn't matter and weren't ready when plan was laid out?
I don't think that we didn't try to prepare. Going into those round-robin games, we very rarely trailed. We weren't playing good hockey, there's question. (Jordan) Binnington played very well to keep us in games, but I think we were ahead or tied in the third period and lost them all. I think we went all (71) games without having that happen to us in the regular season. When we got there, our competitive level was increasing because that's when we felt most comfortable.

How does that affect your planning going forward? Is there a concern level this will be chronic?
It's certainly not a positive that we're going through right now. It's his third surgery. We just know that he prepares and trains hard and he needs to get back and play well for us, but yeah, it's a concern in the sense that he's going to have three surgeries.

Compare this one to the previous two, are they as extensive? How would you describe what he's about to go under compared to the reconstruction he had in the two previous surgeries?
I'm not going to get into it. If Vladi wants to get into the details of it, it's his body it's his shoulder. It's serious enough where he's not going to be reevaluated for five months.

Do you have to think about looking for more scoring?
Scoring wasn't an issue for us last season. Having Vladi in our lineup makes us a better team. So no, I don't think we're going to try and go out and replace Vladi with another Vladi. We all know what the salary cap situation is. Jordan Kyrou has to come back and be given an opportunity to have an impact on our team and he has to take  that opportunity and run with it, so I think there's internal players that are going to come back again. When you look at our roster and you look what we have moving forward, a lot of guys from last year's team, we only have two restricted players in Dunn and de la Rose and one unrestricted in Alex Pietrangelo, the core group that had 70 games for the majority are under contract.

How worried are you about Tarasenko's future and if he can be the same player again?
It's the third surgery. We're hoping he gets back to the level that he was at before. I'm not concerned about the work ethic and the approach he's going to take to put himself in a great spot, but time is going to tell on how quickly and the impact he can have when he gets back. I think he can have the same impact as before, but it's really irrelevant what I think or what I feel. It's going to be how he does when he gets back.

From among the other young guys, Blais, Sanford, what kind of comfort level do you have with those guys moving into top six roles?
I think that you saw Zach Sanford became very comfortable playing with Perron and O'Reilly. I can see that moving forward. I think we saw a good line with Schwartz there. Robert Thomas needs to take another step, hopefully to find a way into our group of six., whether it's in the middle or on the wing and Schenner can move over. There's quite a few options there, but as far as Blais and Sanford, we need them to continue to improve and take a bigger chunk out of our overall team and overall game.

Did you see in the team being fully invested from a buy-in and energy level perspective in Edmonton?
I saw it growing as we were up there. Going into it, I thought that we had players, for whatever reason, didn't record in the conditioning level that was going to give them the best success. It's not an indictment on those guys. There's eight teams that did a better job dealing with it, they're still playing. Soon there's going to be four, then two and one. So we didn't do enough to obviously give ourselves the best opportunity to have success.

How do you handle uncertainty of when next season starts in terms of how to train, how to prepare?
The veterans, I tried going back on some experiences of a work stoppage in the sense that I think they're going to go home and I think they're going to be here that we're not going to play that potentially no one knows what COVID's going to do and then the phone's going to ring and say, 'OK, you have two days to be here. We're going to have training camp and then we're going to be up and running and playing.' They have to prepare that we're going to play. I think the league has put an early December start date out there. They have to prepare to get ready for that and they have to block out all the white noise that's going to come along between now and then. When we were in Canada, there were very few cases in Canada. I felt very safe there. You come back into the States and, you know ... I look at it, it really depends on ... you watch CNN, they have one view on how this going to go and then you watch Fox, they have another view on how it's going to go. We have to prepare like we're watching Fox TV.

Do you react differently to this off-season to previous years when you may have been knocked out early in the playoffs based on circumstances? Important not to overreact?
I would say that you have to take the (71) games and look at what went well and what didn't go well, what we can improve. Then you have to take the tournament in itself and figure out what went well, where you have to improve and why are we not playing right now. So you don't want to overreact to it. Also, if it had been a normal where we got to Game 82, go into the playoffs and you're not competitive, I think that might have been a different look than what happened in (Edmonton). I've got to say, in reality, Game 1, it's a tie game. Game 2 could have gone either way. We win three and four, five we're up 3-1. I didn't feel like we got outplayed. If you break an NHL game down to the four components: 5-on-5 play, power play, penalty kill, goaltending, I thought we were strong 5-on-5 and I thought the opposition had the upper hand in the other areas.

How do you Binnington's play? Does it change how you look at your goalie picture at all with both having one year left on their current contracts?
Obviously Jordan didn't play to the level he played at a year ago. He set a high bar for himself expectation-wise and we as a group didn't get there. He didn't do it by himself a year ago in the playoffs and he's certainly not by himself on why we're not playing right now. We believe in Binner, he's a proud, competitive player and I think he's going to come back ready to go and play like he did in the regular season, the first (71) games of the regular season.

What sense are you getting from other GM's about taking some of your chess pieces that you would need to keep Pietrangelo?
I think the first phase is going to be to find out if we can find common ground with Alex, and if we do then go to work to move other pieces. It is really an either-or that if we can't find common ground with Alex, then there's really no need to do anything. And if we can find common ground with Alex, then there's a need to do a lot. Until we get Phase 1 done, obviously I've talked to different managers to find out what their goals are, what they're trying to accomplish. Do we have pieces that allow them to accomplish what they want, but that being said, I've said this really since July of '19, Alex is our captain. I've grown up with Alex in this organization and he's grown up with me in this organization. I'd like to see that continue for a number of years moving forward and that's my focus right now.

Can you describe how the salary cap affects things when cap is staying the same? 
It affects us but it's affecting everybody around the league in the same fashion. I think one of the things too that may be different and again, our ownership is committed to competing with the top teams and spending to the salary cap. I'm not sure all other organizations have that same philosophy moving forward. There was a lot of revenue that wasn't earned this year. How's the revenue going to be earned next year and are you a cash or cap team? I think that most teams were cap teams. I would imagine there would be some more cash teams now, and that's going to affect on how they do it. I don't expect anyone to say, 'Oh well, St. Louis, they really want to sign Petro, so let's help them out.' That's not reality, so it's going to take some moving parts. My goal is I hope to get to that because we've got our captain under contract.

Do you think these negotiations might be the most tricky of your career because of who Pietrangelo is?
I don't think so. Actually, I think they're going to be easier because for the first time in a number of years, I think we know what the cap's going to be moving forward for potentially, four, five, six years. From a business standpoint, there's no projection that it's going to go from $81.5 to $87 to $94 to $101 (million). You know it's probably going to stay in within a few percentage points of where it's at now for a number of years. I think there's actually more information than less this year.

On making deals if the right one is there, do you buy into that that makes it harder to sign Pietrangelo with less cap room or do you look at it as you have a number in mind for Pietrangelo and if it works, it works?
We wanted to try and sign Alex back to last July, but you can't not do anything hoping to do one thing.

What is the level of urgency to sit down with Pietrangelo and his representatives and how quickly would you like to get that started?
I think I'm going to go back to where we had this at training camp. Those things are done behind closed doors. From my perspective, I'm going to keep them there.

On Vince Dunn, where do things stand with him or do you wait until Pietrangelo negotiations stand out?
Well, not really. The CBA is the CBA. Players have arbitration rights, players don't have arbitration rights. Players are restricted free agents, players are unrestricted free agents. The cap is the cap and everyone has to react accordingly on management and on the player's side to the new world. 

Does anyone else need off-season surgeries?
A couple guys are getting some more information, not anything that I'm prepared to or able to report today. But for the most part, the majority of the guys seem ready to get to their fall programs and then get back up here ready to go. No one that might need a cleanup or whatever is a danger of not being ready when we do start.

With the AHL situation, are you thinking any young guys could go to Europe if they might not make it in St. Louis?
We talked about a couple of the players, but we have not found the right fit, so I would imagine all of our young players are going to stay in North America and train and prepare. It's such an interesting time. Whether there's any validity to what I read, I read the NHL and NHLPA are talking about four hub cities, a bubble working. I don't think the American Hockey League will play without fans, so if they're not playing without fans, do you go back to a roster of 31 like we had here? How's the NHL going to deal with that? There's so many outstanding issues that need to be resolved as we move forward. It's hard to really formulate a plan. If something comes up, our young players if they do go, I would like to have access to get them back if and when we start up.

Do you expect these guys to be motivated after being bounced in the first round?
I've been able to talk to the majority of the players. We have one or two left. I think that in the summer of '19 when we brought in O'Reilly and we brought in Perron and we did other things, we had talked about a window opening for five years. We're entering year three of that. If they don't believe that we can win, I'd be shocked. I expect them to be motivated, I expect they're going to want to come back and put their best foot forward and be competitive to win a championship.

Do you have anyone in the organization that can play a role similar to what Jay Bouwmeester played?
Scandella we've obviously signed. We think he can be in that grouping of defensemen. I would say (Niko) Mikkola is the one player that we think can kill penalties, can bring a little bit of an edge to our team. That would be the one guy that has some of Bouw's traits, but Bouw played a long time, won a gold medal, won a Stanley Cup, won the World Championship. He did a lot of winning, and to think that we have someone there ready to just step in there where he left off would be disingenuous for me to say we have that guy.

Have you spoken to Bouwmeester lately and are you leaving it up to him on a decision regarding his future?
I haven't talked to him. We text a little bit prior to going into the bubble, more just wishing us well and I was checking in to see how he and his family were doing. I havent talked to him since and whatever his decisions that he wants to make, I'm sure he'll let me know at the proper time.

How would you evaluate Justin Faulk's first season here?
I would say it wasn't what we had hoped for, but most important, what he hadn't hoped for. But that being said, when you come into an organization and you're not given a specific job responsibility, it's hard to find your way, and I don't think that we were able to find something that he could sink his teeth into and say, 'OK, this is mine and I'm going to max out in that area.' I thought he played better hockey in the bubble at certain times, but I think there's another level that he expects to take his game to and we expect him to take his game to.

Does it open up cap space to have some more time to make moves and potentially bring back Pietrangelo if you put Tarasenko on LTIR?
If you go into long-term injury for this season if you want to wait until the regular season, you have to be $7.5 million under the cap to put him on Day 1 of the season. There's going to certainly be some interesting math equations going on to get to that point.

With amount of COVID cases you had, are you surprised the NHL has worked out as well as it has with no positive tests?
I give the credit obviously to the league for how they constructed the bubble, but I give a ton of credit to the players. When they got into the final phase before, the testing, I think the players did exactly what they were asked to do. They came, they practiced, they went home and they stayed home. So when we got there, everyone was healthy. I think I said it to somebody, when I got there, I'm not shocked there's no positive tests now. That is a lockdown bubble. You've got daily tests. A) there's not a lot of COVID in Edmonton, but no one's getting it in there. I give a ton of credit to the players for preparing to get to these bubbles, and I give the league a ton of credit for creating an environment that they were willing to accept for a lack of freedom for the betterment of the game.

With this brief off-season, how much of what you do is an eye towards the expansion draft next off-season?
Honestly not a lot is going to go into how we perform. Seattle's going to get a good player from us. We know that. We're not going to take a step back next season, so Seattle doesn't get a very good player. We're going to focus in on next year and we'll worry about the expansion draft when it comes.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Blues coach Craig Berube

ST. LOUIS -- Looking back since his arrival, what's the been the only thing that has derailed Craig Berube's coaching teure with the Blues?

The opposition? Not really.
Blues coach Craig Berube

Being outcoached? No. 

His on-ice decisions and player personnel decisions? Hardly.

COVID-19? Well, now we have something.

It's taken a pandemic to curb what Berube's done as coach of the Blues.

Once Berube took over in early in the 2018-19 season, it was a bit of a slow start, but once the Blues got their engines revved up, Berube instilled a tough demeanor and built an identity with the team, the Stanley Cup was not far behind, and even in defense of the Cup, Berube had the Blues primed and ready to defend it, first overall in the Western Conference and feeling confident with a good number of the same players that were part of the franchise's first Stanley Cup.

But when COVID-19 shut the NHL down on March 12, it shut down the Blues' momentum, and when the season resumed following a 71-game regular season where the Blues were 42-19-10, the Blues just couldn't find their mojo again.

It started with the exhibition and round-robin games inside the Edmonton bubble, and it continued through a first-round playoff series loss against the Vancouver Canucks.

Berube is 155-96-44 in less than two seasons with the Blues in the regular-season and another 18-17 with a Cup title under his belt, but the disappointment of being eliminated in the first round didn't sit well with the Blues coach, who vows his team will get back on the horse and be a Cup favorite moving forward.

He discussed the season, the disappointment of the playoffs, certain players and their seasons, what they need to do to be better moving forward, among other topics here:

Why didn't you have it in Edmonton?
We just didn't play well enough as a team. When you're in the playoffs, you need everybody going at their best and you need a real strong team game, and we didn't have that. I think we had spurts of it at times, but not consistent enough and not everybody going at the same time. That's basically the bottom line.

Why don't you think there was that?
Energy was a big part of it. I think it lacked at times, but I don't have an answer for that. I guess it could be a lot of different scenarios and situations, but it's hard to give you an answer on all of them. It's up to myself, the coaching staff and the players to be more prepared, and we didn't do a good enough job. That's the bottom line. We weren't good enough, and that's why we're out.

Seemed like you were going really well in camp. Did you have a good feeling going to Edmonton and surprised that didn't translate to the bubble?
Yeah, I did have a good feeling. I thought camp was good, I really did. I thought they worked hard, they looked good out there, but something seemed to change when we got up there. We didn't perform very well in the round-robin games. There were spurts of good hockey where we played some decent hockey but not for 60 minutes and I think that really boils down to we didn't play games for 60 minutes up there and that's a big part of the reason we're out. We had spurts of real good hockey, but not consistent enough.

Could you see this coming in the round-robin?
I thought that we could still perform at a high enough level to build our game, maybe get to the top of our game in the first round. Vancouver's a good team though. I thought they played really well against us. Game 1-2 could have went either way. It's a bounce here or there and maybe a 1-1 series or who knows, maybe we're up 2-0. We battled back and tied it, but Game 5, we had the game in hand and again, kind of just let it slip away. You can't do that in the playoffs. It changes momentum so much for the other team. Obviously they had a lot of momentum going into Game 6, a lot more than we had and that showed when we got beat pretty easily in Game 6.

Is it hard for you to let this go and move on?
It eats away at you the whole time. I'm not going to lie to you. It's tough for me. We had a chance to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. I think that was a big motivation for us as a team and now it's over, we can't do it. We'll move on and prepare for next year and get our team ready, but it eats away at me, I'm not going to lie to you.

Do you watch the other playoff games?
Yeah, I do watch the other games. It's hard to watch, but I think it's important that I watch them and see what's going on and how the teams are performing.

On Binnington's play and his ability to move on:
Yeah, he does a good job of that for sure. He does have a short memory. He moves on from things. He wasn't at his best, just like a lot of our team, but he'll move on and he'll be OK. He's performed at a high level obviously, you guys know that. He's done it for half a season, playoffs and then this season, he played extremely well, one of the top goalies in the league for wins. He'll move on from it and get over it. He can look at some things and work on some things too and get better, just like we all have. We all have to improve. When you get beat out in the first round, it's unacceptable, myself included, and we've got to get better, I've got to get better and the team's got to get better.

On good culture, is the culture something that can correct this without it becoming a lingering issue?
Definitely. We have a real good culture. We've got real good veterans in there on our team that hold people accountable and really pushing that culture that we're trying to create and it's my job too for sure. We've got to get everyone on board going next year. They've got to be on board with what we're preaching and what we're trying to do as a team. I'll keep saying it, the team's the most important thing and the team has to come first.

What are some things you think you need to improve on as a team? Mistakes seemed to be an issue up there.
Mistakes for sure. Young guys got to keep improving and getting better as do older guys. If you're an older player, you've got to do certain things to keep improving. I think going into the off-season here or whatever you want to call it, you've got to work on your deficiencies and get get better. I want our team to come in unreal shape next year. I don't want guys coming into camp not in great shape and can't perform at a high enough level. That won't be accepted by us as a coaching staff and as an organization. We're going to be demanding of people and that's the best way to get better.

Was the players' fitness level coming out of Phase 3 OK or not?
Well I think a lot of of guys were good. They took care of themselves they were ready to go, but I don't think as a team it was good enough.

Is there uncertainty when season starts, so uncertain what to do as for an off-season?
Well, it is uncertainty and coming into this year's playoffs, there was a lot of uncertainty. We've got to learn from it and you've got to make sure that you're preparing here. I think guys should take a little time off and get refocused, but then you've got to get after your training and you've got to stay with it the whole time even though we don't know when we're coming back. We've got to just keep training, keep preparing and make sure ... it's like the lockout, all of the sudden, bang, one week where we could be right here and starting camp. We don't know. It's up to the individual and up to us and our strength coach to make sure guys are training and on top of their game and staying with it. You can't just be like, 'Well, we don't know when we're starting, so I'm going to wait a little bit and I think I'll be good.' Take some time and then you've got to get right after it and you've got to stay with it.

Are you worried about being in flux with Pietrangelo situation and his free agency?
It's obviously on everybody's mind, for sure. More Petro and the organization, but I believe something will get done. That's the best answer I can give you.

Can you describe the role of a captain and why Pietrangelo is so important beyond playing defense?
I think as a captain, you have a big bite of the team for sure and what goes on. We talk about culture, well he's the one guy that leads the culture. Petro is in great shape. He's a very good leader in the locker room and on the ice. He leads by example on the ice with his play but also he understands the game very well and he understands the locker room very well and what needs to be said in the locker room. He does a very good job of that and he makes my job a lot easier. There's times where he's coming in and says, 'I've got the locker room here. I'll handle it.' I don't even have to go in there and say anything because he will take care of that for me, along with other guys on our team. We've got good leadership that way. It's all the little things like that, making sure the trainers are looked after and all the little things that go along with being a captain, he does a very good job of that.

Do you feel same beliefs as veterans who are upset with losing in first round and they will be hungrier, and will you as a coaching staff expect that hunger?
We'll be highly motivated for sure. I think they're not too happy, especially our veteran players. Losing out in the first round, that doesn't sit well with them. We've got a good core here. As you guys know, I could name a bunch of players, I'm not going to to, you know who the core is, you know who the players are. We're pretty solid in that area, so there's a good window. We've got young players that are going to get better and and improve. I think we've got a good mixture of core players, some veteran players and some young players to try and win a championship again.

Where can Robert Thomas go with his game and what is expected from him moving forward?
He's like any young player. You've got to remember, he is young still and he's come a long ways, he's won a championship already in the NHL, but he's got to take the next step in his fitness level for sure and then he's got to take the next step in the 200-foot game. He's got to play the game harder and he's got to be able to score goals. He's a very good passer. He'll start executing more on his plays, but he also has to become a scorer in this league to be an all-around player. If he's just going to be a passer all the time, eventually teams will understand that and take things away. He needs to improve his shot, he needs to score goals for us too and just become a harder player to play against. That'll come with time, and also fitness will make that happen too.

Is there still a big step Jordan Kyrou has to make to be a regular at the NHL level?
Well there is. He was a very good player in junior and he came up to the American League and played pretty well up there. But now the NHL's the NHL. It's the best league in the world. He's got flashes of greatness out there for sure with his speed and his agility and his puck-handling ability, but the areas of the game that he has to make sure at is on the walls and he's got to battle for things. When he doesn't have the puck, he's got to check and get it back. There's a lot of areas there that he can improve on and he will, and then also it's about him finishing off plays. I think he gets opportunities offensively, but we need him to finish them off.

Do young guys like Blais, Barbashev, Dunn, Sanford have room to grow?
Yes for sure. If you look at our core group at the age that they're at, I've had some of these guys. I had Brayden Schenn as a young kid like you're talking about right now in Philadelphia. His growth from then to now is tremendous. These players will keep improving. They get to that 27, 28 age, 26, 27, 28, that's when you're probably in the prime of your career and you should be at your highest level.

How much up in Edmonton did you miss Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, even Jay Bouwmeester?
Well, you miss them all. They all do different things, but in saying that, that shouldn't have changed the way our team mindset and our team play was. We had players that were able to go in there and do the job, but we missed Bouw for a while obviously with what happened to him. We were fine and we moved on. Marco Scandella stepped into that position for us and did a great job. And Vladi was out all year and we were still one of the top teams in the league in scoring goals. We did it by committee and obviously Steener's the type of player, a veteran leader that does little things for us out there, penalty kill, closes games out, checks. They're all missed, they're all good players for us and they're all missed, but you can't use that as an excuse. I think we had capable guys in there that can do the job. We just didn't.

How much were you missing that element with Tarasenko missing and when he's healthy?
Well, he can score big goals, and that's what he does. He's a big goal scorer. He can score at any time of a game. It's important to have a guy like that. He's a leader on our team too. He wears an 'A.' He's missed for sure. Like I said, he's a big part of our team and always has been. He needs to get healthy and we need him back.

Do you meet with the team when you arrived back, have exit physicals/meetings?
I met with every player personally with Doug Armstrong. They do exit meetings with our trainer for physicals and things like that. We met with all the players. That's all taken care of.

What are the nature of those talks?
What we expect out of them, what they can improve on, fitness level, playing ability, all that stuff. There's players that have questions too about things that we'll answer, but that's basically what it boils down to.

Can you make great assessments off these 10 games from the bubble?
We don't base it just on that. We base it on the whole season. The games that were played up until the stoppage and then in the bubble too. It's not just based on one thing with the bubble playoffs. It's based on the whole season.

Did you find players had a hard time self-motivating without fans?
It's difficult and different for sure with no fans. A big part of the game is fans and why we play and why we're involved in the game. They make it happen, the fans, in my opinion, but you know there's no fans so you've got to find a way to motivate yourself. That's your job as a player and my job as a coach. It's difficult. They're away from heir families and it's not easy for a lot of guys. But at the same time, you're pros and you're getting paid. This is your job, so you've got to do it, so again, you've got to do the job.

Has it been a strange ride going back to when you arrived as coach to all that's happened since?
Yeah, it has. It's been enjoyable for me. I've enjoyed every minute of it. Winning the championship was a great thing and then coming into this year. I didn't really know what to expect, especially early on in the first 25 games, but I thought our team performed very well. I thought the team was motivated all year. I thought we had a real good season up until the stoppage, in first place in the West. Not an easy thing to do. I thought out guys did a good job keeping their energy up most of the season, which is a good thing. Energy is a huge thing and the more I think about the bubble part of it, that energy was lacking in there for whatever reason. We've got to find that energy again next year. That'll be huge. It's a big thing.

Do you expect your staff to be back entirely?
Yeah I do. We really like our staff. I enjoy them. They're very good coaches and very helpful for me. I know that Doug does too, so I expect them all to be back.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo

ST. LOUIS -- The image may have seemed innocent enough at the time, but it obviously had plenty of meaning for it between two close friends.

When the Blues were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of the first round, the last two to leave the ice were David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo. Perron had his arm around his friend.
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo

It was the proper gesture just in case Pietrangelo, the Blues' captain the past four years, played his last game in a Blues uniform.

The team's fourth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft is set to be an unrestricted free agent unless the Blues sign him to a new contract after Pietrangelo completed a seven-year, $45.5 million deal signed in 2013.

Both the Blues and Pietrangelo have expressed an interest in keeping the 12-year veteran in the fold for the long term, but with the Blues up against the $81.5 million salary cap ceiling and needing to sign restricted free agents Vince Dunn and perhaps Jacob de la Rose, there isn't any wiggle room to add salary unless they subtract it, and the only way to subtract is to do so through a trade or trades.

Pietrangelo recently spoke of this particular subject and more, including getting back to his family, which will be added by one next month, why the Blues couldn't find their game in the Edmonton bubble, his friend and longtime linemate Jay Bouwmeester, his legacy in St. Louis and more:

What was it like to see the triplets and what was their reaction when they saw dad?
They were pretty excited. One of my boys was really, really excited. My daughter was kind of giving me the cold shoulder. It was pretty fun. You miss so much, right? I was only gone for only like a month and just coming back, they change so much in that one month. Right now, they're pretty excited. I'll tell you what, me and my wife would run some errands this morning and they didn't want dad to leave. I think maybe they thought I wasn't coming back again. It wasn't easy to be gone, I'll tell you that. You don't think you like the chaos, but you miss the chaos when you're not around it, so it's good to be in that mix again.

Has your daughter come around?
Oh yeah. She's my best friend. She's good not. We had some good bonding the other day, watched some TV together. We're back, we're back to where we were.

Was it tough for you guys to focus on hockey knowing you'd be away from your infant kids especially for up to several months?
It wasn't easy. I think once we got into games though, your focus is on playing. At least for me personally, off days was hard because you're trying to talk to your kids as much as you can and you're trying to find ways to fill your day because there wasn't really a whole lot to do up there, but game days are probably the best days because you're able to kill time and your mind was on the game. It seemed like you could keep yourself occupied. I don't think it's necessarily an excuse. Is it nice to be home now? Yeah, of course it is, but that's not what we were thinking when we were there. We figured if we're going to go there, the goal is to win. We were gone from our families for what, a month? We didn't want to go there for nothing. Unfortunately it didn't work out the way we wanted to, but the goal all along was to continue to play. Definitely wasn't easy, but I think a lot of us older guys did the best we could and held together pretty well considering.

Why didn't it work out for you guys up there then and you guys pick up where regular season left off?
I think for is throughout our lineup, there wasn't enough consistency. If you watch even before the break started, we would come in waves. We'd use all of our lines and everyone playing the same way. It just felt like we weren't getting consistency from all of us throughout the lineup. In every single game when you play in a series, especially against a team like Vancouver, me having more experience, we felt like if we were able to do that, we would have had a chance to win. Big thing for us is really just the consistency on both sides of the puck throughout the entire lineup.

Was it tough to get that consistency once you didn't have it at the start?
Yeah, it's not easy. You play however many games we played, or in the regular season, you're playing 82 and the goal always, right, is build up into the playoffs and make sure that your game leading up to the playoffs is exactly where you want. We felt like before the break started, that's where our game was at, that we were heading in the right direction like we were last year and unfortunately, the break kind of put a halt in that momentum and we just had a tough time grabbing what we wanted to grab. We had some injuries and some lines were changing up front consistently. That's not an excuse. I still think we should have found a way to grab the thing and showed the consistency that we're used to. That's what teams expect from us.

Can you Zoom or FaceTime with triplets?
Oh yeah, they know how to hold the phone. They walk around with the phone and show me their toys. Kids are a lot smarter than I thought they were, I'll tell you that. Or they're a lot smarter than I was when I was a kid. They're pretty smart, they're pretty sharp. They know how to do all that stuff.

Can you describe being captain of the Blues but currently you can argue you're not even on the Blues being a UFA at present time?
Yeah, it's a weird feeling obviously. There's teams making trades and there's teams still playing. The whole thing is odd right now, but this is the circumstance we're in. Obviously it would be a little different if we didn't have the break. I think everybody feels, not just me, but all these teams feel a little bit odd because you can make deals and trades, but there's still teams playing. It's a little bit interesting, but the NHL's done the best they can to kind of accommodate everybody whether they're playing or whether they're watching.

Is it best right now to just step back for a couple days and perhaps decompress and not think about contract situation or go right into it?
I mean look, me and my wife, we continue to talk about it. There are obviously conversations that have to be had between each other. Is there much to talk about? No, the situation is what it is. The off-season is going to come quicker than we know it. We're having those discussions between us. The best part about me is I have a distraction. I have these kids here and they can kind of keep me busy and keep my mind off it. Really, I haven't given it a whole lot of thought lately, or not much. Just trying to soak all this in after being gone for so long.

On Binnington's struggles in bubble:
Sure, he wants to find a way too, but so do all of us, right? We're built on a team, right, and when everybody has success, there's a reason why, because they're playing well. I know it's easy to blame him, but then again, we weren't exactly great in front of him. We can argue it 10 different ways, but we need to be better in front of him because when we're better in front of him, he's going to be better too. I think all of us just kind of need to take a step back here and look at this thing as a whole and kind of gear up for the next season.

You have no doubt Binnington will be back, right?
I'm not worried about it. Not everybody played the best in the bubble. He was good during the regular season, he's an all-star. We're not going to just give up on people because we played in the tournament and had four months off. It's a different situation to kind of look at it and try to dissect as a team, but I know that's Army and Chief's job to look at things as a whole. I'm sure in a couple weeks when all of us have a longer break, we can look at it and find a way where we can all get better.

By July 1, normally would know what the future is, but now, don't know when free agency begins. Is that weird?
It's a little bit odd, but we know what day free agency is. We're just shifting our calendar forward. We're just shifting our calendar forward. That's just the way it is. None of us really planned for this. The league didn't plan for this, I didn't plan for it, Army didn't plan for it. Whatever the case may be. We know when the day is. We're just going to kind of sit tight until we have a conversation with Army or we wait until that day. We're not really worrying about so much as much as we are just kind of taking things in stride right now because it's an odd circumstance for everybody. 

On dealing with all the events and everything that's happened in the last year:
Just dating back to last year and coaching change, it's been a wild ride. I thought we handled it pretty well. Our group, we're a pretty mature group. Our veteran guys can really hold things together. It really would have been easy for us to get distracted throughout the year and not play the way that we wanted to, but if you look at where we were in the standings, we were doing a lot of things right and we were able to kind of push all that aside and refocus and get ready for the playoffs. I am proud of our group that we were able to kind of dial all that in with the distractions that came along with what we did last year.

On Jay Bouwmeester:
I always talk to Bouw. I can talk for hours about how much Bouw has meant to me as a player Obviously we played hundreds of games together as partners and Olympic and World Cup. The list goes on and on. He's really a reason I am the player I am today. He impacted me in so many ways, but any time you have someone who's in a situation whether you went through what Bouw went through or they retire or whatever it may be, you miss the person, right? We've been here together for a long time. He seen me grow up as a player and as a person. We became obviously really close friends, our wives are close. I'm going to miss having him around if that's the decision that he makes. I haven't talked to him about that. Just not having him around here for the few months that he was gone, it wasn't easy. I know everyone in the locker room is going to miss him. He's obviously a fun guy to have around.

Can you imagine putting on another jersey?
Lots of guys do it. I hope it doesn't get to that point. I grew up here. This is the only place I know professionally. Family's here, I grew up here. Grew up here as a player and as a person. It's part of the business unfortunately and the situation is what it is, but hopefully that circumstance doesn't happen and we'll see where this thing takes us.

What's the window for this team to win moving forward?
This is a good core group. Other than me and Dunner this year, everyone's under contract for a couple more years. We didn't have Vladi all year. There's a lot of things on this team that I think, OK, we lost in the first round, but I think there's a lot of things that we look for as a group and as an organization moving forward that are really positive. I think people really need to look at the whole picture here. If it was easy to win every year, there would be more teams doing it. Did we end it the way that we wanted to? No, obviously not. We're disappointed. We don't think it was good enough. We didn't think that we played the way we wanted to. Sometimes as you get older, you look at the whole picture and where this team's at and where the organization's at and there's a lot of things to continue to look forward to because the window's still there for a few more years. I know that's the reason we've had success up until this point. I saw Steener's interview there. We're going to be hungry next year. This is a group that wants to win. There's a lot of core pieces that are going to be here for a while.

What as it like playing with no fans? 
Yeah, it's a challenge. I think momentum in a game was harder to come by. I think whether you're the home team or the visiting team, I think the fans kind of drive that energy, even if something goes the opposite way when the home team's going against you. The momentum was really hard to grab when something did go your way. It'll be nice to get fans back in the building because you grow up and you always want to play in front of 20,000 people. It's a lot more fun when you can feel the vibe and the energy in the building as opposed to having the artificial sound.

Half the time, you're not even looking at the screen because you forget that you're even there. It would be nice to kind of have that back. I'll tell you what, you miss that energy and I know it kind of sounds cliche, but you miss how great the fans are and the energy here because it's easy to kind of thrive off that when things are going well. ... In-game music wasn't the same when you didn't have the fans singing along with you. I was singing along with my teammates. It just wasn't the same.

Was it dull away from the game with amount of hotel time?
Yeah, it was dull, very dull. There wasn't really anything to do. Maybe for some guys, it was different, but someone like me or other guys who have kids who are used to kind of having that mindset of staying busy, I always have an escape. I can come home regardless of what happened the night before, the day before. I had that escape and kind of reset my mind and remember what was important. There, there wasn't a whole lot to do and you're kind of always thinking about hockey. It was really not to have that escape and not be able to go outside and do stuff. It became repetitive, but once we started playing a little bit more, things became easier because you had a bit of a distraction.

On Perron's comment about making pitch to keep you here, Perron said buy more houses and be a realtor. Do you like to critique housing market?
My dad did it and still does a little bit of that on the side, so I enjoy it. It's just kind of something I enjoy doing. Tell David that he can come pick up his suitcase anytime he wants because it's sitting in my garage. He might want to make fun of me, but I don't feel like hoarding his stuff any longer.

On Perron believes you want to stay here and they want you here, does that factor in the decision?
All that factors in. Ask any of my teammates how close I am with my family, not just my immediate family. I've got sister-in-laws, brother-in-laws, nieces and nephews (here). All that's stuff's important to me, but then again, they understand the business side of things and the situation that we're in. Look, if this decision was something that we weren't thinking hard about, we wouldn't be in this spot. I give my wife credit too for really allowing me to think hard about this because there's a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration here moving forward. It's not a fun thing to go through, it's not easy, but again, when you have a solid base at home, I've got my wife and my kids and my wife supports everything that I do, it makes the process a little bit easier because you can take your time, sit back and evaluate everything that needs to be evaluated to make the right decision.

What's the emotion looking at growing your legacy and perhaps doing it somewhere else possibly?
Obviously, I want to stay a Blue. Of course I do. It's the only place I've know in professional hockey. Legacy is obviously important. This organization means a lot to me. You see Al (MacInnis) come around, you see all the other alumni who are around regularly. That means a lot, right? It's guys who have a great relationship with the organization that have been around and have set their roots in St. Louis. But whether it's here or somewhere else, you want to play to the best of your ability and leave a legacy wherever you are. That goes along with on the ice and off the ice and try to impact the organization in the community. So whether it's here or anywhere else, I think it's important for me to really kind of set my roots wherever it is and I know my wife feels the same way.

Is there something to be said about the possibility of achieving what you achieved for another team as a Stanley Cup champion?
Yeah, you always want to challenge yourself, right? You want different challenges, but you can go to a place that hasn't won yet or won in a long time, challenge yourself to kind of help that organization, but then again, you can make the same argument here where we've won one Cup, why not challenge yourself to try and win another one? There's so many different ways to look at it, there's so many different ways you can kind of convince yourself to go one way or another. Now that I've won, you want to win again. Whether it's here or somewhere else, the goal is always the same. Those are always good ways to challenge yourself.

On picture of you and Perron with his arm around you:
I remember the moment. I guess when the game's over and I'm thinking the situation that I'm in, I know David and I are really close friends. I appreciated it. I think he understood when I was thinking at the time. I don't know, it might be the last time I wear the jersey and last time I play with him too. For him and I, we're close friends, we've been through a lot together, played a long time together. That's what friends and obviously he knows I think the world of him. I appreciated that. That's why you have friends and teammates that kind of helps you through things. I definitely appreciated it. 

Why is Perron's suitcase at your house?
He went home (to Quebec) to get his wife and his kids, so for some reason, I offered to take it home because we were neighbors in the hotel. I was just the easy person to grab it and we live close to each other. Maybe I'll open it up and see what he's got in there to see if he's got anything good.

Statue out front, number hanging in rafters, that ever enter your thought process when thinking about contract situation?
I think I need to accomplish more in order to get that, but for me personally, of course it matters. If we do come back to St. Louis or we stay in St. Louis, whatever it is, I know my wife would like to come back. You know what it's like marrying a girl from St. Louis, right? You're going to end up retiring here. Let's call it what it is. I think being able to take my kids down to games and they see that stuff would obviously be important to me. That always goes back to what you said, I'm always thinking about my family and what I can show my kids. That would obviously be something that would be special for sure.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington

ST. LOUIS -- "Do I look nervous?"

At the time, it was a funny, yet stoic way of Jordan Binnington saying he had arrived in the NHL last season. All that even-keeled attitude he displays on the outside did was help carry him and the Blues to the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup in 2019.
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50)

Binnington carried that swag over to the 2019-20 season, and the 27-year-old registered 30 wins during the regular season and earn a trip to his first All-Star Game, which was played at Enterprise Center in January.

Binnington, who had a 2.56 goals-against average and .912 save percentage during the regular season, came back during the NHL's Return to Play Plan and performed well in the exhibition and round-robin games despite the numbers being a bit inflated.

But like the team, he didn't perform up to standards and struggled in the first-round series loss against the Vancouver Canucks, getting pulled for Jake Allen for Games 3-5 before returning for Game 6.

But Binnington, who allowed nine goals on 47 shots in Games 1-2, was pulled after giving up four goals on 18 shots in the series-clincher for the Canucks.

With one year remaining on a two-year, $8.8 million ($4.4 million average annual value) contract, Binnington discusses his struggles in the playoffs, having a short memory, getting pulled, among other topics:

Alexander Steen spoke of early in round-robin playing as well as you have, why or how did it slip away?
I felt good the first couple games, competing hard, but we weren't getting the outcomes. We were working trying to find our game. It just wasn't ideal, but we win together, we lose together. We won together last year and it kind of didn't go our way together this year, so for me personally, I know how good I am and how good I can be and I expect better of myself. Sometimes it's not going to go your way and you've got to get back on the horse and keep working and find your way. 

How do you put it behind you now; is it tougher doing so in the off-season?
No, like any off-season, you get away for a little bit here, you reflect. It was a good season. We were top of the conference, so there are some positives to take away from this, right? This group knows how to win. We've got some great talent, some great young players and competitors. We'll be back. We'll do what we have to do to prepare for next season however that will look and that's it really.

How did you deal with struggling for the first time after having so much success?
I've struggled before. It took me a long time to get to where I'm at. To stay at the top, it's tough. You've got to stay on top of yourself. For me, everything I do is a learning experience. You just go through it, reflect and understand what makes you feel good and what didn't work out for you. You just keep moving. You live and learn and you grow. That's kind of my outlook.

Was it strange watching for the first time?
The whole situation is kind of strange with Return to Play. It's a weird time, it's been a strange year. You can talk about this all day, but it's a couple games and I know how to take care of myself. I think if you look at the big picture, it's a pretty good season. I gained a lot more experience, got some good ice and we won a lot of hockey games. For me, it's focus on the positives and learn from your experiences.

What do you do this off-season and how do you get back to being as sharp as you were last season?
We won last year and we didn't have much time to kind of turn things around and celebrate. This season kind of came at us pretty quick, so we had to be prepared and I was going into my first whole season. I wanted to stay ready, I wanted us to have a good start, kind of have a presence in there. You have your foundations, right, and you kind of build off that. For me, it's get back. I've been hanging out with my dog a little bit the last couple days, seeing family,  get away for a little bit and then you kind of make your schedule and your routines and you prepare and you get organized. It's all about timing and just growing and continue to learn, right? For me, I'll get to the scheduling part and talk to my trainers, figure all that out as we go here.

Was it a strange season with everything you did from celebrations, celebrations, the Jay Bouwmeester incident, pause, return to play?
Yeah, for sure, with all the events you just named. Yeah, and then with the pause, it's been a strange year. We've had a lot of experiences though, right? You take that and you create a lot of memories and grew together as a group and as people. There's a lot of good coming out of the season. We had a great year and then there was just the pause and the uncertainty, trying to figure out when we were coming back. It's a strange time. It's our job to adapt and prepare and compete and play for each other, play for the city. We're just going to continue to do that and figure it out.

Is the window still open to win and will this quick loss make you even hungrier coming back next season?
Yeah, I think so. I think we have a great core, a lot of young guys. They've done a good job of putting this team together. It's a really selfless group and that's important. We obviously know how to win, just working as one and together and buying into the system. It's something we understand. It's a weird kind of tournament. It is what it is, but going forward, I think we have a little bit of a taste in our mouth. We know we're better and we know how good we are. We know how hard it is to win in this league. This is, I debate, the hardest trophy to win in sports. We've done it and that's important, and experience goes a long way. We've got a great group here. The organization does a good job of bringing in whatever we need and forming a group. I think we'll be alright.

On Alex Pietrangelo and what makes him so valuable:
Petro's a pretty dynamic player at both ends of the ice. He'll score a big goal, he'll be out there last minute of the game competing. He works hard. He's a big player for us, one of the best players in the NHL. That's the rundown.

What was bubble life like?
It was very unique. It was different. Not many distractions. I think I could paint the picture outside my window what I look at every day. I'll tell you what, hate us, love us, hate me, love me, we miss the fans, we miss the atmosphere. That energy is exciting, makes it more fun to play. It was a different experience and something we had to do. All the players came together, we worked and we did our best. The guys still there are working. They did a good job putting together what they can. It was different. We miss the atmosphere for sure.

A guy that fed off crowd in Winnipeg, fed off crowd in Boston, think it had any impact in terms of not being able to feed off home or opposition crowd?
You've always got to find a way. For me, I expect better of myself just to give the team a chance to win. I think we all kind of feel that way as a team. You definitely miss it, but you've got to find a way and whatever's thrown at you, I enjoy trying to figuring it out. Down the road here with whatever happens, I look forward to that challenge. 

Do you go back and look at the games from Vancouver or move on?
We know how to play the game. Things weren't working for us at the time. You've got to just keep working, trying to change the wind in the sails, find a way. Obviously now, it's over, so it's just a couple games there. You've got to move forward, right? Live and learn. We know how to play the game. We're going to continue to work at that and work on the details and feeling good. It's all about feeling good.

Did you bring your guitar?
I didn't bring the guitar. Maybe I should have.

What are your goals as a hockey player individually? Ten years from now, how do you want to be remembered?
That's a great question. I just want to continue to grow my legacy. Just keep finding my motivation and energy to be the best kind of version of myself and for me to continue to grow, be a good person and a great teammate, leave a mark on the game, the city of St. Louis and continue to bring enjoyment to people's lives hopefully. I'd say just continue to grow every year, always get better and understand your motivations and your intentions.

Last year of contract, another prove-it year, how do you look at next year personally?
Just take care of what you can control. That's kind of my game and myself. The rest will take care of itself, let the money chase you.

What's the feeling like knowing this group isn't going to be together totally next year?
This is kind of like my first taste of that really. Being in the minors, it's always different teams, kind of just make it work. You buy in and that's what training camp's for. Hockey players understand what's at stake and how to come together, what you need to do to win. Whatever we come back with next year, we'll do our best to have the right outcome.

How does not knowing when you start next season affect your preparation?
It leaves a little uncertainty there. You always want to stay within striking distance. That was kind of the outlook coming up to the last Return to Play, but hopefully, I'm hoping that they can give us kind of a set date, even if it's a little deeper than they know when we're going to start so we can prepare for it. No delays, etc. It's not always going to be perfect. It's on us to prepare and be ready for whatever's to come. We'll prepare and adapt.

What will off-season look like as far as training standpoint?
No, we're only a couple days out of the end of the season here. We've played a lot of hockey over the last year and a half, a couple years actually. I'm just going to take a week or two kind of planning that out. Now's the time where we'll kind of figure that out. I don't really have an answer for you on that.

You going to get the Justin Bieber challenge going in the off-season?
Yeah, I haven't thought about that for a while. Who knows? We'll see what comes up here. I don't know what's going on with that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Armstrong makes it clear he'd like to re-sign Pietrangelo

Challenge will be finding common ground between team, 
player to fit under current, future salary structure for team captain

ST. LOUIS -- Alex Pietrangelo made it known again of his desire to resign with the Blues on Tuesday.

Doug Armstrong let his stance be known on Wednesday, and the Blues' general manager and his captain are on the same page, which will make Blues fans happy in the end.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made it clear he'd like to sign
defenseman and captain Alex Pietrangelo (right) to a contract.

"I've said this really since July of '19, Alex is our captain," Armstrong said Wednesday in a season-ending Zoom interview. "I've grown up with Alex in this organization and he's grown up with me in this organization. I'd like to see that continue for a number of years moving forward and that's my focus right now."

OK, now the hard part. How to make this happen.

Pietrangelo, 30, can become an unrestricted free agent and hit the open market one week after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final is over, which is expected to be sometime in the first week of October unless he re-signs with the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2008; he just finished up a seven-year, $45.5 million contract ($6.5 million average annual value) and obviously is looking for A) stability in terms of length of contract, which the Blues can offer a max of eight years, or he can get seven on the open market, and B) a pay raise.

But in order to get some or all of those things accomplished, the Blues will likely have to move some parts, most likely through trade in order to clear up salary cap space since the cap will not move off it's $81.5 million number, and do they want to commit to the longer length in contract? But instead of entering what could be tricky negotiations, Armstrong actually feels like this one won't be so tricky.

"I don't think so. Actually, I think they're going to be easier because for the first time in a number of years, I think we know what the cap's going to be moving forward for potentially, four, five, six years," Armstrong said. "From a business standpoint, there's no projection that it's going to go from $81.5 to $87 to $94 to $101 (million). You know it's probably going to stay in within a few percentage points of where it's at now for a number of years. I think there's actually more information than less this year."

So Armstrong will likely be, unless he already is, busy speaking with fellow GM's around the league talking trade. 

"I think the first phase is going to be to find out if we can find common ground with Alex, and if we do then go to work to move other pieces," Armstrong said. "It is really an either-or that if we can't find common ground with Alex, then there's really no need to do anything. And if we can find common ground with Alex, then there's a need to do a lot. Until we get Phase 1 done, obviously I've talked to different managers to find out what their goals are, what they're trying to accomplish. Do we have pieces that allow them to accomplish what they want."

The challenge for Armstrong will be looking ahead, and that means looking at other contracts on the books that will be expiring down the line, like Jaden Schwartz, who has one year at a $5.35 million cap hit, Vince Dunn, who is a restricted free agent and will need a new deal but is not arbitration-eligible, and most importantly, Colton Parayko, who has two years remaining on his contract at a $5.5 million cap hit.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo can become an unrestricted free agent 
this off-season if the team doesn't resign their captain to a new contract.

"(The salary cap) affects us but it's affecting everybody around the league in the same fashion," Armstrong said. "I think one of the things too that may be different and again, our ownership is committed to competing with the top teams and spending to the salary cap. I'm not sure all other organizations have that same philosophy moving forward. There was a lot of revenue that wasn't earned this year. How's the revenue going to be earned next year and are you a cash or cap team? I think that most teams were cap teams. I would imagine there would be some more cash teams now, and that's going to affect on how they do it. I don't expect anyone to say, 'Oh well, St. Louis, they really want to sign Petro, so let's help them out.' That's not reality, so it's going to take some moving parts. My goal is I hope to get to that because we've got our captain under contract."