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Jeff Ponder
Jeff Ponder
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Blues Fan

St Louis Blues Strength and Weakness and Stanley Cup Chances posted by Blues Fan

Having finished fourth in the league all the St Louis Blues Coach needed to do was a few readjustments and the team would be perfect. But General Manager Doug Armstrong a nd
Head coach Ken Hitchcock were not satisfied with minor changes in the team.

Paul Stastny

There were a number of key acquisitions which included the signing of a new assistant coach Kirk Muller and goaltending coach Jim Corsi. But one of the most important acquisitions this season was centre Paul Stastny. The free agent was signed by manager Doug Armstrong and got a 4 year contract with the team.

Paul Stastny finished the last season with 60 points in 71 games last year. Despite this key acquisition by the Blues, they had to let one of their key talent go. Vladimir Sobotka has an underrated skill that helped boost the Blues defence.

Another talented center is captain David Backes. Backes and Paul Stastny help to provide a quality number 1 line for the team no matter who they are playing with. Other talents like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund and Alex Steen, help to provide even more depth for the blues. As long as the blues can deploy this talent they will be good enough this season.

Goaltending

One move that could potentially leave a problem was the departure of Jaroslav Halak to the New York Islanders. The Blues do not have a starter goalie as a result. They still have Jake Allen and Brian Elliot to rely on and they may help they could prove to be just as good with time.

Conclusion

Despite a few doubts with the goal tending alternatives, the team will most likely get better this season. It is possible for the team to cruise through central division of the Western conference and even make it to the playoffs. 

Continue reading "St Louis Blues Strength and Weakness ..."


Richard Kagan

The Blackhawks Are Good but Pourous posted by Richard Kagan

The Chicago Blackhawks battled back to tie their hockey game with the LA Kings in the thrid period, to only see their bid at an OT win, slip away in the shootout.  The Kings scored late and the Hawks couldn't answer with a goal of their own, to lose a point.  At this time of the season, every point counts.  The Hawks score a lot of goals, but they give up a lot too.

And, come playoffs, if the defense and goaltending doesn't tighten up, it may be an early exit and a disappointing finish for this team.  The Hawks spent most of the seaon battling for the 1st or 2nd seed in the Western Conference.  Then the Hawks promptly lost 9 games in a row to sink that goal.  Now, it's make the playoffs in the highest seed. 

Jonathan Towes, the talented winger is looking to hit the ice for the first time in about three weeks. He has been out of the lineup due to a concussion.  If the Hawks want to do some damage this Spring, they need a healthy and productive Toews.  He might be back against the St. Louis Blues in a home game on Tuesday. 

Continue reading "The Blackhawks Are Good but Pourous"


Jeff Ponder

Weak Northwest Division Could Benefit Blackhawks posted by Jeff Ponder

Vancouver is the heavy favorite heading into the 2011 NHL playoffs to win the Stanley Cup.  Their Northwest Division foes can vouch for that.

 The Vancouver Canucks, who won the President’s Trophy by a landslide-ten points over the East’s Washington Capitals, posted an impressive 54-19-9 record for a league-leading 117 points in the regular season.  Obviously, the Canucks head into the Quarterfinal Series as the top seed in the Western Conference where they will meet the eighth-seeded Chicago Blackhawks.  But how much did Vancouver playing in the Northwest Division help bloat their point total?

The Northwest Division, which features the Canucks, Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers, saw only one of its teams make the playoffs.  This is the only division in the NHL to do so.

The Canucks had a whopping 18-4-2 record against their Northwest Division foes.  With a record like that, it is easy to see how the Canucks can steamroll through parts of the regular season.  Still impressive?  Yes, very much so.  Anytime a team can dominate in their own division usually means that team will be a top-seed in the playoffs.  But what if Vancouver played in a better division?

Let’s say Vancouver goes .500 against the Northwest Division (12-12-0).  Their record drops down to 48-27-7 and they post 103 points.  While these are still very respectable numbers, that drops them to the third seed (keep in mind that they would still hold onto the division title), and puts them just six points ahead of their current playoff matchup, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Continue reading "Weak Northwest Division Could Benefit Blackhawks"


Les Leonard

Big Daddy Welcomes Chris Ivory to the Party posted by Les Leonard

     Are Big Daddy’s readers loving road-trips to Florida yet? The Saints continued their Sunshine State dominance Sunday afternoon, turning Big Daddy’s memorable birthday weekend into an unforgettable one by pummeling Tampa Bay. Big Daddy’s co-workers were all smiles at the rock on Monday after the Black ’n’ Gold served notice to the pro football world that they are ready to defend last February’s Lombardi trophy. The resounding win ignited the spirit of the Who Dat Nation as they celebrated Big Easy style deep into the night, reveling in the fact that the Saints appeared to get their swagger back and are now well-positioned in the wacky NFC standings. In this edition of the Section 645 Saints Beat, Big Daddy attends the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival, enjoys his first Big Easy Roller Girls Bout, reports live from the Kingpin, recaps the Buccaneers game, solves the NFL’s predicament on helmet-to-helmet contact crackdown, and releases his World Famous Pregame Information.

     Lafayette Square held the Fourth Annual Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, adding more excitement to Big Daddy’s huge birthday weekend blowout agenda. Free admission and Chamber of Commerce weather brought thousands of visitors out to see great music, drink beer, and eat some awesome food. WWOZ 90.7 FM broadcasted live shows on the air and streamed them on the Web for those who couldn’t attend the amazing festivities. Saturday Fest-goers heard Honey Island Swamp Band, Luther Kent and Trick Bag, Stanton Moore Trio plus Anders Osborne, and Taj Mahal closed out day one. Sunday’s entertainment lineup showcased Mem Shannon, The Joe Krown Trio featuring Walter “Wolfman” Washington & Russell Batiste, Jon Cleary, and Barbara Lynn; Ruthie Foster brought the curtain down on two day event. Festival organizers even provided refuge for football fanatics unwillingly dragged there by their beautiful ball and chain with the Abita Beer tent, which housed huge HD TVs so grid iron junkies could see the Saints manhandle Tampa. Outstanding food choices included: Emeril’s Delmonico, Beaucoup Nola Sno-Balls, Boswells Jamaican Grill, the Praline Connection, Walker’s BBQ, and the Joint BBQ. If you didn’t make it out this time, 2011 promises to be even bigger and better, Big daddy hopes to see you there.

Continue reading "Big Daddy Welcomes Chris Ivory to the Party"


Les Leonard

Big Daddy Prefers Touchdowns posted by Les Leonard

     Does anyone have fingernails after last weekend? If there are any Saints fans who haven’t been contending with chest pains watching these close-to-the-vest games, they don’t have a pulse. The 2010 Saints remind Big Daddy of the Jim Mora era. Unlike now, those Saints owned the league’s best defense and Morten Andersen drilling clutch 3-pointers. Even though the battles usually came down to the wire, the “Dome Patrol” and the “Great Dane” gave Saints fans a sense of security. Injuries in both the offensive and defensive backfields have the Saints fans hoping Capts. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce and John “Trapper John” McIntyre would bring their M*A*S*H* unit down to Saints Headquarters to patch up our beloved Black ’n’ Gold troops. Since Hawkeye and Trapper John aren’t coming, Big Daddy will just need to find that magical Leprechaun with a pot full of Valium until the Saints get back to full strength. In this edition of the Section 645 Saints Beat, Big Daddy recounts the insanity in Death Valley, delivers a Section 645 report, recaps the Carolina game, attends the 2nd annual Pat Ramsey Hospice Benefit, and releases his World Famous Pregame Information.

     Everybody has seen what transpired at Tiger Stadium in the waning moments of the Tennessee game by now. What were your thoughts immediately after that “Chinese fire drill,” prior to the zebras flagging the Volunteers for too many men on the field? Big Daddy wondered if Les Miles would make it home alive. The only thing better than Miles’ clock management skills is Delaware Senate Republican nominee Christine O’Donnell’s enlightened view of evolution. Based on recent history, every time Les brain farts in crucial situations, the Tigers respond with a very inspired effort the next time they take the field. Maybe that’s a good thing, because they travel to “The Swamp” this Saturday for showdown with Florida. Ratings figure to be through the roof as all the Americans addicted reality TV will click over to ESPN to see what “The Mad Hatter” will screw up next.

Continue reading "Big Daddy Prefers Touchdowns"


Jeff Ponder

Blues Re-Sign Alex Steen to a 4-year, $13.450M Deal posted by Jeff Ponder

The Blues got their leading scorer back.

Steen had a semi-breakout year in 2009-10, sharing the Blues lead with a career-high 24 goals, and ranking first on the team with seven power-play goals.  His shot from the point was the driving force behind the man-advantage this season, as he truly developed into a quarterback for his team.

“Alex had a career year last season and was a key part on our power play unit,” said Blues GM Doug Armstrong, who officially started his new job this morning. “We’re happy to have him in the fold for the next four seasons.”

The deal breaks down into a back-loaded contract.  He will receive $2.75 million in 2010-11, and $3.56 million in the next three seasons.  His cap-hit will be $3.36 million each season.

This is a very smart move for the St. Louis Blues.  Steen, who came to St. Louis as part of the trade that sent Lee Stempniak to Toronto back in November of 2008, averaged just 16:16 per game, which ranked him 16th on the team in time-played.  Scoring 24 goals in a season in that short of time is truly impressive.  The Blues may have stolen this deal. Continue reading "Blues Re-Sign Alex Steen to a 4-year, ..."


Jeff Ponder

Blues Draft Day 1 Recap posted by Jeff Ponder

In Scout Jarmo Kekalainen and General Manager Larry Pleau's last acts as members of the Blues organization, the team made some noise in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. 

Blues draft forward Jaden Schwartz with the 14th overall pick

In a surprise pick, Jarmo made, what was sketched to be, his final first round pick as a member of the Blues organization.  Schwartz was expected to be a late-first round pick, but Kekalainen felt the need to take him much earlier.  As a member of the Tri-City Storm, the 5'10” 180 lb. forward scored 33 goals, 50 assists for 83 points in 60 games last season.  His puck control and crafty hands earned him a first-round selection.

"I don't think Jaden has changed his style of play since he was 14 or 15 years old,” Jack Barzee of the NHL Central Scouting said.  “He's very deceptive and shifty through the neutral zone and strong on the puck. It's very hard to get the puck off his stick."

But the question mark lies in his size.  Blues fans have witnessed on several accounts how smaller players can be victims of poor puck control against bigger defensemen.  Paul Kariya, Brad Boyes, David Perron and T.J. Oshie, all 6'0” or smaller, faced many problems last season keeping the puck in the offensive zone and on their stick in the corners.

But many players have succeeded that are small in stature.  Brian Gionta of the Montreal Canadiens (5'7” 173 lbs.) has made a living  of deking around the best defensemen in the league and putting the puck in the net.  Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning (5'9” 177 lbs.) has found a way to succeed in the league, scoring on blasts from the face-off dots and weaving around defenders to score the pretty goals.
Continue reading "Blues Draft Day 1 Recap"


Jeff Ponder

Is Oshie Truly 'Untouchable'? posted by Jeff Ponder

When Jarmo Kekalainen and his St. Louis scouting crew found T.J. Oshie with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, they knew that they had something special under their watchful eye. They had Blues management draft him with their 24th pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and talks of the future immediately began in St. Louis. Up until his first game in October of 2008, Blues President John Davidson kept promising that Oshie would be one of the future Blues that would rock the NHL. Two seasons into his NHL career, Oshie has found himself a permanent spot in the Blues lineup. But what does he bring to this lineup that has ensured him that spot on the team?

Oshie has had some flashy goals in his short professional career, including his amazing goal on March 26, 2009 against the Vancouver Canucks that earned him “Goal of the Year,” voted by the fans on NHL.com. His two hits in back-to-back games on Columbus' Rick Nash were also memorable from last season, catapulting him into the hearts of Blues fans as the team fan favorite. But lets look at the things that really matter; statistical importance.

In two seasons, Oshie has accumulated 32 goals and 55 assists for 87 points in 133 games played. How does that compare to other players that cracked their NHL lineups in 2008-09?

  1. Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning) – Going #1 in the 2008 Entry Draft, Stamkos did not look like he should have been taken so high after one NHL season. His 23 goals and 46 points did not impress the Lightning or anyone else in the NHL. But he really turned his game on this season, being one of three players to score 50 goals or more (others being Crosby and Ovechkin), while also adding 95 points. His 141 points in 161 NHL games dwarfs Oshie's numbers; but is it really fair to compare Oshie to a first overall pick that also plays in the offensive-oriented Eastern Conference? Well lets move on then...

Continue reading "Is Oshie Truly 'Untouchable'?"


Jeff Ponder

Steen Should be Top-Priority posted by Jeff Ponder

Its hard to find a bright spot on a team that is currently ranked 21st in goals scored.  Alex Steen is the exception.

The St. Louis forward was not expected to be an offensive force when he was acquired from Toronto on November 24 with Carlo Colaiacovo for Lee Stempniak. Spanning over his two final seasons with the Maple Leafs, Steen played in 86 games and scored just 17 goals, including a minuscule two goals in his final twenty games.  It was even reported that Toronto head coach Ron Wilson was the only member of the Maple Leafs management team to not even say goodbye to Steen the day of the trade.  Steen came to St. Louis looking like another disappointing forward, since his 24th overall selection in 2002 built him up as the gun the Maple Leafs were looking for.  He may have faltered with his former team, but he seemed to fit in with the Blues after just a few weeks.

December 8, 2008, the Blues hosted the Nashville Predators at home.  After never really seeing any consistency in Steen's play, the Winnipeg native exploded with a strong game for the Blues.  He netted a big power-play goal late in the second period, then made a very nifty play on an odd-man rush to get the puck to B.J. Crombeen for the game-winning goal in the third.  This just wasn't a good game for the newly-acquired forward; it showed Blues management that all he needed was a change of scenery.

Steen finished 2008-09 with just six more goals than he scored with Toronto, but displayed excellent penalty-killing skills and tremendous speed.  But the real surprise is what he has done this year.  With 24 goals on the season, Steen has powered his way from the checking line with Jay McClement to the top lines with Andy McDonald or T.J. Oshie.  His booming shot on the power-play has been nothing but pleasant to a sub-par power-play (17% for 20th in the league).  His team-leading 24 goals comes with third line minutes as well; he ranks 15th on the team in average-time-played-per-game, and has the seventh-most time played amongst strictly forwards.  Just imagine if this guy got top-line minutes and was playing with a major NHL goal-scorer.  This thought may lead to the key for the Blues to be more of a playoff-contender next season.
Continue reading "Steen Should be Top-Priority"


Jeff Ponder

Montreal Trades Matt D'Agostini to St. Louis for Aaron Palushaj posted by Jeff Ponder

Montreal landed a top prospect for their gritty winger.

Matt D'Agostini, the Canadiens' sixth round choice in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, has just 14 goals and 11 assists in 94 NHL games played.  The winger is more associated with his feisty style of play, striking fear into opponents when they enter the corners of their defensive zone.  The winger does have an offensive upside though; with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL, D'Agostini scored 128 points in 162 games played. 

Aaron Palushaj, formally considered a top prospect in the Blues' organization, has tapered off since joining the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL.  Palushaj was considered to be a large part of the Blues' future coming into this season.

“He’s a rink rat and I like that,” Blues President John Davidson said in September.  “He’s skilled. He’s got a real upside.”

Palushaj, who scored 50 points for the University of Michigan in 2008-09, has just 22 points in 44 games this season in Peoria.  It is no doubt that his lack of production is the reason for this move.

Montreal gets Palushaj at the tender age of 20, which is the reason that they get the nod in this deal.  The 6'0” forward has played in just one half season in professional hockey.  College players take a little longer to adapt to professional play than players that come through the ranks of junior programs.  The Blues may have jumped the gun on moving the young forward.  He still has a long time to develop before it can be determined if he is truly NHL talent or not.
Continue reading "Montreal Trades Matt D'Agostini to ..."

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