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WEDNESDAY • 01.13.2021 • S

BLUE BLOODS? Blues eager to put poor finish in the past, re-establish themselves among the league’s elite. PAGE S2

It’s Parayko’s time as top defenseman

Husso ready for first NHL action

Benfred: Stillman trusts in ‘Army’

Gordo: More ads beats no hockey

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NHL PREVIEW

S2 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • WEDNESDAY • 01.13.2021

NEW LOOK, SAME OBJECTIVE Some familiar faces are gone, new faces are here, but Blues’ bedrock principles remain

CHRISTINE TANNOUS, CTANNOUS@POST-DISPATCH.COM

Ivan Barbashev, on the ice, Mike Hoffman (68) and Colton Parayko battle in front of the bench during a scrimmage Sunday at Enterprise Center. BY JIM THOMAS

PROJECTED OFFENSIVE LINES

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

No Bo, no Petro, no Steen, no Jake. It’s a bittersweet roll call. Between them, defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo, forward Alexander Steen, and goalie Jake Allen played 2,302 regular-season games and 287 playoff games for the St. Louis Blues. In fact, Pietrangelo and Allen have played only for the Blues to this point in their careers. Bouwmeester and Steen never have played a postseason game wearing anything other than the Bluenote. In the age of the salary cap and free agency, players come and go. It’s a given. But that’s a big chunk of experience and leadership, of Blues culture, that headed out the door with Steen retiring, Bouwmeester presumably retiring, Allen traded to Montreal and Pietrangelo signing with Vegas in free agency. Throw in Robby Fabbri, traded to Detroit in November of last season — yes, it seems like that was years ago — and five members of the Blues’ Stanley Cup team are gone from last season’s opening-day roster. Now add the prior departures of Pat Maroon (Tampa Bay) and Joel Edmundson (Carolina, and now Montreal), and nearly one-third of the team’s Cup roster has gone elsewhere over a 16-month period. “Obviously, you miss the guys that left,” veteran center Tyler Bozak said. “You always miss your teammates and what they brought, and the friendships you had. But we have a ton of great leaders in the room. I’m sure O’Ry’s (Ryan O’Reilly) gonna do a heckuva job. He’s perfect for captain. “And we got a lot of older guys, guys that have been around a long time that can help out. Everybody’s gotta lead in their own way. We’re gonna try and keep the culture the same way it’s been. Keep playing for that logo on the front and trying to make everyone proud.” As captain, O’Reilly leads a new leadership group that also includes first-time alternate captains Colton Parayko and Brayden Schenn. Vladimir Tarasenko returns with an “A” but remains sidelined as he completes his rehab from shoulder surgery. Bozak, at 34 years and 10 months, replaces Steen as the oldest Blue. Steen, in turn, had replaced Bouwmeester as the team’s elder statesman after Bouwmeester’s life-threatening cardiac episode Feb. 11 in Anaheim. Jaden Schwartz, who played his first Blues game on March 17, 2012, replaces Pietrangelo as the longest-tenured Blue in terms of continuous service.

Commitment remains So it’s a different look. But same culture, same commitment to winning and chasing another Stanley Cup. “I would say that obviously we’re a different team than we were last year,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. “I think that’s just natural. Every year your team changes. ... We like the complement of players that we have. We are a little bit

Schenn

O’Reilly

Perron

Schwartz

Thomas

Hoffman

Tune in to our weekly podcast Join us each week for Net Front Presence, our Blues podcast presented by Closets By Design. Sanford

Bozak

Kyrou

different, but the goals remain the same, and that’s to be competitive with the top teams in the league.” In a time of sharp revenue decline in hockey because of the coronavirus pandemic, Blues ownership has put its money where its mouth is. And Armstrong has gone out and found talent. When it became apparent that Pietrangelo was headed elsewhere, Armstrong acted immediately to land highly regarded defenseman Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins in free agency. Krug was signed to a seven-year, $45.5 million contract even before Pietrangelo made his free-agent visit to Las Vegas And with Tarasenko still at least a month away from returning, Armstrong found a way to squeeze high-scoring forward Mike Hoffman under the salary cap and onto the roster. While teams around the NHL and in professional sports in general are cutting back during the pandemic, the Blues continue to push all their chips on the table. They’re all-in. And make no mistake, the players have taken notice. “It’s tough what we’re going through right now in the world,” forward David Perron said. “But to see the strong commitment from the ownership group, it’s started to create the excitement again that we’re gonna be a very good team again. “I think ‘Army’s’ always found a way each and every year to show that. I think by bringing me back three times, he showed me again.” Perron was joking with the last part of his remarks. But actually, bringing him back prior to the 2018-19 season was in fact another manifestation of that commitment. “We believe, and I said to the players, that this team is built to compete this year,” Armstrong said. “This team is constructed to compete with the best teams and play for a championship — and that doesn’t happen around the league every year for every organization. “We believe we put ourselves in a good spot, but obviously it has to be done on the ice or it doesn’t really matter. If you look at the age bracket of our core players, they’re in that — you know — late 20s to early 30s. This is the prime of their career. “We hope to have a team that can com-

Clifford

Barbashev

Sundqvist

pete and fight for the top spot. Obviously, you can’t win the Stanley Cup unless you make the playoffs, so we have to get to that. That’s our first hurdle, is putting ourselves into a spot to get into the tournament, and then anything can happen.”

New challenges It will be a different kind of challenge on several levels. For one, it’s a condensed schedule, with Wednesday’s season opener in Colorado the start of a 56-game regular season to be played over just 116 days. Staying healthy and avoiding COVID-19 is paramount. With rare exception, the Blues play each opponent in two-game sets or mini-series. They’re also in a retooled West Division, featuring Colorado and Minnesota from last year’s Central Division, and Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Jose and Vegas from last year’s Pacific. Teams will play each other eight times, breeding familiarity and quite possibly contempt. Colorado and Vegas are considered the favorites in the division, which will send four teams to the postseason. But it would be a mistake to overlook the new-look Blues. On paper, the Blues could have more sizzle on offense — even with Tarasenko sidelined — as well as a better skating team, and an even better power play. Coach Craig Berube has tinkered with his lines and D-pairings and come up with some fascinating combinations to open the season. For example, a line of Schwartz-Robert Thomas-Hoffman has the makings of a rush line because all are good skaters. Thomas’ deft passing will give Hoffman plenty of chances to unleash his potent shot. And a Schenn-O’Reilly-Perron unit has a chance to dominate, or at least dictate the play when they’re on the ice. All three have been all-stars. Perron and Schenn shared the team goal-scoring title last season with 25. Speedy Jordan Kyrou will get a chance to earn a top-nine role on a line with Zach Sanford and Bozak. And newcomer Kyle Clifford brings muscle and Stanley Cup experience to a fourth line that returns reliable young veterans in Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist.

Listen as some combination of Jeff Gordon, Jim Thomas and Tom Timmermann break down the latest trends, rumors and insights. Subscribe to on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to our podcasts, or listen at stltoday.com/podcasts. The most intriguing pairing on defense is Krug and Parayko — two fast skaters with offensive talent. Marco Scandella and Justin Faulk form the shutdown pair, with Vince Dunn and Robert Bortuzzo back for another season as the third pairing. On the power play, the first unit of Krug, Schenn, O’Reilly, Hoffman and Perron looks formidable. The second unit of Dunn, Parayko, Schwartz, Thomas and Bozak isn’t shabby, either. The biggest question comes in goal, where Jordan Binnington must quickly put his Edmonton bubble meltdown in the past. And Ville Husso, who has yet to play an NHL regular-season game, must provide quality backup work. But at its core, Berube says the identity of Blues hockey will remain unchanged. Defense. Forechecking. Physical play. “It’s gonna be the same look,” Berube said. “We’re not gonna change our style, the way we play and how we want to play. We’ve got some new players. They’ll learn the system, they’ll learn our philosophy and how we believe the game should be played.” And get after it. Which is how Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo, Steen and Allen played for years. “What those guys built here is something special,” O’Reilly said. “They were really responsible for each other and made sure they competed at everything they did. Coming in here two years ago, I really took notice of it and saw how important it was. “Our leadership group has talked about it. That’s something we want to maintain. “We want to play like Steener, where every time he touched the ice, he played so hard and did whatever he could to win. “That’s why I think we are the team we are now, and again, we have to improve on as well. So it’s definitely carrying on what these guys built.” Jim Thomas @jthom1 on Twitter jthomas@post-dispatch.com


01.13.2021 • WEDNESDAY • M 1

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • S3

let 's go blues 56-game season. New division alignment. This season will be different, but we've had the same goal for over twenty years: keeping the Blues healthy on their quest for the Stanley Cup.

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NHL PREVIEW

S4 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • WEDNESDAY • 01.13.2021

PARAYKO’S TIME TO SHINE ‘He’s gotta go be a good player, be a good defender like he has been, and use his big body’ BY JIM THOMAS

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

CHRISTIAN GOODEN, CGOODEN@POST-DISPATCH.COM

Colton Parayko, right, defends as Kyle Clifford attacks the net and keeper Ville Husso looks on Sunday during a scrimmage. 13 others when he logged fewer than 30 seconds. Based on what’s transpired in camp, it looks like Paryko will open on the second power-play unit with Vince Dunn, Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas. For any player, more power-play time is the surest way to increase your point total. Parayko had 10 goals and 18 assists in each of the past two seasons, pretty good numbers but not in Pietrangelo territory. When it comes to 5-on-5 play, being paired with a puck-mover and accomplished passer in Torey Krug also could help Parayko’s offensive production. Visually, they’re an odd couple with Parayko at 6 feet 6 towering over the 5-9 Krug. “We have a couple other small guys, too, but I don’t know who else would be his size,” Parayko said. “He’s not the tallest guy, I guess.” The long and the short of it is that Parayko and Krug could be a dynamic pair on the blueline. After having “defensive” defensemen as partners the past couple of years in Jay Bouwmeester and Marco Scandella, Krug is a different kind of beast for Parayko. “Right from the time I met him and since camp started, we’ve bonded well,” Parayko said. “We’ve been over a lot of different things in terms of hockey-wise and different reads. “Obviously, each player reads different scenarios a little differently. Coming from different teams, they have different systems and what-not. It’s just kind of getting used to each other. ... So it’s been good. I’m excited to play with him.” Last year for Boston, Krug was paired with 6-5 Brandon Carlo, so he’s used to looking up to his D-partner. No disrespect to Carlo, but after signing a seven-year, $45.5 million free-agent contract with St. Louis, Krug is paired with a more talented player. “He’s so long,” Krug said of Parayko. “He skates so well. Two or three strides, and he’s up the ice. He forces a lot of turnovers from the other end. It just looks like an easy game out there for him.” But if the expectation is making fans forget about Pietrangelo, well, that’s easier said than done. Jim Thomas @jthom1 on Twitter jthomas@post-dispatch.com

PROJECTED DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS TOREY KRUG

This is it. After five years in the NHL, and very much in the prime of his career at age 27, this is Colton Parayko’s big moment. With Alex Pietrangelo’s decade-long run in St. Louis at an end, the spotlight shines bright on the native of St. Albert, Alberta. It’s Parayko’s turn to be the No. 1 defenseman on what has been one of the NHL’s better defenses for years. “With Petro being gone, I think his role enhances for sure, which I think he will do a great job of elevating to,” captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “He’s a huge piece of this team, and it’s exciting to see him getting more opportunities.” It’s almost as if the new “A” on Parayko’s jersey as alternate captain actually stands for “Ascending.” Will Parayko reinvent himself? Will he suddenly morph into a 50-60 point defenseman? Probably not. The expectations are high, but Parayko has been playing at a high level for a while. So please forgive coach Craig Berube if his goals for the big blueliner are simply: “He just needs to go and play his game.” For starters, Parayko has been very close to being the team’s No. 1 defenseman the past two seasons. If Pietrangelo, now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, was No. 1, then Parayko was 1A. Little-known fact: Parayko — and not Pietrangelo — led the Blues in evenstrength ice time in each of the past two seasons. Parayko has been second in overall ice time both years only because Pietrangelo got significantly more time on the power play. And here’s a tired narrative: Parayko needs to shoot more. While that may have been true earlier in his career, that’s no longer the case. Only Pietrangelo and David Perron took more shots than Parayko last season, when he averaged a career-high 6.2 shots per game. In the Stanley Cup season of 2018-19, Parayko finished fourth on the team in shots, averaging 5.7. Sure, there’s still room for improvement and growth. To a degree, that’s true for every player. But for the most part, Berube and general manager Doug Armstrong want Parayko to just be ... Parayko. “Yeah, you can always improve a little bit,” Armstrong said. “I think the subtle changes are gonna be the ones that take place now (in Parayko). I’m not sure it’s gonna be like a transformation where he’s getting 60 or 70 percent more points.” And more from Berube: “I don’t think he needs to change anything from what he’s already doing. He’s gotta go be a good player, be a good defender like he has been, and use his big body. He does a great job with that kind of stuff, and he’s scored some big goals for us for sure. “But just because you put an ‘A’ and a ‘C’ on a person’s jersey, you don’t want them to think they gotta do way more because that’s not the case. He’s got an ‘A’ on his jersey because he’s an extremely hard worker. He’s a great person and a leader. Hard worker on the ice, off the ice. “He exemplifies the Blues, in my opinion — how he carries himself and handles himself on and off the ice.” With or without Pietrangelo, with or without an ‘A’ on his sweater, that’s the Parayko that Blues fans will see this season. He’ll just be under more scrutiny. “Ever since I got in the league, I wanted to continue to get better each year I’m here,” Parayko said. “That’s still my mindset. There’s always room for improvement in my game and anyone’s game, I guess, for that matter. “So come to the rink, continue to get better. Just do my game. That’s what I do best, is play big, be hard to play against, and move the puck.” Even so, the one area we should see more of Parayko this season is on the power play. He averaged only 46 seconds a game there last season, ranking 12th on the team. There were 18 games in which he didn’t appear on the power play at all;

MARCO SCANDELLA JUSTIN FAULK COLTON PARAYKO

VINCE DUNN ROBERT BORTUZZO

PROJECTED ROSTER FORWARDS 49 Ivan Barbashev 9 Sammy Blais 21 Tyler Bozak 13 Kyle Clifford 68 Mike Hoffman 25 Jordan Kyrou 90 Ryan O’Reilly 57 David Perron 12 Zach Sanford 10 Brayden Schenn 17 Jaden Schwartz 70 Oskar Sundqvist 91 Vladimir Tarasenko** 18 Robert Thomas

6-0 6-2 6-1 6-2 6-0 6-0 6-1 6-0 6-4 6-1 5-10 6-3 6-0 6-0

187 12/14/95 205 6/17/96 199 3/19/86 211 1/13/91 182 11/24/89 175 5/5/98 216 2/7/91 200 5/28/88 207 11/9/94 200 8/22/91 190 6/25/92 209 3/23/94 225 12/13/91 188 7/2/99

DEFENSEMEN 41 Robert Bortuzzo 29 Vince Dunn 72 Justin Faulk 4 Carl Gunnarsson 47 Torey Krug 77 Niko Mikkola 55 Colton Parayko 6 Marco Scandella GOALIES 50 Jordan Binnington 35 Ville Husso

6-4 6-0 6-0 6-2 5-9 6-4 6-6 6-3

216 3/18/89 203 10/29/96 217 3/20/92 198 11/9/86 186 4/12/91 185 4/27/96 230 5/12/93 212 2/23/90

6-1 6-3

174 205

7/11/93 2/6/95

*Players are listed by position alphabetically. **Will start season on long-term injured reserve


01.13.2021 • WEDNESDAY • M 1

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • S5


NHL PREVIEW

S6 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • WEDNESDAY • 01.13.2021

‘I FEEL I’M READY’

Husso will play his first NHL games as backup to Binnington this season BY TOM TIMMERMANN

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Ville Husso has played a grand total of zero NHL games. He was chosen by the Blues in the fourth round of the 2014 draft and holds the distinction of being the player currently in the Blues organization the longest without having appeared in a game. Everyone drafted or acquired since then has either played in a game or moved on. And the Blues are expecting a lot from him. “He’s going to have to play well for us to have a good season,” said general manager Doug Armstrong. Husso is the backup goalie, a job that may be more important than ever in this shortened season. Amid the Blues’ 56 games are 10 sets of back-to-backs, about 18 percent of the team’s schedule. While No. 1 goalie Jordan Binnington has said he wants to play as much as he can, it figures that Husso will play at least 20 percent of the Blues schedule. While Jake Allen started 30.9 percent of the Blues’ games last season, he was a veteran who had been the team’s No. 1 goalie. Husso is a total novice when it comes to the NHL. And if anything should happen to Binnington? Husso would be the guy playing as much as he can. Armstrong appreciates the risk and the concern. Salary-cap concerns made moving Allen, who was traded to Montreal, the obvious offseason change, along with the fact that Husso would have to pass through waivers if the Blues sent him down. “That’s certainly an area that’s going to get a lot of focus on it until he really gets in there and proves that he can do it in the NHL,” Armstrong said. “There’s going to be those questions. But my job is to talk to the other managers, and he’s not a player we felt would have gone through waivers if necessary to put him through there. So it was time to find out if the assets are going to get the job done, and he’s going to get that opportunity.” Husso feels ready. “This is going to be my chance,” he said. “I feel I’m ready. I’ve felt that a long time now. I felt like the AHL helped me get used to small ice games — the rinks in Europe are bigger, the games a little different. The NHL has all the best guys. I feel good now. I can’t wait to get the games starting and get some games.” The Blues know as well as anyone what a rookie goalie can do. They have a Stanley Cup to prove it. But it’s worth remembering that the Blues did not immediately take to Binnington. After he was called

COLTER PETERSON, CPETERSON@POST-DISPATCH.COM

Ville Husso makes a glove save during the first period of a scrimmage last week at the Centene Community Ice Center in Maryland Heights.

BY THE NUMBERS A look at Jordan Binnington’s numbers in the NHL and Ville Husso’s in the AHL over the past three seasons:

JORDAN BINNINGTON Season Team ’15-16 Blues* ’18-19 Blues ’19-20 Blues *Appeared in one game

Record 0-0-0 24-5-1 30-13-7

VILLE HUSSO Season Team ’17-18 San Antonio ’18-19 San Antonio ’19-20 San Antonio

GAA 4.69 1.89 2.56

Record 15-14-5 6-18-0 16-17-8

SV% .750 .927 .912

GAA 2.42 3.67 2.56

up from San Antonio, Allen started 11 consecutive games. It was only once the Blues got to having back-to-back games that Binnington was pushed into service. Husso has been here before. He has been the team’s top development in the pipeline for several years. He was on the Blues bench for six games in the 201718 season, twice because Carter Hutton

SV% .922 .871 .909

was on standby waiting for the birth of his first child and four times because Hutton was hurt. But in each case, Husso only watched, separated from his NHL dream by the width of the boards. Each time he got called up, he packed his gear thinking this could be his chance, but it hasn’t been. He has seen action in preseason games,

though those are obviously an iffy measuring stick, with the level of competition varying wildly from game to game. Still, it’s hard to argue with his results. Prior to the 2017-18 season, he got in two games, playing four periods plus an overtime and didn’t allow a goal, shutting out Washington while facing 27 shots. He played two full games in camp in 2018-19 and allowed just three goals. In all, he has appeared in some or all of seven preseason games and has allowed just seven goals, giving him a goals-against average of approximately 1.30. “They’re good for your mental mindset,” he said, “playing against good players in NHL exhibitions, for sure that gives me confidence. A regular-season game is different. I need to be ready every night, compete every night. It’s a new game, a new opportunity to do so. I need to work hard.” Blues coach Craig Berube had Husso on his Chicago Wolves team in 2016-17, Husso’s first season coming over from Finland. He’s not committing to any amount of action for Husso and seems in no rush to get him in. “We have enough time and separation in the first six, seven, eight games where Binner will be in the nets,” Berube said. “We’ll get Husso in there. He’s got to continue to feel comfortable and keep pushing himself and getting better. The way the schedule is situated, you’re going to need your backup goalie to play a big role. He’s gonna play a number of games, and it’s going to be important.” Husso was home in Helsinki when he learned — “I think I saw it on Instagram,” he said — that the Blues had traded Allen, which opened the spot for him. “I knew it’s close, I’m close to the NHL,” he said “I was just keeping in my mind it will come and I need to work hard every day and do my job and try to get better every day and every night.” The goalie combination for the Blues will be Binnington and Husso, just as it was with the Wolves in 2016-17 and in San Antonio in 2018-19. That was the season when Husso got hurt and struggled, enabling Binnington to get the call when the Blues needed a goalie midseason. “Jordan’s a great goalie, great guy and great teammate,” Husso said. “We are good friends, good teammates. I can get some tips from him. He helps, he’s a smart guy. I think we have a good tandem here. He did it two years ago. Anything can happen. “I have a good feeling this year.” Tom Timmermann • 314-340-8190 @tomtimm on Twitter ttimmermann@post-dispatch.com

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NHL PREVIEW

01.13.2021 • WEDNESDAY • M 1

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • S7

2021 BLUES SCHEDULE JANUARY

Home

Away

Sun.

Mon.

Tue.

Wed.

Thu.

Fri.

Sat.

10

11

12

13 9:30 at Avs NBCSN

14

15 8 p.m. at Avs FSM

16

17

18 7 p.m. vs. Sharks FSM

19

20 8 p.m. vs. Sharks FSM

21

22

23 7 p.m. vs. Kings FSM

24 7 p.m. vs. Kings FSM

25

26 8 p.m. at Knights FSM

27

28 8 p.m. at Knights FSM

29

30 8 p.m. at Ducks FSM

FEBRUARY Sun.

31 7 p.m. at Ducks FSM

Home

Away

Mon.

Tue.

Wed.

Thu.

Fri.

Sat.

1

2 7 p.m. vs. Coyotes FSM

3

4 7 p.m. vs. Coyotes FSM

5

6 2 p.m. vs. Avs FSM

7 2 p.m. vs. Avs FSM

8

9 7 p.m. at Wild FSM

10

11 7 p.m. at Wild FSM

12

13 6 p.m. at Coyotes FSM

14

15 3 p.m. at Coyotes FSM

16

17

18 7 p.m. vs. Sharks FSM

19

20 7 p.m. vs. Sharks FSM

21

22 7 p.m. vs. Kings FSM

23

24 8:30 vs. Kings NBCSN

25

26 9:30 at Sharks FSM

27 9:30 at Sharks FSM

Home

Away

Thu.

Fri.

Sat.

1

2

3 2 p.m. at Avs FSM

28

MARCH Sun.

Home

Away

APRIL/MAY

Mon.

Tue.

Wed.

Thu.

Fri.

Sat.

Sun.

Mon.

1 9 p.m. at Ducks FSM

2

3 8:30 at Ducks NBCSN

4

5 8 p.m. at Kings FSM

6 8 p.m. at Kings FSM

7

8

9

10

11

12 7 p.m. vs. Knights FSM

13 7 p.m. vs. Knights FSM

4

5 7 p.m. vs. Knights FSM

6

7 8 p.m. vs. Knights FSM

8

9 7 p.m. vs. Wild FSM

10

14

15 9 p.m. at Kings FSM

16

17 9 p.m. at Kings FSM

18

19 8 p.m. at Sharks FSM

20 8 p.m. at Sharks FSM

11 2 p.m. vs. Wild FSM

12

13

14

15 9 p.m. at Coyotes FSM

16

17 5 p.m. at Coyotes FSM

21

22

23

24

25

26 7 p.m. vs. Ducks FSM

27 7 p.m. vs. Ducks FSM

18

19

20 8:30 at Avs NBCSN

21

22 7 p.m. vs. Avs FSM

23

24 2 p.m. vs. Avs KSDK (5)

28

29 7 p.m. vs. Coyotes FSM

30

31 6:30 vs. Coyotes NBCSN

25

26 7 p.m. at Wild FSM

27

28 6 p.m. at Wild NBCSN

29

30 7 p.m. vs. Wild FSM

1 7 p.m. vs. Wild FSM

2

3 7 p.m. vs. Ducks FSM

4

5 7 p.m. vs. Ducks FSM

6

7 9 p.m. at Knights FSM

8 9 p.m. at Knights FSM

All game times are St. Louis times and subject to change.

Tue.

Wed.

2019-20 STATISTICS SKATERS GP O’Reilly 71 Perron 71 Schenn 71 Schwartz 71 Pietrangelo 70 Thomas 66 Sanford 58 Bozak 67 Parayko 64 Barbashev 69 Sundqvist 57 Dunn 71 Steen 55 Faulk 69 Blais 40 MacEachern 51 Tarasenko 10 Kyrou 28 Bouwmeester 56 Gunnarsson 36 Bortuzzo 42 De la Rose 34 Walker 5 Kostin 4 Fabbri 9 Brouwer 13 Mikkola 5 Scandella 11 Walman 1 Poganski 1 Pouliot 2 GOALIES Binnington Allen

GP-GS 50-50 24-21

G 12 25 25 22 16 10 16 13 10 11 12 9 7 5 6 7 3 4 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0

A 49 35 33 35 36 32 14 16 18 15 11 14 10 11 7 3 7 5 8 5 4 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0

W-L-OT 30-13-7 12-6-3

P 61 60 58 57 52 42 30 29 28 26 23 23 17 16 13 10 10 9 9 7 6 5 2 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0

+/11 2 3 3 11 9 13 0 8 4 5 15 7 -3 -2 2 -2 1 6 8 12 -1 -2 1 -4 1 3 4 1 0 -1

GAA 2.56 2.15

PIM 10 52 44 18 20 18 28 10 16 23 28 27 12 32 20 33 0 8 20 16 21 6 4 0 2 7 0 4 0 0 2 SV% .912 .927

PPG 2 9 10 9 6 1 1 2 3 0 0 4 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 SA 1430 655

SHG 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

GWG 3 9 4 4 3 2 3 2 1 2 1 1 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

SV 1304 607

OTG 1 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

GA 126 48

S 118 166 138 162 225 87 90 109 162 75 97 138 71 147 56 63 26 39 53 31 36 31 6 5 7 12 10 17 1 0 1 SO 3 2

S% 10.2 15.1 18.1 13.6 7.1 11.5 17.8 11.9 6.2 14.7 12.4 6.5 9.9 3.4 10.7 11.1 11.5 10.3 1.9 6.5 5.6 3.2 16.7 20.0 14.3 8.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 -0.0 G 0 0

A 1 0

TOI/G 20:34 18:19 18:28 18:11 24:11 14:34 13:44 15:19 23:00 13:27 14:23 16:16 14:02 20:34 12:35 8:57 16:11 10:54 21:34 15:47 13:07 10:01 11:08 8:32 9:42 9:28 14:22 20:18 11:04 5:54 8:20 P 1 0

Sft/G 24.5 21.9 22.0 21.8 28.5 17.8 18.2 20.6 28.1 18.1 19.4 21.7 19.6 26.2 15.6 12.8 21.8 14.2 27.0 23.4 19.3 14.7 15.6 12.8 13.3 14.2 20.2 26.2 20.0 9.0 14.0 PIM 4 0

FO% 56.6 37.5 49.0 45.0 -42.9 11.1 55.0 -45.4 44.3 -53.3 --25.0 -40.0 ---44.1 100.0 -100.0 50.0 ------

TOI 2,947:41 1,339:04

COLTER PETERSON, CPETERSON@POST-DISPATCH.COM

The Blues bench congratulates defenseman Niko Mikkola on a zinger of a goal during a scrimmage last week.

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S8 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • WEDNESDAY • 01.13.2021

Meat Packages 314-631-2440

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JOE’S BACKYARD BBQ .............................................................. 3 lbs. Pork Spare Ribs 2 lbs. Beer Bratwurst 2 lbs. 1/3 lb. Ground Chuck Patties 5 lbs. Center Cut Pork Steaks 2 lbs. Cheddar Bratwurst

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NHL PREVIEW

01.13.2021 • WEDNESDAY • M 1

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • S9

‘TRUST IN ARMY’ Stillman: Armstrong has a record of strong decisions, strong moves, wins and a Cup BEN FREDERICKSON St. Louis Post-Dispatch

C

an you picture Blues general manager Doug Armstrong dressed in camouflage, crawling around some Missouri Ozarks brush at the crack of dawn? Neither can he. But that is exactly where Armstrong was not long after the Blues were bounced from last season’s playoff bubble. While some others in his position across the league were worried about getting fired, Armstrong joined Blues owner Tom Stillman for one of Stillman’s beloved turkey hunts. It was a first for Armstrong, for a few reasons. Armstrong is a golfer, not a hunter. But Stillman can’t golf due to bad shoulders. That doesn’t stop Stillman from attending all of the Blues’ golf tournaments and driving the carts enthusiastically, so Armstrong kind of owed his boss one. But more than anything, Armstrong’s visit to the family farm Stillman hunts on near Rolla, Mo., would not have happened without the growth of a relationship between colleagues who have gone from figuring out how to work with one another to close friends. Last season marked Armstrong’s 10th as Blues general manager. Stillman has been the team’s chairman and governor since May 2012. The two have added titles, like Armstrong’s promotion to president of hockey operations along with his GM role, and ownership stake, like Stillman’s ownership group’s successful acquisition of the remaining minority interest in the team in 2019, along the way. Together they have led the Blues to new heights. Another season of high-level contention begins Wednesday. “It’s gone quick,” Armstrong said. “A lot of fun. We’ve had our ups and our downs in the playoffs. The one thing I take the most pride in is our consistency for the better part of a decade. I don’t know if it’s above the championship. But it parallels it for me. You want to build a team that is considered a contending team every year, and sooner or later you’re going to get through.” Since Armstrong was promoted from assistant GM entering the 2010-11 season, the Blues are tied for fourth in the NHL in regular-season wins (445)

E L B E W

POST-DISPATCH FILE PHOTOS

Tom Stillman, left, backed Doug Armstrong, right, as the Blues’ momentum stalled and calls for his dismissal grew several years ago. and in fifth place in combined regularseason and postseason victories (489). They have made eight postseasons in 10 tries. A historic high point came during the 2018-19 season, when the Blues rallied from having the fewest points in the NHL in early January to winning their first championship. Looking back, it’s fair to wonder if another GM-owner combo would have weathered the storm before the celebration. Calls for Armstrong’s job were easy to find when the Blues’ momentum stalled briefly under former coaches Ken Hitchcock and Mike Yeo, before the shift to coach Craig Berube and goalie Jordan Binnington lit a championship spark. “If you think you need to make a change but you are concerned I’m not going to get another job, then make the change because you have answered your question,” Armstrong told Stillman during that time. Stillman backed Armstrong. You know the rest. “Obviously, winning the Cup is the ultimate thing, and Doug engineered that,” Stillman said. “That stands as preeminent. But a close second there is that record of consistency. We have been competitive, contending year after year after year. It’s difficult to not have cycles up and down, especially when you win as much as we have been winning, you don’t get those high draft choices.” Stillman credits three key reasons for Armstrong’s success. The GM’s work ethic is unparalleled. Stillman believes it was forged by the example set by Armstrong’s late father, Neil Armstrong, a Hall of Fame hockey official who was known as “Ironman” due to his hectic work schedule. “Doug is one of those people who does not feel comfortable if he’s not working, thinking, figuring something out,” Stillman said. Stillman cites Armstrong’s unique blend of creativity, patience and per-

! E U L B D E

LGB

sistence. When Armstrong knows what he wants, he finds ways to get it on his terms. A recent example is the trade for Ryan O’Reilly, one that went through multiple drafts over months before the Blues acquired their future captain. Stillman watched Armstrong track O’Reilly from the moment there were public signs of frustration between the player and his old team. Every time the deal looked dead, Armstrong brought it back to life. Finally, Stillman mentions Armstrong’s vision. He is willing, Stillman said, to do something some other general managers won’t. Armstrong makes moves he believes are best for the team now and years from now, not moves that are best for Armstrong in the moment. The latter approach can become an appealing one for GMs who begin to worry about job security. “We are stewards of the franchise,” Armstrong said. “If we ask players to sacrifice ice time for the betterment of the team, then as a manager you have to sacrifice short-term things that might be good for you for the long-term stability. If you don’t do that, not only do the owners see it, the players see it. Everybody sees it.” Stillman and his peers in the ownership group certainly see it. It’s why they trust Armstrong when captains David Backes and Alex Pietrangelo depart, and why they find the money to sign Mike Hoffman late in the offseason despite the payroll-slashing trend across sports due to the ongoing pandemic. “Trust in Army” has become a popular phrase. “It definitely makes us more willing to invest in the team when we have confidence in the GM,” Stillman said. “Knowing he’s looking out for the best interest of the franchise long-term. But also, he has put up a track record of strong decisions, strong moves, wins on the ice and a championship. That provides a lot more comfort in investing and spending to the cap.” Listening to Stillman talk about Arm-

strong and vice versa, it is obvious that another strength should be mentioned when analyzing this decade of Blues success. I’m talking about the bond that has developed between the general manager and the owner. It’s an asset few professional teams have. Armstrong cut his teeth under former Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks. He likes to say Hicks wanted the cake to taste good, but never cared much about the ingredients. Armstrong’s previous understanding of an owner was someone he met with twice a year. Stillman wants the cake to taste good, too, but he wants to know the ingredients along with the recipe. He has an office at the rink. His attendance at morning skates is remarkable. “I would rather know what’s going on,” Stillman said. “I was a little slow on the trigger to respond to the different ownership style,” Armstrong admits now. “Tom and I had some conversations. He was forthright on what he needed as an owner, because as the chairman of the Blues he needed information he could share with his partners that I was not providing. It took me some time. My personality is, I keep things inside. I try not to share a lot of my emotions, my ideas. Because they change all the time. I’ve learned what Tom needs. I made sure I was doing things the way he wanted.” What began as a job requirement years ago has turned into a benefit of the job. “I realized that I can share stuff with Tom,” Armstrong said. “Some day, we may not work together. He may have to make a change, or whatever. But the relationship I built with him now is going to last well past hockey. That’s something not a lot of managers have. It’s new for me, and I really enjoy it.” Stillman isn’t planning on making any GM changes soon. Armstrong is under contract through the 2022-23 season. He’s staying put, even if he turns down the next turkey hunt invitation. “It was, uh, interesting, you know?” Armstrong said. “What we did is, we got there, went out and sat at the fields to find out where the turkeys were going to come. Had a couple of beers, and talked. I found that much more enjoyable than getting up at four in the morning.” Ben Frederickson @Ben_Fred on Twitter bfrederickson@post-dispatch.com

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S10 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

NHL PREVIEW

M 1 • WEDNESDAY • 01.13.2021

NHL PLAYING ON THIN ICE Pandemic is causing major revenue losses for league and its franchises JEFF GORDON St. Louis Post-Dispatch

he NHL is back, albeit with an abbreviated season, radical realignment and division-only play. Arena attendance will be limited, at best, until the pandemic subsides. Advertising will pop up where you least expect it as the league recoups revenue losses. This aggressive monetization might become annoying, but that’s the price fans must pay so their sport can resume. The NHL did a remarkable job returning to work last summer to finish its season. Against all odds, the industry moved inside protective bubbles and completed a compelling made-for-TV playoff without suffering a COVID-19 outbreak within the ranks. Then the owners and players worked together to relaunch the league for a 56game campaign. The sides shared financial pain to keep the industry going. Forbes Magazine reported revenue dropped 14 percent league-wide last season when the schedule was cut short. The postseason unfolded without fans, which subtracted $200 million in revenue. Overall operating income dropped 68 percent. Forbes estimates that the Blues lost more than $8 million. League-wide, teams added an average of $17 million in debt to remain operational. Forbes estimated that franchise valuations dropped by an average of 2 percent since the pandemic hit. Some franchises may raise additional capital by selling minority shares to investors. “The only good news in this context is that the ownership of the 31, soon to be 32 NHL franchises, has never been stronger and healthier,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last fall. “While nobody has any revenue coming in right now, and owners are obviously writing checks to cover overhead and expenses, our franchises will get through this and will come out stronger on the other side.” The financial damage will increase this season, given the various prohibitions against mass gatherings. During normal times a sellout crowd could generate in excess of $1 million in attendancerelated revenue. These are the hardest times for the NHL since the bad old days of franchise instability, labor unrest and player lockouts.

T

CHRISTIAN GOODEN, CGOODEN@POST-DISPATCH.COM

Cutouts of Blues mascot Louie and fans were in the stands at an empty Enterprise Center for Sunday’s scrimmage. Bettman survived all of that nastiness and oversaw professional hockey’s impressive growth through lucrative expansion, product improvement, marketing breakthroughs and sustained labor peace. Now the pandemic threatens to undermine all the progress made. This economic recovery could take years, so the NHL is chasing every last dollar. This is why the Blues now play in the Honda NHL West Division. The league says it will sell division sponsorships for just this season ... but we’ll see if that limitation holds. Teams are allowed to sell advertising placement on their helmets. This revenue stream could yield millions across the league. The Blues will skate around with Enterprise and Stifel logos on their lids. “Just don’t touch the jerseys,” commented one STLToday.com reader. “So long as this doesn’t make its way to the front of the Goalie Mask, I’m very OK with this,” wrote a poster on the site’s Blues Talk forum. “I can’t wait to see the Blues Sweaters with ‘Firestone’ across the shoulder

and Dunkin’ Donuts logos on the pant,” sniffed another. European hockey leagues allow advertising on player sweaters, which is hard on the eyes. Someday the NHL may go there as well, despite Bettman’s current objections. Expect to see advertising along the bench, on the ice, along the glass, on tarps covering empty seats — pretty much wherever it almost makes sense. Might the NHL keep the (Great White) North Division for good? There is marketing gold in that concept for Canada, and the Blues probably could live with that. With Seattle’s arrival as an expansion franchise, the league could put Dallas back in the West, er, the Honda NHL West Division and move the Blues and Minnesota into the, um, Discover NHL Central Division. That could satisfy all parties. For the record, though, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly plays down that potential. “From the league perspective, I think there’s a desire to resume our regular alignment as quick as we can,” Daly told

Sportsnet. “We’re one league. We’re not a league that exists north of the border and a league that exists south of the border.” The league’s 10-year television deal with NBC expires after next season, and the league should fetch far more than the current $200 million per season. That may mean delivering games in new ways on different platforms. The league may consider additional expansion. That’s the quickest path to adding tall stacks of money to the pile. Seattle’s ownership group paid an expansion fee of $650 million. The NHL was the first major North American pro league to embrace the gambling industry. Expect an even tighter relationship during seasons to come. Who knows how hard the league and individual teams will dig to create new revenue streams. But most fans would agree that money-grubbing hockey is better than no hockey at all. Jeff Gordon • 314-340-8175 @gordoszone on Twitter jgordon@post-dispatch.com

BJC salutes the frontline caregivers who keep coming back, shift after shift, month after montth, to h lp th ople le in i our community. it . Thank Th k you, y , sso very much.

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01.13.2021 • WEDNESDAY • M 1

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • S11

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S12 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • WEDNESDAY • 01.13.2021

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