The past 24+ hours have provided a great deal of news, change, and information about the NHL. The first major story of the NHL season, post lockout of course, if the Toronto Maple Leafs firing of Brian Burke. It wwas wall known that many in the Leafs organization were not happy with Burke, but he was expected to finish out his contract or at very least get to the end of this season.
In addition to a lot of contract talk throughout the NHL, there have been rumblings on Twitter that the St. Louis Blues will be seeking to extend Doug Armstrong’s contract another 5 years. This would be great news for Blues fans as Armstrong has managed to make incredible draft moves, bolster the team through trades, and have patience with developing players. Looking at the St. Louis Blues’ offense, the team is incredibly stacked and Armstrong is to thank for that.
During the draft, offseason, and in between, Armstong was known to be speaking to numerous teams about possibly obtaining a left handed defenseman to play alongside of Alex Pietrangelo. Now that the St. Louis Blues are having informal practices at the Mills again, Doug Armstrong seems to have changed his mind about the Blues blue line.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch posted an article by Jeremy Rutherford where Doug Armstrong, Ken Hitchcock, Alex Pietrangelo, Kris Russell, and others were asked about the St. Louis Blues aquiring an additional defenseman.
“Obviously we had talked with quite a few teams at the entry draft, quite a few teams over the summer. A lot of people wanted to see how this (new) CBA was going to affect their franchise.” Armstrong went on to specifically address the St. Louis Blues defense by saying, “That’s our roster, that’s our team.”
According to Rutherford’s article, the Blues are looking to match last year’s acquisition Kris Russell with Alex Pietrangelo. “Obviously Russ is a guy that could complement me pretty well,” Pietrangelo said. “We both move the puck. It definitely, I think, would work. We played with each other here and there. But you know, that’s up to the coaching staff.”
Rutherford then spoke to Ken Hitchcock himself about the pairing. Hitcock went on to say, “I think Kris has settled into the type of player he’s going to be from an NHL standpoint. He’s going to be a mobile, strong-defending defenseman that can get you points at times, but we don’t need to rely on his points for us to do well because he kills penalties, plays against good players, which he did in the playoffs (last season against Los Angeles). And he’s a really, really smart player with great defensive vision. I think it’s really calmed him down, too, not having to live up to the burden of what he did in juniors …it’s allowed him to be a player now, which is really good for him.”
So with Ken Hitchcock planning to use Kris Russell as a partner to Alex Pietrangelo, Blues fans can expect to see a second pairing of Barrett Jackman and Roman Polak with a third pairing of Kevin Shattenkirk and Ian Cole. The St. Louis Blues will have Jeff Woywitka available to call up in case of injury and in case of dire straits the Blues seem to be confident in Taylor chorney to fill the bill with the big club.
So what did Russell have to say about playing alongside Alex Pietrangelo? Well according to Rutherford’s article Russell said, “If that’s the case, obviously he’s a great player, I’d like to play with him, but it’s going to be a quick, short camp and we’ll figure things out then. Until we line up and the puck drops, I don’t think we read too much into it. You’ve got to earn your minutes. Other guys have to step up and play big minutes and that’s what I’m looking to do.”
With Russell on the back end with Petro, I think the Blues will have a pretty good matchup. As I said in the Season Preview on Defense, I think that the Alex Pietrangelo is going to have a big year on offense and teaming up with Russell can only help his numbers. Russell’s speed and offensive abilities will aid in the pair having a great season.
So as the NHL churns out news on Burke, a possible Luongo trade, and other contract stories, the Blues look to reutrn basically the same roster to the ice in training camps this weekend, and the lack of attention from major press may help the team slip under the radar once again. As always Blues fans, LET’S GO BLUES!