Blues Q&A was back this week for two questions this week. Given the response level I will be turning the nob down to one a week till training camp starts. Thanks to all who have voted.
On to this weeks questions.
Q1. Grade GM Doug Armstrong on his 1st month on the job. Does he deserve an A, B, C, D or F?
A – 17%
B – 50%
C – 17%
D – 16%
F – 0%
Q2. Where does Halak rank amongst Central Division Goalies? Rate 1-5 compared to Turco, Howard, Mason, and Rinne?
1st – 75%
2nd – 13%
3rd – 12%
4th – 0%
5th – 0%
Doug earned a B from the fans. However, I am sipping on more sugary childhood refreshments than everyone else. My vote is for an A.
To date Armstrong has:
Moved the organization’s top forward prospect for a young number one goalie.
Traded prospect depth for young forwards who are 1-2 seasons away form making a NHL impact.
Traded away depth from the enforcer role to add a young role player with a winning history, physical edge and some skill.
Re-signed two core building block players to budget friendly deals. Paid for their level of play, not potential.
Avoided inflated open market prices for players to allow for budget room in the next 2-3 seasons.
Addressed experience level concerns with the AHL affiliate.
Armstrong’s inability to shake up the roster, divest of lesser performing high value contracts and reinvest in outside upgrades is a concern. However, there were few options available. Instead Armstrong found success in strengthening the weaker links in the roster. Clearing room for prospects and acquiring more skill, speed and youth to the bottom six forwards and 3rd defensive pairing. He was able to upgrade the goalie position to a position of strength from a position “that doesn’t hurt the team”.
Energy Line Depth 09-10:
Steen (ascended to a Top 6 scoring role during the season)
Eller (was competing for a job at camp & saw 3rd line type minutes on call ups)
Energy Line Depth coming to 2010 Training Camp:
Losing Tkachuk hurts in terms of losing leadership in experience, but the Blues have gained speed and skill without sacrificing all their plus sized players. Crombeen and Winchester provide big bodies to wear down defenders who can both score 10+ goals. Lesser skilled players in Stastny, King, and Armstrong are removed for the likes of D’Agostini, Sobotka , Della Rovere and Hensick. The addition last week of Graham Mink and Dave Scatchard make up for the loss of size in Tkachuk and King. Nicholas Drazenovic wasn’t used as a call up last season, but had a decent training camp and season in Peoria. He is another player with some skill that will factor in to the Blues forward depth. Brett Sonne had his ups and down in his first professional season. The former WHL scoring star has his fair share of skill and could be a Sobotka like player. The door is open for him as well. Tyler Shattock leaves the WHL after a Memorial Cup appearance with the Calgary Hitmen. More size and skill.
3rd Pairing Depth 09-10:
3rd pairing Depth 10-11:
The Blues depth on the blue line was questionable last season. The mobile an offensive minded Junland was left in Peoria in favor of older, more experienced options. A logical course of action, but the Blues transition game suffered because of it. Now they have cleared out those of lesser skating ability and have opened up the slots to two former first round picks. Alex Pietrangelo adds a whole new dimension of skating, passing and offensive ability that Daryl Sydor and Mike Weaver cant even sniff at. Ian Cole brings a solid defensive game with better than average mobility and a capable first pass. Even Tyson Strachan has better mobility than both Sydor and Weaver. Steve Wagner was never the same after he broke his leg. Defensively weak and turnover prone. Mark Cundari comes in as a two time Memorical Cup winner from the Windsor Spitfires and easily replaces Wagner and the like. His game is ready for the AHL and will be able to compete for call up opportunities soon enough. The loss of Junland is an issue, but that was not of Armstrong’s doing.
Perhaps Amrstrong’s best move is swapping Eller for Halak. The old adage of “It takes quality to get quality” applies here. Eller will be an outstanding player when he fully develops. However, in the short term he was still slated behind Oshie, Berglund, and Perron as well as the four veteran scorers. Halak offers an immediate and long term upgrade to Chris Mason. Mason didn’t hurt the Blues chances at winning games, but he is not going to go out and win as many games as Halak will “on his own”. More youth, skill and long term potential with short term capability.
Understandbly so, Blues fans didn’t take off the blue tinted lenses for this vote. Halak ran away with the lead. That said, is he truely the best in the Central? Yes, in a three way tie.
I see it as Halak/Rinne/Howard at the top. Turco and Mason follow behind.
Halak, Rinne and Howard all found success with their respective teams this season. All three teams feature strong overall units and coaches. The teams were well structured and executed well down the stretch and in to the playoffs. ow much of their success came from the system and personnel in front of them? Still, it’s hard to argue against results and those three have had the best recently.
Turco has slid from his perch as one of the better goalies in the league. Has Dallas’ decline precipitated this or is Marty moving past his prime more quickly than others his age? Chicago is banking on that a good team in front of him will make a difference. Numbers don’t lie and till he proves that he can be a top goalie again, he is slotted below the big three.
Steve Mason is an enigma at this point. Was his rookie season an aberration or was his sophomore slump? For that matter how much of the Blue Jacket’s success was an aberration or a by product of Hitchcock’s system? Time can only tell. In terms of what Mason has done on the ice, he hasn’t earned a spot higher than tied for 4th in the Central.
Week Six of Blues Q&A will start on Monday. Here is where you can find the question and vote.
About the Author: Bleeding Blue from the IL side of the Mississippi, I've been a Blues fan since I can remember seeing the Blues take on the Oilers at the Arena when I was about 5. All I remember is that Brett Hull scored and I was hooked. Now I cheer on the likes of David Backes and TJ Oshie. It's a great time to be a Blues fan as this team rebuilds itself.