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04-17-2004, 03:31 PM
Irish Blues
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Blues '03-04 Post Mortem

If you're replying, please don't include all of this post - just clip out what you want to reply to or make a new post and reference my comments here. (IB)

Well, another season has come and gone...and once again, the Blues finish the season without the Stanley Cup. After injuries to MacInnis and Jackman, a slump from mid-December through the beginning of March and the firing of Joel Quenneville, the Blues needed a late season surge to get into the playoffs where they were promptly bounced in 5 games by San Jose.

Obviously the team needs to make changes. Who stays? Who goes? Do the Blues return to the youth movement and make use of their prospects, or wait to see what free agency holds under the new CBA?

My suggestions...assuming there is an '04-05:

GOAL - It's time for Curtis Sanford. He played well in Worcester and deserves a shot at the NHL. Divis might yet be a starter in the NHL....or he may be destined to be a backup. The wild card here is what the Blues do with Osgood. I think he'll get sent packing if only to save money. He played well enough in '03-04 especially considering the funk the rest of the team went into, but even at $3 million will still be too expensive. If he comes back, Divis is the odd man out as he has nothing else to learn at Worcester.
LIKELY '04-05: Sanford, Divis

DEFENSE - Even with the impending retirement of MacInnis, the Blues look set here. Pronger, Jackman (who'll return from a bad shoulder) and Backman will make a great top-3 on the blueline, and Backman will only get better as the PP QB to replace MacInnis. After that, there's some questions. Do the Blues bring back Weinrich, who could help mentor the younger defensemen? Is Salvador going to use his shot and play physical on defense, or continue to leave fans wanting more? Is Walker the mean, nasty physical presence this team has needed for years? Is Jamie Pollock a forward or a defenseman?

It's almost certain that Christian LaFlamme and Jeff Finley won't come back. Each is a decent 5/6 guy but nothing more and won't get any better. Alexander Khavanov is also likely gone unless the Blues decide his poor defensive play is getting better. I might convert him to forward and play him there, but I wouldn't bring him back on defense. Mike Stuart impressed me when he was called up, and I think he has potential with the Blues. Murray Baron can leave and I'd never miss him. He was mediocre, failed to step it up when needed, and teams learned to go after him with success late in the season.

I think Salvador and Walker will be back, and Pollock will be given every chance to stick on defense with Stuart being the 7th guy. As much as I like Weinrich, I don't think Pleau will bring him back...but if he does, Stuart starts off at Worcester.
LIKELY '04-05: Pronger, Jackman, Backman, Salvador, Walker, Pollock, Stuart

FORWARD - Lots of turnover here, and lots of holes to fill.

I'd bring back Mike Sillinger and Dallas Drake. Each would fit perfectly on a 3rd line - not on the 1st or 2nd line. Sillinger wins faceoffs, and the Blues did well with him filling that role after he was acquired. Drake brings energy and hustle, and you know you'll get an honest effort out of him. Steve Martins would also look good as a PK'er and the 4th line center. Martins takes the spot of Danton, who I has inked in as the 4th line center until he was arrested. I think Danton is done in the NHL after this.

As much as I dogged Weight, I'd keep him. I think he'll rebound and be solid in '04-05. Boguinecki had injury problems and while I don't think he has 22-27-49 in him like he put up in '02-03, he'll be good for 15 goals and that's perfect on the 3rd line.

I'm undecided about Pascal Rheaume. If he stays, fine. If he leaves, that's fine too. Same for Ryan Johnson - he does nothing for me. If he stays, move Martins over to the wing. Both are 4th-liners, nothing more.

Pavol Demitra is gone. Period. He wrote himself off the team with his uninspired playoff performance, and unless he takes a huge paycut (which I suspect he won't), Blues management won't have him back. If Tkachuk wasn't making $9 million next year, he'd be gone too but the Blues will have a hard time moving him. If I get even a marginally decent offer for Walt, he gets dealt. Also leaving are Mayers (a complete bust this season, never tried to use his speed), Low (marginal enforcer who can't skate and is worthless when on the ice), and Mellanby (couldn't resist taking a stupid penalty at times, will likely retire).

Which Petr Cajanek is for real? Let's say he's the 2nd-line center to start but on a short leash. (read: if there's a good offer for him, move him along.) If Cajanek is sent packing, John Pohl becomes this team's 2nd-line center.

This means there's spots to be won on the wings...and the Blues can't fill all of those spots from within. Sejna could get another crack on the wing with Weight, but may need more time at Worcester. Zakharov will be a top-6 sniper one day...but not in '04-05.
LIKELY '04-05: Weight, Cajanek/Pohl, Sillinger, Drake, Boguinecki, Martins, Tkachuk (until he's traded), Sejna (which means there's 5-7 spots to be filled here).


No promises this time.
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