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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 12:49 pm 
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Blues look for improvement from within

BY JEREMY RUTHERFORD • jrutherford@post-dispatch.com > 314-444-7135 | Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 12:00 am | (11) Comments

The Blues say they’ll look for bounce-back performances from Brad Boyes (left) and David Backes and count on further maturation from T.J. Oshie, David Perron and Patrik Berglund as they search for offensive improvement. (AP file photo)

Like many Blues fans heading into the offseason, forward Brad Boyes was curious to see who the club might add to its crop of forwards.
Boyes, who finished with 14 goals, was part of a struggling offense in 2009-10, which at season's end seemed in need of a goal-scoring threat.
"At first, you want to see what's going to happen," Boyes said. "But the way it's looking now, we're going (to stand pat) and I'm looking forward to that."
The combination of the Blues' budget and the team's philosophy of continuing to grow from within kept the club out of the free-agent market. Instead, the Blues say they'll look for bounce-back performances from Boyes and David Backes and count on further maturation from T.J. Oshie, David Perron and Patrik Berglund as they search for offensive improvement.

"We have players that we believe can perform at a higher level than they did last year," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "We also have some players who are going to be asked to take a larger role. When you combine those two things, we feel that we had the depth that was necessary to compete."

As the Blues search to replace their major investor, TowerBrook Capital Partners, the budget has presented some constraints. The payroll for next season is around $40 million — roughly $8 million less than last year — although the Blues still have to re-sign Erik Johnson, Perron and D.J. King.

Armstrong said that budget limitations aside, the Blues aren't wrong to count on more production from their current roster.

"You have to put (the team) together within the economic framework ... but you're going by the history of how they've played," he said.

Boyes and Backes combined for 64 goals in 2008-09, but last season the two tallied 31 goals. Boyes had 43 goals in '07-08 and 33 in '08-09.
"I need to get back to playing with an open mind and being the goal scorer that I know I can be," Boyes said.

Berglund, who scored 21 goals and 47 points as a rookie, regressed last season, netting 13 goals and 26 points.
"Whether he's a No. 2 center or a No. 3 center, he's going to be a player definitely counted on in our group of nine," Armstrong said.

Although Perron reached the 20-goal plateau and Oshie added 18, Blues coach Davis Payne believes there's room for improvement from each young forward.

"They're not waiting in line anymore; they're in front of the line," Payne said. "We feel we have huge growth potential available to us."

The Blues are hoping the trend they ended on last season will continue. The team finished 17th in the NHL in goals scored last season with 2.66 a game. That average climbed to 2.85 in the final 41 games under Payne, after a 2.46 average under ex-coach Andy Murray.

"It was part of the process of playing more of a directed game," Payne said. "We were moving well and putting the puck into certain areas. But most of all, it was a mind-set of playing at people and playing an aggressive style."

The Blues, however, have lost two veterans who combined for 31 goals and 75 points last season. Keith Tkachuk has retired and Paul Kariya is a free agent who won't be re-signed by the club.

Kariya scored 10 of his 18 goals and had 24 of his 43 points in 37 games under Payne.

"Our younger players have maybe played in the shadows of some more experienced players," Armstrong said. "When you have those experienced players around, there's a ... I don't want to say an 'obligation' ... but the coach feels comfortable putting them out there, so other players have to follow in underneath that.

"Right now, we don't have any players on our roster with that deep Hall of Fame résumé, so I think it's a great opportunity for the coach to play the players he believes he can win with on a nightly basis."

Even after Monday's signing of Ilya Kovalchuk by the New Jersey Devils, there remain some decent free-agent options: Alexander Frolov, Lee Stempniak, Alex Ponikarovsky and Eric Belanger to name a few.

But the Blues aren't interested.

"We have to find out what level we can take our game to both on and off the ice," Armstrong said. "It's going to be a very interesting training camp and season, finding out which young players can take the next step and which middle-aged players have leadership qualities to lead the team through thick and thin times."

Added Boyes: "I think the biggest thing is, we can only go up from here.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:13 pm 
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:14 pm 
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Disagree.

This act is getting old already. The Blues needed to make some moves this offseason. A blind man could have seen it. This will be the 3rd year in a row where management says "hopefully the kids will carry us" and they haven't yet.

A full year of bringing the Payne + more ice time - veterans I really don't think is going to turn everyone around into playing better.

I understand the budget problems, but I just do not agree with this whole philosophy. I'm not saying trade them all, but we have made literally ZERO moves outside of goaltending. I doubt any of us expected that.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:21 pm 
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WaukeeBlues wrote:
Disagree.

This act is getting old already. The Blues needed to make some moves this offseason. A blind man could have seen it. This will be the 3rd year in a row where management says "hopefully the kids will carry us" and they haven't yet.

A full year of bringing the Payne + more ice time - veterans I really don't think is going to turn everyone around into playing better.

I understand the budget problems, but I just do not agree with this whole philosophy. I'm not saying trade them all, but we have made literally ZERO moves outside of goaltending. I doubt any of us expected that.



My thought is even if they young guys get more ice time and score more goals....even 31 more goals combined.....that puts us right where we were last year which was only good enough for 17th.

I'd just really like to see them add add one established forward who practically guarantees 15 to 20 goals. I can't believe I'm going to say this.....but about what Paulie would offer, but at a much lower cost.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:28 pm 
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To quote Rob Schneider in Waterboy: "Oh no, we suck again!"

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:32 pm 
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"Literally ZERO moves"

??

Maybe no significant moves, but we've made moves.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:38 pm 
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It's starting to look like our "esteemed" owner has been possessed by the soul of Bill Wirtz. Dollar Dave rides again.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:54 pm 
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Nyghtewynd wrote:
It's starting to look like our "esteemed" owner has been possessed by the soul of Bill Wirtz. Dollar Dave rides again.


For the alleged "one of the most ambitious offseasons in the history of Blues hockey" this one has definitely been a downer.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 2:13 pm 
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DAMN IT :!: Sign a free agent we didn't trade for! Get Lee back in blue!

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 3:04 pm 
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Ok we all expect certain guys to step it up. That's common sense.
But why are Jackman and Brewer both still on this team!?!?!
I have a feeling that after every game this year were going to be pissed at one of those two. Just like the past couple years, nothing will change.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:10 pm 
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The Blues are a frustrating team to follow. Over the past ten years it has been an equal split of "next season the veterans (Weight/Tkachuk) will step it up" for five years and more recently "next season the youth will arrive or improve". I'm not sure this franchise will ever commit to building a championship caliber team. The fanbase has been willing to wait, but it must be within reason.

As it currently stands there is $16,689,167 in cap space (not including DP/EJ). I don't expect the Blues to reach the ceiling, but this is getting old!


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:15 pm 
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I guess I might be in the minority, but I thought it was nice to hear some of those things said. We have slowly been building a team from within the past few years and it's refreshing to see. I grew up watching this team spend too much to try and get that last little bit to get to the end. I'm still willing to give us a couple more years. I believe that we have the talent to compete. I really want to see what a rookie coach like Payne can do with one full year.
Sure it would have been nice to sign a big name but at what price? In a couple years we may have to spend loads of money to keep our team together.

:goblues:

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:19 pm 
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philco_3 wrote:
DAMN IT :!: Sign a free agent we didn't trade for! Get Lee back in blue!

:plusplus: :plusplus: I whole heartedly agree.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:40 pm 
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abc789987 wrote:
Sure it would have been nice to sign a big name but at what price? In a couple years we may have to spend loads of money to keep our team together.

:goblues:


I've heard this argument a number of times, but I'm not sure it is true. Which players on our roster will require "loads of money" to sign? Johnson - yes, Perron - maybe. I really doubt the 50 point seasons Oshie/Berglund/Backes are capable of should be worth more than 3-4 million/season. These guys (with the possible exception of Backes due to strength/leadership) are just like Lee Stempniak who is still unsigned and won't be worth what he's paid.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:42 pm 
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Johnson will be a complete badass. We all know that.
Perron on the other hand has proven jack shit. This is his year.
They better pay Johnson what he deserves. Kid is awesome


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 12:24 am 
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Prngr44 wrote:
Nyghtewynd wrote:
It's starting to look like our "esteemed" owner has been possessed by the soul of Bill Wirtz. Dollar Dave rides again.


For the alleged "one of the most ambitious offseasons in the history of Blues hockey" this one has definitely been a downer.


I agree...


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 7:16 am 
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BSNoseblunt wrote:
abc789987 wrote:
Sure it would have been nice to sign a big name but at what price? In a couple years we may have to spend loads of money to keep our team together.

:goblues:


I've heard this argument a number of times, but I'm not sure it is true. Which players on our roster will require "loads of money" to sign? Johnson - yes, Perron - maybe. I really doubt the 50 point seasons Oshie/Berglund/Backes are capable of should be worth more than 3-4 million/season. These guys (with the possible exception of Backes due to strength/leadership) are just like Lee Stempniak who is still unsigned and won't be worth what he's paid.


But this is the way I look at it...we spent 4 mil on Jay McKee, we spent 6 mil on Paul Kariya, we've got 4 mil out each for Brewer and Jackman. Two of those were FA signing and two were overvalued re-signings. I'm okay with not going out and spending 4-5 mil on Frolov or someone like him who will only disappoint at that type of salary. I believe next year's crop of FA's is much stronger than this year's. According to JR's chat, he believes the Blues are waiting for next summer for a big move. We'll see I guess. I thought this was the year, but a trade for Halak was a big move. One piece at a time, we aren't far off.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:03 am 
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I'm sorry, but I just don't see how anyone can be bothered about this upcoming season the way it's being sold. Last year's plan was a complete failure. So after the draft, the FA period, ticket increases, and a bunch of other things, this year's plan is...last year's plan. There's a difference between being a fan and being a sucker.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:18 am 
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Addition by subtraction (Kariya and Tkachuk) is a tuff pill to swallow when getting a huge (60% in my case) price increase and an extra preseason game crammed down my throat at the same time. I understand not getting in on Kovalchuk at those prices, but to not at least try to land a second tier guy like Stempniak or Frolov is maddening. Especially when the "build from within" guy that was ready to step in and help the scoring got traded for a goalie, who in the short term may or may not be an upgrade over the guy we let walk. PK and KT needs to be replaced, and now there replacement (Eller) needs to be replaced.
Kinda seems like they are rolling the dice. If the people still come out with higher prices and lower payroll, it will look better to potential investors. The gamble is, if the team sucks because of off season neglect, and people stay home, it won't even look as lucrative as it did last year.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:32 am 
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Leedog wrote:
Addition by subtraction (Kariya and Tkachuk) is a tuff pill to swallow when getting a huge (60% in my case) price increase and an extra preseason game crammed down my throat at the same time. I understand not getting in on Kovalchuk at those prices, but to not at least try to land a second tier guy like Stempniak or Frolov is maddening. Especially when the "build from within" guy that was ready to step in and help the scoring got traded for a goalie, who in the short term may or may not be an upgrade over the guy we let walk. PK and KT needs to be replaced, and now there replacement (Eller) needs to be replaced.
Kinda seems like they are rolling the dice. If the people still come out with higher prices and lower payroll, it will look better to potential investors. The gamble is, if the team sucks because of off season neglect, and people stay home, it won't even look as lucrative as it did last year.



Exactly, and ticket sales are way down this year (so far). I know personally I went from a full season to a 10 game plan and possibly a second 10 game plan, but I'm cutting back myself.

I LOVE the Halak move, I love bringing Carlo back, but who replaces KT and Paulie's 31 goals? Don't tell me improvement from with-in, because we need that anyways to elevate from 17th in the league. Also, if you want to sell us addition by subtraction, make it #5 or #4 and we may by in. I do truly believe that simply ridding ourselves of Jackman would net us 5 to 10 more goals next year simple because of his horrible outlet passes.

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