Friday, December 02, 2005


St. Louis Blues: November Team Report

One of my new gigs this year is to write about the St. Louis Blues once a month for, a newer venture which is developing into a great one-stop shop for everything related to Fantasy Hockey. If you are into fantasy hockey, I suggest you bookmark that site.

It's hard to be a Blues fan, and it's also hard to write about the Blues. If you have many players from the Blues on your fantasy team, chances are that you have already given up. How can you write about a team with few players of any value? It's not easy, but I like a challenge :)

This report was written on the 29th, before the Blues picked up Simon Gamache on waivers and before their win over Columbus last night.

(And congrats to Jaroslav Balastik for his FIRST NHL GOAL! Congrats to Gamache for his first as well in the win.)



Things have gone from bad to worse for the Blues as another key player, defenseman Eric Brewer, was seriously injured for 1-2 months with a separated right shoulder. Meanwhile, the losses continue to pile up and the Blues are in a race with Columbus and Washington for the best Entry Draft lottery position.

Since the last team report, The Blues have gone 2-10-1 and are now last place in the NHL, 1 point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets. Overall, the Blues are 4-15-3.

After an awful 11 game losing streak, the Blues saw a bit of light with a 2 game winning streak against Columbus and Detroit (November 16th and 19th), but have gone back to their losing ways with 3 straight losses, including a tough 4-3 loss to the Blue Jackets on the 26th.

For a team as thin as the Blues, the key injuries to Keith Tkachuk (cracked ribs), Eric Brewer, and Christian Backman have hurt the team considerably. Without these key players, the Blues are essentially an AHL team and it shows.

The Blues are 29th in offence with 58 goals (ahead of the woeful Blue Jackets) and 29th in total defence with 89 goals against (ahead of only Washington).

22 year-old unheralded rookie Lee Stempniak has turned into a surprising offensive contributor for the Blues recently. Lee ended the Blues grotesque losing streak a 2-point effort in the 2-0 victory over Columbus. For the month, Lee had 3 goals and 4 assists in 11 games.

2nd line centerman Petr Cajanek has continued his solid playmaking, although he cooled off from a very hot October. Cajanek finished with 7 points (all assists) in 11 games along with a -4.

The hottest player of late has been 2-way center Mike Sillinger. After a cold October (4 points in 11 games), Sillinger exploded for 5 goals and 5 assists in 11 November games. 6 of those 10 points came on the Power Play, as Sillinger has been promoted to a more offensive role as the Blues try and find scoring from anywhere and anyone they can. For the Blues, this is as ‘hot’ as hot gets.

Two-way winger Dean McAmmond missed some time in November due to injury, but did pick up 5 goals (and 0 assists) in 8 games and leads the Blues with 9 goals overall.

Most of the St. Louis Blues are quite cold, and few of them make a very wise fantasy investment as there is no real upside.

Jamal Mayers: From the last Blues report:
“If you have Mayers in your league, now would be good time to cash him in while his stock is higher than it ever has been”.
Well, reality decided to wake up and pay Jamal a visit. After posting 7 points in his first 9 games, Mayers has cooled considerably with 3 points in his last 12 games.

Rookie Jay McClement was doing a solid job defensively and looked like a good dark-horse pick in deep leagues, but Jay went ice-cold with just 1 point in his last 9 games. He has since been demoted to the AHL on November 27th.

The coldest performer continues to be goaltending ‘savior’ Patrick Lalime, the man who was expected to give the Blues the ‘money’ goaltender that they have not had since Curtis Joseph.

Lalime’s stats have dipped even more since October, as he went from a 3.60GAA to a 4.00GAA, an 88.4 SV% to an 86.7 SV%, and a 2-9-3 record overall. If the Blues didn’t have so much money invested in him (and they couldn’t get rid of his contract if they wanted to), Lalime would quickly be out of a job.

Defenseman Bryce Salvador continues to struggle in the “New NHL”, as he finished with 2 points and a -7 for November after posting 0 points and a -5 in October.

Patrick Lalime continues his descent into the 1980s with a Goals Against Average of 4. Lalime has let in too many terribly soft goals and has not been able to hold the fort while the defensive walls crumble around him.

The mature 30-year old Reinhard Divis was given a small chance to take the ball and run with it, but was demoted on November 13th after playing even worse than Patrick Lalime. Divis had a 4.93GAA and a 84.5 SV% in 5 games before his demotion.

Curtis Sanford was recalled to replace Divis and basically was dressed in favour of Lalime the past 2 weeks and earned those 2 Blues November victories while being named the NHL’s Defensive Player of the Week (shared with Toronto’s Brian McCabe) on November 21st. Unfortunately for the Blues, Sanford has come back down to Earth with 3 straight losses. Sanford has a 3.22GAA and 89.1 SV% in 5 games. Neither Blues goalie is a good fantasy bet and is most likely going to hurt your team badly with goals against and losses.

While Keith Tkachuk was out for an extended period of time, wingers such as Dean McAmmond, Len Stempniak, and Scott Young have been asked to fill in offensively but have not given talented playmaking centers Petr Cajanek and Doug Weight bonafide wingers to dish off nice passes to. While coach Mike Kitchen mixes and matches the ‘hot’ hands with his top centers, the 3rd and 4th lines have provided almost nothing offensively.

The speedy Eric Boguniecki was looked upon to provide some offence in the new open NHL, but has only put up 3 assists in the 7 games since he recall from the AHL.

Dean McAmmond has been a very good signing for the Blues early in the season and had 5 goals in 8 November games. While Dean does not bring the total offensive package that the Blues need, he is one of the few players that can be counted on to provide a good and consistant effort on a nightly basis.

New captain Dallas Drake was starting to shed is “Dirty Dallas” label before getting suspended for two games on October 28th for an illegal check. While Drake has been getting excellent reviews for his defensive ability and leadership, he provides no offence as he had just 1 point in November. Drake is great for real NHL teams, but provides little or no value to fantasy clubs at this point in time.

The biggest and best news of late has been the fact that winger Keith Tkachuk has returned from his cracked ribs and has posted 1 goal and 1 assist in the 2 games he has played since his return. If Tkachuk can get going offensively, Doug Weight’s fantasy value should increase and the Blues might be able to win more than 2 games a month.

Eric Brewer had been showing signs of improvement just before his injury. In his absence, more ice time has been given to rookie Jeff Woywitka, who has struggled badly and can barely maintain a lineup spot, and Dennis Wideman, who has 0 points and is -2 in 8 games.

Eric Weinrich has been the glue that has held together whatever defence the Blues have against the opposition. After 23 games, Eric has 9 points and is just -3 (a big accomplishment) while logging just under 23 minutes of ice time per game.

In the absence of Brewer, Barret Jackman has been playing well defensively after returning from injury and provides a punishing presence on the back end without the mistakes that a Bryce Salvador tends to make.

Sophomore Christian Backman is 2nd on the Blues on ATOI with 23:29 per game, but has struggled with his defensive decision making over the past month and also missed some time due to injury. Backman may wear down with his heavy game load and lack of experience.

Bryce Salvador continues to lead the Blues in PK ATOI with 5:18 per game, but he continues to struggle with the speed and the rules of the “new NHL” game and has been rather exposed since the loss of his regular partner Al MacInnis. He, along with Jackman, provides the only real nasty physical presence on the Blues backend, so he is still valuable to the Blues for lack of a better alternative.

Andy Roach, the Power Play specialist, has seen action in just 5 games, all of which were in October. Coach Mike Kitchen had no confidence in Andy’s defensive abilities, so Roach was demoted on October 31st. Roach played just 1 game with the Peoria Rivermen before suffering an injury.

After starting the season with a fairly decent Power Play (13th best in October), the Blues have fallen to 25th overall with a 14.00 % success rate (down from 18.5%). While Mike Sillinger had 6 Power Play points in November, Petr Cajanek slipped to just 4 PP points during the month.

The Penalty Killing unit has also taken a similar plunge as the Blues have dropped from 12th to 22nd place over the span of a month. The Blues PK success rate is down from 83.9% to 80.9%.

On the Power Play, the Blues have tanked as playmaking centers Petr Cajanek and Doug Weight (4 PP points in November) have not been able to generate offence and create opportunities. The Wingers the Blues do have fail to capitalize on most good opportunities. Only Scott Young (5 PPP in November and the hot Mike Sillinger have done much of anything in that regard. Weight logs up an incredible 7:50 in ATOI on the PP per game, so his lack of production is alarming. Keith Tkachuk should be able to park his large behind in front of opposing goalies and turn around the fortune of the Blues Power Play.

The lack of a true offensive defenseman has hurt the Blues as Doug Weight and Scott Young often have to man one of the PP point positions. Eric Weinrich currently leads Blues defensemen with 5 PPP this year and Backman, Brewer, and the demoted Andy Roach all have just 3 PPP.

The Blues goaltending woes and defensive struggles have been the main cause of their PK troubles. Forwards Dallas Drake and Mike Sillinger continue to do good yeoman-like work on the PK, but there isn’t much in the forward corps that can be counted on to kill penalties. Rookie Jay McClement was demoted, so PK ice time has been given mainly to Petr Cajanek, Jamal Mayers, and Ryan Johnson. All 3 of these forwards have done a poor job on the PK and would not normally be used in these situations on stronger teams.

The one area where the Blues improved upon in November was their ability to draw penalties. After finished October ranked 27th in Power Play opportunities, the Blues rose to 16 in November and now have 150 opportunities overall. It’s just a shame they couldn’t score on more of them.

On the flip side, the Blues have been lacking discipline and have been giving up more Power Plays against over the past month. The Blues now rank 22nd with 141 Power Plays against.

The Blues also slipped from 28th to 29th in even strength play as the Blues now have a collective -24 after finished October with a collective -8.


The Blues will have a busy December with 14 games during the month. Apart from the opening derby against Columbus, the Blues will play against some very tough opposition in most of their games, including twice against the surging Dallas Stars. Only 3 of the 14 games are against division opponents (and 0 against Detroit), so some boiling rivalries will cool down over the Christmas holidays.

Until the Blues can find a goaltender who can stop the puck and get their moribund Power Play to click, it will be a very Blue Christmas in St. Louis.

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