Friday, March 03, 2006


St. Louis Blues: February Report

Here is the latest Blues report that I put together for Fantasy

I'm just amazed at how well the Blues have played since Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger were traded. While the Pittsburgh Penguins play more and more like the Keystone Cops (and prove that Michel Therrien, once again, sucks as an NHL coach), the Blues are playing with hustle and showing good teammwork and cohesion. It's too bad they weren't this good back in October.


The fire sale began early for the St. Louis Blues.

On January 29th, Mike Sillinger, who was playing a great 2-way game for the Blues, was dealt to the Nashville Predators for Timofei Shishkanov, who was prompty sent to the minors 3 days later.

The bonanza continued as they sold away playmaking specialist Doug Weight to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 1st round draft pick, Magnus Kahnberg, and Jesse Boulerice on January 30th.

Amazingly, the team responded with a 4-1-1 record in February, including wins over Dallas, Edmonton, and Vancouver, before the Olympic break broke up that short-life burst of life.

The Torino Winter Olympiad saw three Blues in action:

Christian Backman played a key role for the gold medal Swedes with 1 goal and 2 assists in 8 games.

Keith Tkachuk was the most disappointing of a disappointing American team. Keith finished with 0 points and a -5 on the big ice.

Petr Cajanek was also rather unimpressive in a smaller role for the Czech Republic, finishing with just a goal in 7 games.

As the Blues return to the ice for March, there is little left to ask but “Who’s next?”. Keith Tkachuk, Vladimir Orszagh, Eric Weinrich, Scott Young, and Dean McAmmond could all be useful parts to a contending team.

Scott Young did not seem to miss Doug Weight’s playmaking very much as he took it upon himself to dish a few nice passes of his own. 1 goal and 5 assists in 6 games for the old winger was quite unexpected.

Petr Cajanek, now the lone creative playmaker on the Blues, really kicked his game into high gear during February with 2 goals and 6 assists in 6 games. With Weight gone, Cajanek is being counted on to create chances for his teammates and will get all the offensive ice-time he can handle. Cajanek is also centering Tkachuk, which will greatly help his fantasy value.

Keith Tkachuk was a dud at the Olympics, but continued his fine play with the Blues. When healthy, Tkachuk has been one of the best offensive performers in the league this season. Overall, Keith has 23 points in 16 games. His February totals were 3-5-8 in 6 games.

Offensive defenseman Dennis Wideman continued to produce with 1 goal and 3 assists in 6 games while improving his defensive play. With 21 points in 42 games this season, Wideman has provided good fantasy value for anyone smart enough to snag him from the waiver wires and free agent pools.

Lee Stempniak continued his blazing hot/cold pattern with 5 goals and 2 assists in 7 games after earning a callup from a month-long AHL exile. If his pattern holds, he’ll probably get maybe 1-2 points next month as the adrenaline wears off.

Newcomer Vladimir Orszagh finally readjusted to the NHL and provided 3 goals and 3 assists in 6 games. As the anchor on the second line, Orszagh has been counted on to provide more offence that he was in his days with the Nashville Predators. Orszagh is also getting loads of Power Play time, so now might be a good time to pick him up in your league if nobody else has.

After a torrid November, defenseman Kevin Dallman saw a major decrease in his ice time and cooled considerably, finishing with just 1 assist in 5 games.

Eric Weinrich, has not produced much since losing his Power Play time to the likes of Dennis Wideman. Weinrich had his second straight tough month offensively with just 1 assist in 6 games. He provides a steady defensive presence, but his offensive value continues to shrink.

Barret Jackman continues to be THE ROCK on defence, but his offensive value continues to be almost-nil after another quiet month (2 points in 6 games).

Despite putting up a great 4-1-0 record in the month, starting goaltender Curtis Sanford actually had his worst month this season. In 5 games, Sanford had a 3.55GAA and 88.1SV%. Fortunately for him, the Blues have been scoring so many goals that it hasn’t mattered.


After playing great and having nothing to show for it, Sanford managed to find wins after playing some of his worst hockey of the season. Sanford has been entrenched as the #1 netminder and has provided stability and competence to this position.

However, Patrick Lalime found himself promoted to the big club after his exile to the Peoria Rivermen (AHL) and could make things interesting down the stretch. Lalime started one game and played in another for the month, finishing with a 2.34GAA and 93.0 SV% in his short sample of playing time.

Youngster Jason Bacashihua was put on the Injured Reserve on January 22nd due to a faulty left shoulder. His January was not one to remember with a 0-2-0 4.04GAA 86.3SV% performance, and he did not play at all in February. Jason continues to show his great athleticism, but also his lack of fundamentals. If Lalime is with the Blues to stay, expect “Cash” to get a demotion upon his return to further develop his game.

The Blues success in February came mainly from their forward corps going on an offensive binge after the trades of Sillinger and Weight.

With those two gone, Vladimir Orszagh and Petr Cajanek moved up to the first line to play alongside Keith Tkachuk.

Veteran Dean McAmmond was shifted to center and now anchors the second line, a very unusual position for him. Scott Young and young Lee Stempniak provided a surprising amount of offence on the second line along with Dean.

The third line of Mike Glumac, Jay McClement, and Dallas Drake was both defensively responsible and offensively productive. After a brief AHL demotion earlier this season, McClement has reasserted himself as a useful 2-way player.

The fourth line sees the likes of Trent Whitfield, Ryan Johnson, and Mark Rycroft. The ‘energy’ line provides little offence, but above-average physical play.

Jamal Mayers was put on the IR on January 31st with a fractured right foot. He should be back in the lineup and back on the third line by mid-March.

The defence managed to lose another defenseman to injury as Bryce Salvador and his -24 went down due to a left shoulder injury.

In his absence, and that of Eric Brewer’s, the defence corps has actually solidified with 3 steady offence/defence pairings.The first pairing of rock Barret Jackman and the offensive rookie Dennis Wideman continued to be an effective combination for the second straight month. While Jackman may be a big ZERO offensively, he is quite content to let the surprising Wideman create the offensive chances.

The second pairing sees the steady Eric Weinrich paired with new partner Matt Walker, who returned from a strained knee injury. Both defensemen provide little offence (1 point between the two of them for the month), but provide the best overall defensive presence between the two of them.

Struggling offensive-minded rookie Kevin Dallman was demoted to the third unit to play alongside Christian Backman, who has managed to stay relatively healthy after a nightmare first half of the season.

The ineffective Steve Poapst remains the team’s seventh defenseman and finds himself in the coach’s doghouse after his poor play and defensive miscues. Steve played only two games in February and doesn’t figure to draw into the lineup unless Kevin Dallman continues to struggle.


The Blues Power Play slipped a bit despite the offensive explosion, falling from 21st to 24th with a 15.80% success rate. Dennis Wideman (2PPP) continues to be the main man on the point, especially with Doug Weight traded. Petr Cajanek (4PPP, all assists), Keith Tkachuk (4PPP) and Scott Young (5PPP) were the main contributors with the man advantage.

After excellent on the PP during January, Dallman did not register a single point with the man advantage during February. The second unit of Vladimir Orszagh (1PPP), Lee Stempniak (1PPP), and Dean McAmmond (0PPP) get their offence during even-strength situations. This is always a cause for alarm, as players who rely purely on even-strength situations for their offensive numbers don’t tend to carry hot numbers for the long haul.

Interesting stats: Jamal Mayers has 21 points this season, none of them with the man advantage. Scott Young has 27 of 37 points on the PP this season for a team high 73%.

The Penalty Killing unit improved after three straight months in 22nd place, and now sits at 19th spot overall with a success rate of 81.1%.

The Blues remained 30th overall in the NHL with a collective -51, which represents a 0 +/- from January. It’s strange to see that the Blues did not move up the charts in this area despite the fact that a lot of their offence came at even strength. The defensive and goaltending lapses account for much of this lack of movement.


After a quiet February, March was feature a condensed schedule of 16 games in 31 days, all against Western Conference opponents.

The schedule is fairly balanced with 7 away and 9 home games, and 2 games apiece against the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Columbus Blue Jackets.

In the midst of this intense schedule will be the numerous trade rumours and rookie tryouts that will make the Blues roster more fluid than water. It will give fans a chance to get a good look at the Blues rookies and prospects as they get more of a chance to shine. If any of the veterans should be traded, they could easily explode and produce even more with their new squads.

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