Friday, May 18, 2018

Schwartz to miss rest of World Championship with shoulder injury

Blues say left wing will be ready for opening of training camp in September, 
was hurt in third period of Canada's 5-4 OT win over Russia in quarterfinal game

BY LOU KORAC
Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz will miss the remainder of the IIHF World Championship with a right shoulder injury.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz had four assists for Team Canada during the IIHF World
Championship but will miss rest of tournament with shoulder injury.
The Blues and Hockey Canada made the announcement late Friday afternoon that he will miss the rest of the tournament, which is down to the final four, and Canada will face Switzerland on Saturday, but that Schwartz's injury will not affect his availability for training camp, which will begin in September.

Schwartz was injured during the third period of a 5-4 overtime victory over Russia in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Schwartz, who had an assist in the game, had four assists and was a plus-6 in eight games during the tournament.

He was among four Blues (Brayden Schenn, Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko) playing on the team. Originally, defenseman Vince Dunn was supposed to play as well but was ruled out with an upper-body injury of his own.

Edmundson missed Canada's opener, a 5-4 shootout loss to the United States, with a groin injury but has since played in the past seven games.

Schwartz played in 62 games for the Blues during the 2017-18 season and recorded 59 points (24 goals, 35 assists); he missed 20 games with a fractured right ankle blocking a shot on Dec. 9 against the Detroit Red Wings.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Jordan Kyrou named OHL player of the year

Blues prospect, a 2016 second-round pick, named 
Red Tilton Award winner, led Sarnia with 109 points

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The icing on the cake came for Jordan Kyrou in the form of the Red Tilson Trophy on Thursday as the Ontario Hockey League's Player of the Year.

Now is time for the Blues' second round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to see if he can hone his craft at the sport's highest level.
(Sarnia Sting photo)
Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou was named the Red Tilson Award winner as
the OHL's Player of the Year on Thursday.

Kyrou, who finished his fourth season with the Sarnia Sting with 109 points (39 goals, 70 assists) in 56 games, won the prestigious award with 235 votes and 40 percent of the first-place votes, ahead of Sault Ste. Marie's Morgan Frost (191 points) and Aaron Luchuk of Barrie (165 points).


Kyrou becomes the first Sting player to win the award and follows Alex DeBrincat (2017), Mitch Marner (2016) and Connor McDavid (2015) as players of the year. 

"I just feel surreal, first off," Kyrou said in a conference call Thursday. "To be named most outstanding player is unbelievable and to have my name next to past recipients who have won this award is incredible. A lot of credit goes to my teammates and coaching staff and the Sting organization. They've done a lot with me over the past four years. I just really want to thank them a lot."

Kyrou, the Sting's captain this past season, became the second draft pick in Blues history (Doug Gilmour, 1983) and the first Sting player to capture the Red Tilson Trophy. His 109 points was third in the league and 70 assists tied for a league high as were his 1.95 points-per-game average while leading Sarnia to its best regular season in franchise history (46 wins, 97 points).

"Just seeing him grow the last three years on and off the ice, his mental part of the game and his growth has really been fun," said Sarnia coach Derian Hatcher, who spent 15 years in the NHL with Minnesota/Dallas, Philadelphia and Detroit. "I think sitting down last summer when Nick and I talked, we had a pretty good idea what we had in Jordan. The fact that he won this award is no surprise to us."

Sting general manager Nick Sinclair said he remembered Kyrou as a 16-year-old when he took part in the team's rookie camp four years ago scoring a goal that fans still talk about.

"Going back to his minor midget draft, he went through a couple key injuries that year and we weren't able to see a lot of him, but in the few times we did see him, he was a special player, someone that stood out with his playmaking abilities that kind of made you sit on the edge of your seat watching and all the electrifying stuff he had as a player," Sinclair said. "We were very fortunate that we were able to draft him four years ago. We thought he had all the makings to eventually be a superstar, not only in the Ontario Hockey League but one of the most elite players in the CHL overall. As excited as fans are when they watch him play, we have the benefit of being able to interact with him and see him on a day to day basis for the last four seasons. ...Watching him evolve over the last four seasons on and off the ice has been something pretty special.

"... Not often do players get drafted by their NHL teams higher than their minor midget drafts."

A 6-foot, 185-pound wing, Kyrou will now make the jump to the pro ranks after exhausting his time spent in the OHL. The 20-year-old will attend training camp in September with every intention of cracking the Blues roster for the 2018-19 season.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues selected Jordan Kyrou with the 35th
picki in the 2016 NHL Draft.
"I think this past season, I just developed my game a lot in more than one aspect. Just work on the little things in my game and I think that improved a lot. That's one thing that I can take to the next level and to really show that I want to earn a roster spot next season.

"Me and 'Hatch,' we've talked a lot over the past couple years and it's just things you need to work on to make the NHL, little things like winning the battles along the walls, being a lot harder on the puck and being better defensively. I think I've really improved in those little areas on the ice."

Kyrou generated 31 multi-point games and was recognized as OHL Player of the Month twice and the Player of the Week three times. The Toronto, Ontario, native also represented Canada at the 2018 U-20 World Junior Championship, collecting 10 points in seven tournament games and leading the team to a gold medal.

Kyrou finished his OHL career with 290 points in 250 games (99 goals, 191 assists) and a Sarnia franchise record in assists.

A list of previous Red Tilson winners: http://www.ohlalumnicentral.com/resources/red-tilson-trophy/.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Blues defenseman Vince Dunn

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- During the 2017-18 season, the Blues looked at a a select number of younger players, first-year players if you will, to give the chance at grabbing a spot on the big club.

Among them was defenseman Vince Dunn, a 2015 second-round pick.

Needless to say, Dunn was not on the high-end radar at the time training camp opened but quickly ascended at or near the top.
Blues defenseman Vince Dunn

Dunn completed his rookie season in fine form and hope for the future. He played in 75 games and finished with 24 points (five goals, 19 assists), a season that began as a third-pairing on defense with Robert Bortuzzo and quickly ended with a steady role on the second pair with Colton Parayko and at times, utilized with Alex Pietrangelo on the top pair.

Dunn averaged 17 minutes, 14 seconds of ice time per game, including two minutes per game average on the power play, and although there were teachable moments at times when mistakes were made, Dunn received praise from management and coaches as a player who will continue to thrive and be an impact player moving forward in the organization after completing the first year of his three-year, entry-level contract.

Dunn, 21, talked about his first NHL season, being selected for the World Championship even though he will miss it now because of an upper-body injury, being honored to be considered and what he hopes to accomplish moving forward:

What did you learn about your rookie season in the NHL?
I think it's always a roller coaster, there's a lot of ups and downs in the season. This season, we can feel bad for ourselves, I think realizing where we may have gone wrong this season and hopefully we can all come back after this summer, put some work in, and come back as a stronger team.

You were so close to making the playoffs, being one point away. How disappointing was it to be on the outside?
It's disappointing. You can see how close the standings are all year and you miss the playoffs by one win or one point. It's definitely a tough way to go out and coming into the season, with the good start we had, I think we'd probably see ourselves in a playoff spot. At the end of the day, you have to finish how you start. It's tough. We had a lot of character in this room. I think we all saw ourselves as a good contender for the Cup at the end but obviously it didn't work out in our favor.

Do you feel like you're getting better and better the more ice time and experience you gain?
I think with the more ice time near the end of the year that makes it a lot easier. It's a learning experience from start to finish. At the start, you're just learning things. Every day is a new day, every day is a new learning experience. At the end, you're kind of getting used to the routines and how guys are off the ice, how guys are on the ice, how things work off the ice and on the ice. It's just kind of adapting to a new league and a new system. I think I found myself in good positions all year. I had a lot of resources to be successful and I was put in spots to be successful. I was pretty happy with my year.

What's in store for your offseason (question was asked before the news that Dunn would be skipping the Worlds with an upper-body ailment?
I've got world championships coming up. That's exciting. That's obviously going to take a toll on my body. After that, I'll see how I feel. I'll obviously need some rest. That's quite a grind for a tournament. This summer should be a little different and I'll probably try to listen to my body more than anything. Next year, I think we all want to come in with a better way than we came in this year. Do work over the summer and we can all be better next season.

Have you ever represented Canada at the international level before?
Never played for Canada. 

How big of an honor is it?
It's definitely an honor to play for your country, represent your country. I've never been in that position before, never been on any regional teams, it will be something new for me. Hopefully a couple of guys will be joining me from the team here. I've heard it's a lot of fun. When the rounds start it gets a little more serious but I'm really looking forward to the experience.

Were you surprised with the invitation?
I was. I didn't really even know about the tournament. I was pretty surprised, at the same time I'm honored and ready to excel.

What was the big lesson learned this season?
It's not something I really learned. It's more just being focused, it's more of a mental game than anything. We've all be playing the same game since five years old. Nothing really changes on the ice. I show up at the rink and put my equipment on the same way. Nothing really changes that way. It's more staying composed in your own head. Taking everything for what it is, not getting too high, not getting too low. We've got to find a way to get compete for all 60 minutes when maybe we weren't during the year. We've got to be able win games that mean the most.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Blues goaltender Jake Allen

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- In his final regular season game, Blues goalie Jake Allen did all he could to give his team a chance to win and advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It didn't turn out the way Allen and the Blues wanted and thus ended the Blues' pursuit for a seventh straight postseason berth.

Allen's season had similarities to his 2016-17 season that saw a number of ups and downs. When Allen was on, he was on, and when he wasn't, he wasn't.
Blues goaltender Jake Allen

Allen went 27-25-3 with a with a 2.75 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and one shutout as the No. 1 goalie in his fifth season in the NHL.

It'll be an interesting offseason as the Blues reconvene and formulate a plan for the franchise moving forward, and Allen will be a topic of discussion moving forward. He has three years remaining on a four-year contract at a $4.35 million cap hit. 

Allen talks about the disappointment of the season being over, his desire to stay in St. Louis and how his workload was handled, among other topics:

Is it hard to believe that it's over?
Yeah, it's tough. It's been a tough couple of days just thinking about it and disappointing to me because we're just so used to being in the playoffs. It's crazy to think you lose by one point, and you think about how many things you could've done different. Throughout the years things could've gone differently, could've got that point somewhere else. It's tough to take, especially the way that essentially we went out.

Why were you determined not to come out of the last game despite injuring hamstring?
We had to win the game. We had to get it to overtime at least anyway. That's my job, that's what I'm here to do. I had an honest feeling that we were still gonna come back in that game, guys were gonna lay it on the line. It didn't go the way we wanted, but it was a unique situation to be in, in a game where both teams are do or die to still get in the playoffs. It was tough. It was a tough one to take. We gave it our all. They played well. It's gonna be a stinger for a little while.

How is your hamstring now? If you were still playing now, would it have been a problem?
It might've been. I don't know. Playoffs might have been a tough stretch right now, especially the first round.

People want to lump your last two years together regarding your dip in play. Do you find any similarities?
I definitely need to be more consistent as the starting goalie for the St. Louis Blues. There's no question in my mind I'm capable of it. I've shown it. It was a tough stretch, no question, for us all. But I started extremely well. I finished extremely well. I've just got to find that middle consistency. And it doesn't take a whole lot. We were right there. I think if we all had that middle part of the season back, we would've been not only in the playoffs, probably in our division second or third somewhere. We were that close. So that said, it's definitely a big objective for me that I'm gonna take a lot of accountability into next season and go from there.

Can you put your finger on your play?
I think we tried to change maybe a few things at times during the season and myself personally on the ice in a game, when I think I realize I don't really need to change much. I'm a pretty good goalie, I know deep down. I think just stick with it and trust myself and the games will come, the wins will come. I think really just the latter half of the year, I can't give an exact date, but really created a pretty good blueprint for success there. It was basically reiterating what I did at the start of the year, and I think that's something in the summer you definitely have to just go back to and rely on, and base your summer work around those points.

Safe to say that sometimes for you, it was mental? Is that dangerous thinking too much out there?
Yeah, I guess. You gotta be thinking a little bit, but just going back to just being yourself and trusting yourself. I think that goes for all of us in this locker room, especially me. I take a lot of responsibility this year for not getting us into the playoffs. It's disappointing from my end, because I'm the guy. 'Hutts' [Carter Hutton] stepped up when he needed to, but I definitely take a lot of ownership on it.

Hoe much did that final home game against Chicago sting the way that went down?
It sucks. Eight seconds, maybe nine seconds. That would've got us in. And that's how close and how tight the league is when you look at it. You look at 82 games, grind of a year, long year. Guys are battling hard. You can look at it and say that eight seconds could've gotten us into the playoffs, but there were 75 other games that could've changed as well. So that's just the way the year goes and at the end of the year, I think when you look back on it, we've never been in a situation like that here. We've always sort of solidified our spot early, which is great, but I think next year every single point we've learned is crucial. Even if you lose a game in overtime, so be it, you made positive ground and you're moving forward. I think that's something that I don't know if we really understood, but now we do, and we're gonna have to turn things around pretty quick.

Sometimes you hear a skater say a simpler, more basic approach is necessary. If that true for a goalie too?
Yeah, I think that's probably true for everyone. Sometimes you're your own worst enemy. If you can just go back to keep things simple, and being confident in yourself, more than likely, things go your way. We're all good hockey players to get to this point, you've just gotta know that.

Are there one or two things this club needs in your mind?
We have the talent, there's no question about that. We just have to, like myself, be a bit more consistent as a group and bring it every single night. It's not gonna be great all the time but we just can't have the lulls. And like I said about myself individually, we can't have 'em as a group either. Right from early October when we start next year, to the end in April, we need to have those points. Yeah, there's gonna be ups and downs but we've got to minimize them and I think that's the biggest thing, is making those peaks and valleys small.

Do you feel like you have plenty of room to grow your game?
I think growth is a term. But I think it's really right now, I've proved that I can play. It's just more consistency in finding ways to win games and that's really it. Obviously this is the longest summer I've had for a long time and probably dated way back to my first couple years in the minors. I can specifically work on certain things. Get in the gym quicker. You've got to find a way to make the positives out of all of it. It's gonna be a long summer mentally. I'll probably be bored by next week. But you've got to find a way to get better and we can still get better as a group here and myself especially.

Do you like your summer routine or do you feel like you can change anything?
No. I wouldn't change a lot for the summer routine. I feel like I always come in in really good shape. I'm an honest guy that way. I think now with Dave [Alexander's} help and being around with Dave through the year, and he's known me in year's past, we can specifically hone in on some fine-print details and come back in a great state of mind and just ready to go. I think that's the biggest thing is to come back healthy, if you're not healthy in training camp you're behind the 8-ball already, so I think that's the main point for me.

Did you ever get your luggage back from Denver?
I did [Monday] night (after the final regular season game).

Anything you do about the details in your game?
I've created a pretty good blueprint for my game over the last month of the year, and just gonna with those, specifically drive all the drills you do into those specific areas and just try to almost perfect it. Nothing's gonna be perfect, but be the best you can at those.

Any techniques you'll look for in your game this summer?
I can't see it changing too much.

Players talk about you as a level-headed guy, but when team announces you need a mental break, fans come up with the question of what's his psyche like. Do you think if people say you're a head case?
If someone called me a head case, they might be the head case. I think from a mental side, if you're classifying it as a mental break, I'm not sure when that term was delivered, but if you're playing 13 or 14 games in a row, yeah, sometimes you do need a night off. You need a mental break, because it's not your physical aspect, it's your brain as a goalie. It's preparing all day, every day, knowing you're starting the next day. It's a non-stop battle. You're always on your toes. You try to be as light as possible in there and keep your brain loose, but at the same time, you do need breaks at times, no question. Going forward, 100 percent it will, too. That's just the life of a goalie.

Do you want to be here moving forward?
I'm a Blue and this is where I want to be. I want to make sure I'm going to be secure for a while.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Blues goaltender Carter Hutton

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Goalie Carter Hutton knows his contract with the Blues will expire at 11:59 p.m. on June 30, and then he will have the option of choosing what's the next step of his career once July 1 hits.

And the way Hutton performed for the Blues in the 2017-18 season won't -- and shouldn't -- go unnoticed, and writing the next chapter of his NHL career won't last long.
Blues goaltender Carter Hutton

The 32-year-old teamed up with Jake Allen the past two seasons and in particular this past season, Hutton did all he could to keep the Blues afloat in their quest to keep their six-year playoff run alive, something they fell short of by one point.

Hutton went 17-7-3 in 32 games and led the NHL in goals-against average (2.09) and save percentage (.931) and in two seasons with the Blues after signing a two-year, $2.25 million contract  on July 1, 2016, Hutton has a huge choice to make: search for greener pastures and gauge the market for his services if he's a No. 1 goaltender or not, or continue to tandem with -- at the present time -- Jake Allen and keep that solid foundation moving forward.

Hutton talks about his uncertain future, his season with the Blues, the injury that derailed the likelihood of him having the majority of the starts down the stretch, if he'd welcome a return back to St. Louis and his disappointment of the Blues not reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs:

Have you done enough to show other teams what you're capable of, because you've shown this one what you can do? What's your level of disappointment not reaching the playoffs?
I think I've done enough to definitely show that, especially a team, my age, I think for me the last two or three years I've been a strong goalie in this league and I think the last two years playing more games I've proved that, whether it's on a two week basis, whether it's on a nightly basis, I can sustain it. So now it's just a matter of what teams want, what teams need. There's such a unique market too. I think this year there isn't a ton of goalies available. I thought the No. 1 guy was [Antti] Raanta and he just signed and a couple of similar guys signed backup deals like [Aaron] Dell and [Darcy] Kuemper, so maybe I'm like a hybrid of those two. Raanta's played more minutes and sustained in Arizona where Kuemper and Dell haven't played a ton of minutes and I think I have more experience. It's going to be interesting to see what teams want and need from my perspective. But I haven't really done a ton of homework yet. I feel like, I tried to engulf myself in what we were doing, in our culture, in the St. Louis Blues and helping this team win, whether I was on the bench or any way I could. I think I was a good teammate in that sense I tried to support Jake [Allen] as much as possible. I've made that very clear from Day 1. The overall team doing well is better for everybody. Standing here I'm thoroughly disappointed we didn't make it and partly embarrassed because I think we are a playoff team. We're not in the playoffs, but I truly think we are a playoff team, so it's even more frustrating. So now I recollect and I'm sure over the next little bit, me and my agent will make some decisions and paint a picture of what it's like right now in the market.

Can you discuss what exactly was your injury in March?
I herniated a disk in my neck, C5, C6. I messed it up. My MRI showed it up. I don't think we wanted to make it into something bigger than it was. Until I got that in place, I couldn't really do much. What they thought was little tears over time and then I just ruptured it. It was hitting into my spinal cord so then I needed, they just needed it to heel, and then once it healed … Every day I would leave the rink, get treatment, come back, play the games or practice. It was a hectic schedule but now a full recovery, I don't have issues. It's more I think moving forward a training thing, I'll just have to adjust some things the way I take care of myself, training in the gym and being cautious with it. I was sore in the morning and then I made a save, a quick look up to my right, and that's when it went, and all of a sudden, I told them, and we were optimistic because we didn't know at the time and I went to the hotel that day, I got up, I couldn't even move. We were on the road so I couldn't get an MRI. I came back in Anaheim, the doctors gave me some medication to get better, but it was only a five-day scrip, once that ended, that's when I back down again. It's never a good time to get hurt. That's why it wasn't just a sore neck it was an issue, but that's the way it goes.

Have any thoughts about where you want to go? Are you ready to be a No. 1?
I don't know what I'm going to do. Truthfully, I'm going to play it by ear. I think right now it's a good time to reflect on the season. It was obviously very disappointing the way we missed the playoffs. It's frustrating, but reflecting on the season, it was a strong individual season. It doesn't really make things easier right now; obviously we should be playing, so it's tough to swallow, but for me, we'll re-evaluate with my family, my agent, see where they stand where they're at and go from there.

What do you think is ideal for you?
I just think getting a contract … The last two seasons I've proved my value. It's a comparable league. It's the way that it works. It's a real estate market kind of thing. If you have statistics, stats kind of drive the league. I've proved that I can play in my eyes. It's a big reason I left Nashville because I wanted to play more minutes and I think I've shown that here. Whether it was once every 10 days or four times every 10 days, I've kind of sustained that. I did a good job this year carrying the load when I needed to. I did a good job of being a good teammate when I needed to. There's obviously a lot to take in. It's obviously … I haven't done a ton of analyzing it. I think my agent and I will do that and see where we're at. Right now, I was just involved in trying to get this team to the playoffs and fully putting the team before myself but now over the next few weeks we'll sit back and reflect on it and see where we're at and see where they're at. We didn't really talk a whole heck of a lot because we were worried about winning. The last thing I needed to do was be worried about a contract and I'm not going anywhere. Right now, if I'm going to sign anywhere, it's going to be here, whether it was last week or a month from now. The main thing was trying to get this team in the playoffs and now we can sit back and go over why we missed it and what's best for me and my family.

Would you welcome a return back to the Blues?
Of course. I love it here. My wife loves it here. We've made a lot of good friends, our son was born here, I love the fans, I feel like I've got a ton of support here. We've got a really good hockey team and I don't think just because this year went this way that that's going to change. I think that's just going to light a fire under everybody heading into summer. I want to be back but there's so many other things to consider and I think time right now is what it's going to take to figure that out. But right now I'm very optimistic for sure.

How would you classify your season?
Timing is everything. It's something that … I didn't try to get too caught up in it while I was playing. I really focused on winning hockey games. I think if you can win games, the rest takes care of itself, but from a statistics standpoint, if they're going to keep track, it's obviously a good thing to be in first. It's one of those things. I thought I did everything I could to help our team win and looking back, I put myself in a good situation heading into being a free agent and the way the market is.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- It would perhaps be a bit harsh to call the 2017-18 season tumultuous for Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko.

Putting up 66 points (33 goals, 33 assists) would hardly classify as a down year for many. But for Tarasenko, even by his own admission, it would be classified as a down year.

Sort of like the rest of his team.
Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko

Tarasenko did lead the Blues in goals for the fourth straight season, but the end of his season was sort of a microcosm of the up-and-down season he endured when he dislocated his shoulder in the season-finale against Colorado.

Surgery followed and Tarasenko has a recovery timeline of 4-6 months, and like his teammates, he has the time to heal after the Blues missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.


Tarasenko's 66 points this season are the fewest for him since the 2013-14 season, his second in the league, and as the Blues' game-changer, he expects more of himself even though he had a career-high 306 shots but the second-lowest shooting percentage of his career (10.8 percent).

Before he went into surgery last Wednesday, Tarasenko spoke of the disappointment of the season as a whole despite the Blues finishing with 94 points, two short of reaching the playoffs, the injury, what happened with the power play, playing on a top line with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn, :

How are you feeling?
I feel good. Tomorrow surgery. We'll see how it goes. (Tarasenko has since had the surgery and it went well).

What's the injury?
Dislocated shoulder. 

Looked like you knew it right away. Was it a bad feeling knowing you got hurt in such an important game?
The longer you play, the better you can find out if it seriously hurts or no. When it don't go away for like 10-15 seconds, you really know (it's) something serious. Of course I'm really upset it's happened in most important game of the year. It's really bad feelings to be in the locker room when the guys try to fight for a (playoff) spot.

Was it especially tough because you were going so well when you got hurt?
Whatever how was it before, the one game, everything was on the line and I don't really think about how I go before because everything, like all our minds was on that game. It's especially hard injury at that time.

What do you think happened to the team after such a fast start to the season?
I don't know. All teams go through up and downs in the year. The teams that handle it better get more success, but we don't handle it well. I take (responsibility) of it, too. I know I need to play better. I know everyone try to leave everything what we have on the ice. Something just not go the right way this year. It was a hard year everywhere around, a lot of injuries. Now we have time in the summer for those guys, like 'Army' [Doug Armstrong] and Mike [Yeo], to find out what was wrong. Of course we make our fans upset, we make ourselves upset, too. I just want to say thanks for support, especially for our families, for our friends to be with us. We will play better.

How tough is it not to be in the playoffs?
There wasn't question like five years before if we were going in the playoffs or not because we usually clinch before the last games. It is tough, and it's tough for over the season in April. Even if I don't take injury, it sucks. Like, I don't know what to say. It's really bad things. We just need to turn to ... like every day is getting worse and worse because emotions calm down and then you find out your season is over. It's not really what you want to reach for your goal.

Do you know the timetable of your injury, when you'll be back?
We have six months before season starts now because we don't make playoffs, so I think this will be enough time to recover.

The two top teams [Nashville and Winnipeg] in your division are built to win. What do you think you need to add in the offseason for you to be that team that's built to win?
It's obvious there's supposed to be some moves by 'Army,' but it's not on us to say what we need. It's other guys' job. Our job is just to go on the ice ... if we all stay on this team, just go out there and give 100 percent every night and let those guys decide who's playing and who's not.

What do you think happened with the power play and why it struggled so much?
I think (we) just tried too much. Sometimes we need to just simplify this. We have good players playing together trying to make it look nice, but it doesn't work this year and it doesn't connect. Obviously it's one of the reasons why we don't have success. Like I said, I take it on me to and blame myself because it's on me and I need to do it better, too.

What would you like to improve in your game?
It was weird year for me because I never hit so many posts and this puck doesn't go in sometimes. When it's happened, it's hard to handle. It gives you frustration to the next level. I just need to be more consistent and now I have time to work on my shoulder and stay healthy all year. I just need to get more goals.

Did you try to find yourself to be too perfect with your shot sometimes when it wasn't going in? Was that part of the frustration when it wasn't going in?
I don't know. I got the eye surgery last summer so maybe I could see it better and try to put it on a perfect spot. Sometimes and a lot of people have told me if you put it like 20 centimeters lower, you're still going to score. It's what I think during the summer and like I said, just play better.

How much fun was it playing with Schenn and Schwartz on a line?
It was ups and downs. Like sometimes puck doesn't go in. Sometimes we have 20 scoring chances a game and we don't score like one goal. It's hard to handle, but it was really fun time playing together. I think we score a lot of goals and have a lot of fun. Everything we're thinking now is upset because we don't make the playoffs and we don't play anymore.

Have you had any surgeries before?
I have a couple. 

You have a couple teammates in Patrik Berglund and Alexander Steen that have had to deal with shoulder injuries. Can those guys help you?
My father got three surgeries on shoulders, so I have all the relationships with guys, so he cal help me, too. But I talk with these guys already. I never feel without support here. Guys always help me and everything just good in this way because if there's one positive moment on this team is when somebody have problem, everyone try to help him. I don't think people feel alone over here.

What happened to cause the injury? It didn't look bad.
Shoulder dislocated. I don't know. Hockey is weird sport in a way when you can get heavy hit, you don't have nothing and then you can have small bump that cost you like six months. It doesn't really matter how it happened because it's still same injury, but for me, the most upset part is it happened in that game especially.

You mention the fans. They mean a lot to you, don't they, and can you understand their frustration of not making the playoffs?
You perform for yourself, you perform for your families because your kids are watching and your wife, your parents. But of course these people in the rink, you try and make them happy because they cheer for you. They support us all the time, especially last games here. Like I said, you just blame yourself for not making it, but we tried to. We tried to til the end. We don't give up. We all need to be better and say sorry for not making it. We let them down without the playoffs.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Blues center Brayden Schenn

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When the Blues traded for Brayden Schenn, acquiring the center from the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2017 NHL Draft for Jori Lehtera and a pair of first-round picks, it was with hope of adding an impact player entering his prime.

At 26, Schenn is entering the prime years of his NHL career, but would those prime years translate into the best seasons? Judging by his first season with the Blues, it's off to a good start.
Blues center Brayden Schenn

Schenn established career-highs in goals (28), assists (42) and points (70) having an impact role and playing consistently in the top six; he was one of two players (Colton Parayko) to have played in all 82 regular-season games, the third time in his career, for the Blues in 2017-18, and with the kind of numbers Schenn put up, the capper on a solid season would have been to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But for the fourth time in Schenn's seven full NHL seasons, he's on the outside looking in and certainly coming over from Philadelphia, where the Flyers failed to make it last season but did this year, it's a bitter pill to swallow.

Schenn talks about the level of disappointment of not being in the playoffs, what his expectations were coming here, what needs to be done to get the Blues back to the postseason and his first year in St. Louis playing with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko:

After a couple days of reflection, where's the level of disappointment not to make the playoffs?
We're all disappointed. It's a tough game to lose there in Game 82. Now this time of the year where everyone's turning their attention to the playoffs and you don't see your team out there, it's really disappointing. Playoffs are a hard thing to make. You need everyone buying in, you need everyone playing up to their capabilities and it's a tough thing to make the playoffs. It just shows you when we fell short in Game 82.

When you got traded here, you knew of the team's run of making playoffs six straight years and you had to be excited for that. On a personal level, is there more disappointment for you in that regard to miss out again after missing out in Philadelphia?
Yeah, absolutely, super disappointing. What you just said, there's six years in a row you knew you'd come to St. Louis and you knew you were going to play on a good team, especially with the start we had, too. You think you've got a chance to win a Cup and all, but when you look back after 82 games, you're not even in the playoffs. Obviously, we've got a lot of work to do this summer to get back to where the Blues are capable of being. It sucks and it's disappointing right now, but at the same time, we were pretty banged up since Day 1 this year with [Jay] Bouwmeester and with 'Steener' [Alexander Steen], 'Schwartzy' [Jaden Schwartz] going down for that amount of time was huge for us. We were one of the best teams in the league and then he's gone for six weeks and we kind of fell apart a little bit after that. It was just kind of guy after guy. We just weren't able to have a full, healthy lineup and able to compete with the rest of our division.

How much do you hope management will try to add to the depth of this team or next year in light of the injuries you had this year?
Yeah, we need depth. Every single team has depth and just guys going down and stuff like that. Guys stepped up and did a good job of filling roles, but you need players, you need bodies, especially through an 82-game season. No excuses. Injuries happen. Every team has them. We seemed to have a lot of them this year (at) key times (to) key players. You need depth moving forward. I'm sure that's something we'll probably address.

When you hear the term buy-in, what was your comfort level with this club?
It takes a while. This is all new to me. I got traded from Los Angeles when I was 19 years old. I didn't really know many of the veteran players or the guys. I was still playing junior hockey and stuff like that. I come from Philadelphia to here, it's a little bit of an adjustment period, especially not knowing any of these guys in this locker room, but it's a good group to be a part of. There's a bunch of good guys that play hard for one another in here. Now that Year 1's behind me, I obviously feel comfortable. I've had a great opportunity since Day 1 here, kind of exactly what I was looking for, playing a lot of minutes with good players and I felt I was able to show, I guess, what I have and I feel I can still get better.

How did you feel about the chemistry you had with Tarasenko and Schwartz?
We obviously had a hot start. There's no doubt about that. When 'Schwartzy' came back, it took some time for the three of us to get 'er going again. We kind of got flipped-flopped around there a little bit but towards the end, we played with each other. We feel like we can be a dangerous line, but we'll see what happens. It's obviously a lot of fun playing with two highly-skilled players that are able to create a lot of offense as well as be good in their own end.

Is there one or two things you'd like to fix for next season as a team?
The Blues are known to be tight defensively, tough to play against. If you're ever going to win, you've got to always keep that. I think offensively, you've got to score goals as well in this league and we went through a lull there where we weren't scoring a whole lot of goals. It's tough to win hockey games, and yeah, power play for whatever reason, we couldn't find the five of us for majority of ability to connect, flip-flopping guys to different spots, different setups and stuff like that. To miss the playoffs by one point having the 30th-ranked power play, that means we were doing our job off 5-on-5 offensively, but you've got to be in the top 10, top 15 at least (on) the power play if you want to do any damage.

Did you feel like the coaches did enough to mix things up on the power play to try to give you an advantage?
The other day (in the regular-season finale), they put me and 'Petro' [Alex Pietrangelo], 'Schwartzy' and 'Vladi' and 'Steener' [Alexander Steen] you'd have to say for the majority of that. It's nothing to do with the coaches obviously. It's on us. They can put a plan in place, but us as players, we've got to find ways to gel with one another, read off one another and be able to find chemistry on the power play, which we kept on going back at it and back at it. It just for whatever reason, it didn't work.

Guys were down at the trade deadline. How did you guys rally there after that?
Yeah, we felt like we were underdogs or we were banged up at the time and obviously trading 'Stas' was obviously huge for us. Everyone knows that, but guys were able to rally around that. It took a little bit a while after the deadline, but once we kind of got it going, we played some good hockey after that. Guys stepped up and played more minutes than they normally do, played bigger roles and that shows you the character in this locker room. We had guys playing good hockey for a long period of time, but at the end of the day, we just ran out of bodies, ran out of juice and like I said, it comes down to Game 82 and a tough back-to-back and we just weren't able to do it.

Was there a level of disappointment that you didn't get any help at the trade deadline?
We were for a stretch there, I don't know how many games throughout the middle of the year we were bad or under .500 hockey team so I think when Schwartzy went down, he was obviously a big piece and brings a lot of offense to our team and stuff like that. Maybe at the time, the start of the year, we were hot, we thought maybe we'd add, but when you go into a stretch where you're under .500, it's tough to add at that time. I'm sure that's something Army's going to address this summer. We'll see his attack, his point of attack and I'm sure he'll do a good job of it.

Any teams in the Central Division caught you off guard or were better than you thought they'd be?
I think if you look at the two top teams in our division right now, Winnipeg and Nashville, they stayed healthy and they were built to win. It's been a long time where they've been kind of building up for that, especially a team like Winnipeg. They've got a good team and they added at the deadline, so you never know, whoever comes out of that one, both teams are tough to play against. Even the start of our division, teams loaded up whether it's Minnesota, Dallas loaded up in the summer. Obviously they didn't make the playoffs. We know we have a tough division and it's going to be the exact same next year. Obviously hopefully add to our lineup and hopefully get healthy bodies and obviously the plan is compete for No. 1 in our division next year.

Are you fully prepared for the roster to be different when you come back next season?
Year to year, every other team, majority of teams make changes and you probably expect no different in this locker room, (especially) when you miss the playoffs. We kind of had a good start and average middle of the season and pretty decent finish for what we had. There's going to be changes; we know that. Everyone knows that and I guess we'll see what happens.

With better health next year and a couple tweaks, do you expect this team to get right back instead of more of a wholesale change?
I think if you look at the bodies we had in this locker room, we've got the horses on the backend, we've got good goalies, all of us are in our prime of our careers, whether it's 'Pary,' 'Petro,' me, 'Steener,' 'Vladi,' 'Schwartzy,' the list goes on and on there. From me personally, I don't see this as a huge rebuild. A couple pieces there and we'll be able to compete for the division next year.

You had career numbers, but do you feel like there's still room to grow your game?
Absolutely. You'll always got to find ways to get better and develop. I know year by year basis, I felt like I've done that. For me, I still feel like I can be better defensively, tougher to play against. When you're tougher to play defensively, the offensive numbers also rise. You have the puck more, but at the same time, I got a great opportunity to play a lot of minutes this year with key guys in key situations. That's what I was looking for when I got traded here. I'm looking for more of the same if not more next year.