Sign in with your NHL account:
  • Submit
  • Or
  • Sign in with Google

Davidson Sees Blues Making Strides

Tuesday, 07.01.2008 / 11:00 AM / St Louis Blues - Features
By Mike Morreale  -
Share with your Friends

Davidson Sees Blues Making Strides
It was another disappointing season in St. Louis, but the Blues are loaded with young talent, and it only figures to get deeper with the addition of Alex Pietrangelo in this year\'s Draft.

One would think it’s only a matter of time before St. Louis Blues Chairman David Checketts and President John Davidson are rewarded for their industrious attempt at restoring pride and a winning tradition to the storied franchise.

With its fourth-overall choice at this year’s NHL Entry Draft, the Blues added top defense prospect Alex Pietrangelo. St. Louis has stockpiled six first-round picks in three seasons under the watch of Checketts and Davidson. Additionally, the acquisition of Manny Legace in 2006 and Brad Boyes, Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk in 2007 can only help establish a greater on-ice and locker-room presence.

Checketts and Davidson realize the fans of St. Louis deserve better because, despite the fact the Blues (33-36-13, 79 points) finished 14th in the Western Conference in 2007-08, the club still managed 20 sellouts at Scottrade Center.

“It’s rather obvious that we’ve got a long way to go, but we also feel that we’ve come a long ways,” Davidson said. “We’ve reconnected with the city of St. Louis with a 44 percent increase in attendance, and the support was remarkable. We’re excited about our future and I know that it can be a tedious plan at times when you go through the frustrations of not scoring goals or winning games. But, for myself in particular, you realize how tough a job it is to get a franchise on track, rebuild it, get it winning, get it winning long-term and have the fans appreciate it.”

One bright spot for the Blues this season was their team defense. The club finished seventh in the League with an 84.4 percent penalty-killing efficiency and behind the sterling play of Legace (27-25-8, 2.41 goals-against average, .911 save percentage), allowed 2.83 goals per game.

Legace, who at 35 will be playing the final year of a two-year contract in 2008-09, was recently presented the AT&T National Sportsmanship Award, which celebrates athletes and personalities from around the nation who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship, citizenship, ethical conduct and community services. Still, a bona fide backup for Legace is a high priority this offseason. Hannu Toivonen (6-10-5, 3.44 GAA, .878 save percentage) struggled to gain confidence and Ben Bishop, a third-round pick in 2005, has no NHL experience. This led to the acquisition of Chris Mason from Nashville just prior to the Draft.

“Our strength was keeping the puck out of our net,” Davidson confirmed. “Our goals-against was really good for a majority of the year and then faded some. Our goal scoring was the biggest issue.”

In particular, the Blues found it extremely difficult to sustain any sort of offensive attack while working the power play. St. Louis, which averaged just 2.46 goals per game this season, finished last in the League with a 14.1 power-play percentage.

“I felt a big part of our lack of production offensively, both 5-on-5 and the power play, was the inability of our team to move the puck defensively out of our zone quick enough in order to make plays that would put our forwards in position where they could create more offense,” Blues coach Andy Murray said. “We talk so much about offense, but our defensive focus in the second half was not as good. I think better play in terms of puck movement from our defensemen will really help.”

Tkachuk, who led the team with 12 power-play goals, feels players must get back to basics when given the man advantage.

“You can draw up plays and put your diagrams out, but it’s about working and having five guys being able to generate offense,” Tkachuk said. “The power play just struggled and we couldn’t find a way out of it.”

Defensively, the Blues certainly like what they see in Erik Johnson, the first overall pick in 2006, who finished sixth on the team with 33 points (28 assists) while dishing out 87 hits and blocking 64 shots. Incredibly, the Blues actually have five defensemen on their roster who were first-round draft choices.

Blues captain Eric Brewer (22 points) was tabbed by the Islanders in the opening round in 1997, Jeff Woywitka was a first-rounder by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2001, Barret Jackman (16 points) was the Blues' first-round selection in 1999 and Jay McKee (164 blocked shots) was Buffalo’s first-round choice in 1995. Matt Walker, a third-round pick by the Blues in 1998, was also a regular for Murray.

Brewer realizes the veterans must be held accountable to an extent.

“At the end of the day, if we would have scored a few more goals, it changes the outlook on things (as the Blues went 15-24 in one-goal games last season),” Brewer said. “You have to look at some of the guys who have been around and are here to get the job done. When you don’t make the playoffs, that’s the way it works.”

In an attempt to further bolster the blue line, Davidson acquired mobile defenseman T.J. Fast, 20, from the Los Angeles Kings earlier this month in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2009. In 71 games with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League, Fast had 54 points (17 goals, 37 assists) and was a plus-29. The Blues could also snare a solid defensive prospect at this year’s draft to spark their stagnant power play.

“I think what’s fair to say about the draft this year is that the No. 1 player is (Steven) Stamkos and then it’s a deep draft,” Davidson said. “Somewhere along the line here, some of the guys we’ve drafted are going to hit and we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”

Boyes and Kariya led the team with 65 points apiece with Boyes scoring 43 goals and Kariya dishing out 49 assists. Tkachuk (27 goals, 31 assists), Andy McDonald (18 goals, 34 assists) and Lee Stempniak (13 goals, 25 assists) followed next on the list in team scoring but also were a combined minus-23 for the season. Rookies T.J. Oshie (University of North Dakota) or Patrik Berglund (Swedish Elite League), the Blues’ second of two first-round picks in 2006, could offer some assistance as that playmaking forward the club so desperately needs.

Youngsters Jay McClement (22 points in 81 games), David Backes (31 points in 72 games, 240 hits) and David Perron (27 points in 80 games), the third of three first-round picks by the Blues last year, will also be counted on to pick up the slack in 2008-09.




1 ANA 66 42 17 7 196 179 91
2 NSH 66 41 18 7 196 162 89
3 STL 64 40 19 5 198 162 85
4 CHI 64 38 21 5 188 152 81
5 MIN 64 35 22 7 181 164 77
6 VAN 64 36 24 4 184 176 76
7 WPG 65 32 21 12 180 175 76
8 CGY 64 35 25 4 182 165 74
9 LAK 64 31 21 12 175 167 74
10 SJS 65 32 25 8 185 183 72
11 DAL 65 29 26 10 203 215 68
12 COL 64 28 25 11 170 183 67
13 ARI 65 21 37 7 142 220 49
14 EDM 64 18 36 10 145 213 46


V. Tarasenko 64 31 31 27 62
A. Steen 62 19 32 3 51
J. Schwartz 57 21 27 14 48
T. Oshie 56 17 27 8 44
D. Backes 63 21 22 1 43
K. Shattenkirk 49 8 32 18 40
P. Stastny 56 12 25 10 37
J. Lehtera 57 9 24 14 33
A. Pietrangelo 64 6 27 -5 33
P. Berglund 60 8 12 -2 20
B. Elliott 20 10 2 .922 2.19
J. Allen 17 6 3 .903 2.55

Single Game Tickets
2015-16 Ticket Plans
Group Tickets
Luxury Suites
Renew Your Season Tickets
NHL Ticket Exchange
View From Your Seat

In the System
Front Office
Blues History
All-Time Player Roster
Chicago Wolves
Alaska Aces

Regular Season
Practice Schedule
Promotions Schedule
Schedule Downloads

Player Stats
League Standings

Blues Overtime Blog

Video Channels
Game Highlights


Find a Player
Mobile App
E-mail Subscriptions

Hot Deals for Cool Fans
Photo Galleries
License Plates

Blues in the Community
Blues 14 Fund
50/50 Raffle Numbers

Online Store
Blues Auctions
True Blues Authentics is the official Web site of the St Louis Blues. St Louis Blues, and are trademarks of the St Louis Blues Hockey Club. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 St. Louis Blues Hockey Club and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.