Today I had the chance to interview St. Louis Post-Dispatch Blues writer Jeremy Rutherford. Here's the transcript of the interview:
NB: What will be the biggest difference and/or change between last year's team and this year's team in your opinion?
JR: Well I think it's one more step towards the youth movement. Last year you had kids like Erik Johnson and David Perron, but this year you're gonna get two more kids in Patrick Berglund and TJ Oshie, and the management and the coaches are just gonna have to be that much more patient...because while these kids are definitely skilled and definitely gonna be good players, they're gonna take a while to develop, just like we saw with Perron and Johnson last year. I know fans are excited about these young kids, but at the same time, they want to be in the playoffs, so it's gonna come one step at a time I think.
NB: What should Blues' fans expect to see from Oshie and Berglund this season?
JR: Well, I think you're gonna see a lot of great moments like you saw with Perron and Johnson last year, but you're also gonna see a lot of mistakes, and you're gonna see them kind of try to find their way. That's why I think these development camps are great, because they can come in and get their feet wet and kind of see where they fit, but when they come in and make camp, it's gonna make a big difference with Paul Kariya and Brad Boyes and those guys out on the ice. This gives them a chance to come in and experience it, and kind of feel what it's like, and then get ready for the season and they'll know what they have to do.
NB: Of course, Oshie and Berglund have already participated in this camp last year, so they basically know what it's like.
JR: They definitely do, but last year, TJ Oshie and Partik Berglund told me they were going back to their teams after the camp was over, so they didn't have that kind of sense of urgency they have at this camp. They know that when they leave here, they have to go back and get ready and prepare like they're gonna be NHL players this coming year.
NB: Do you see the Blues adding a defenseman via free agency, or rather trying to build within their system with young guys like Polak, Wagner, Woywitka, and possibly Junland?
JR: Yeah, it's a decision they have to make whether they wanna go out and get a veteran guy that can come in here and play on the blueline, because right now, 5th, 6th, and 7th spots are gonna be guys like Polak, Jeff Woywitka, Steve Wagner...and if they think those guys are ready, then they're gonna roll with them. If they think they need to go out and get somebody via free agency, they're not gonna spend a lot of money, but if there's something in the couple-million dollar range, then they'll probably do that...but I wouldn't hold my hope out for Brian Campbell or anybody like that.
NB: That's what I was about to get to...you wouldn't expect them to spend five, six, million dollars on a defenseman like Brian Campbell, but rather somebody in the two or three million dollar range like a Mark Streit or a Ron Hainsey, somebody like that.
JR: Streit and Hainsey might be pretty expensive as well, but John Davidson keep saying that they're gonna have to make some projections to see who they think is gonna be ready. Is Alex Pietrangelo going to be ready or not? You can't go into a season thinking that you got something in Polak and Woywitka and Pietrangelo if he plays, and think that those guys are definitely gonna be able to man the 5th and 6th spots...because if they don't then you're in trouble once the season gets going. They have to make those determinations before the season gets going, and find it in free agency if they can't.
NB: You had talked to me earlier how you were at the draft in Ottawa. In your opinion, how do you think the draft went for the Blues?
JR: I think it went fairly well...it's hard to gauge those picks third through seventh rounds, but they came away with a really good player in Alex Pietrangelo, a puck-moving defenseman. He's coming off mono, but he's gonna be cleared to play July 1st, so that's why he's not out here this week. I think he's gonna be a good player. Is he gonna play this year? We're still not sure yet, but it's something to watch down the line with Erik Johnson. Then, number two pick Philip McRae...some people felt it was a little bit of a reach, but watching out here I think he has some offensive skill, but probably needs to pick up the speed like a lot of young players. Then, the third pick we get Jake Allen, who had a great World Junior Championship, and he's talking about taking that 10-day period that he had with Team Canada and being more consistent and playing like that throughout the entire season...so that'll be something to watch. They got a lot of projection-type players fourth round through seventh round, so there's guys you're gonna have to wait a couple of years on to see how they develop. I think overall, you give them a good grade for the draft.
NB: Lastly, a two-part question for you. In your opinion, do you see Ryan Johnson re-signing with the Blues, and if not, do you see a guy like Yan Stastny, given he re-signs, filling RJ's role or the Blues finding someone via free agency to do that?
JR: At this point, it doesn't look like they're gonna re-sign Ryan Johnson. He's 31 years old, and looking for a multi-year deal, probably in the two to three year range, and I don't know if that's something the Blues are gonna commit to. Plus, he's probably looking for something around $1.2 to $1.3 million per-year. They have some high-priced guys on this team, and maybe they think they can spend a little less in that position and give it to a guy like Yan Stastny. My bet is that they probably won't re-sign RJ, and they'd likely put a guy like Yan Stastny in that role.