By Brad Lee
Blues President John Davidson is a pretty good interview. He's open about things and really gives an idea about what he thinks about the team. Wednesday morning, our friends over at The Morning After on Team 1380 interviewed Davidson. He talked about young players hitting the wall and a little bit about what he has in mind as we approach the trading deadline at the end of February. You can listen to the audio of the interview or you can read a pretty faithful transcript below.
Tim McKernan: Thanks for coming on the program. Are you with the club?
John Davidson: No, I was just in Vancouver for five days. We had our mid-term amateur scouting meetings. In other words, all of our amateur scouts came in and we met for five days going over a few hundred hockey players trying to put our list together getting ready for the draft, which will be up in Ottawa,
TM: Wow youâ€™re all over the place.
JD: Itâ€™s part of the business. I get back Sunday and then leave Monday for Toronto.
TM: The team is in the midst of its longest losing streak of the year. As a fan, I think we were taking a playoff appearance for granted. But when you look at it, that isnâ€™t a given and it's going to be a pretty difficult fight. The team is only five points out of that eighth spot. How do you view whatâ€™s taken place with the club lately.
JD: The strength of our club the majority of the season has been keeping the puck out of our own net. That could be goaltending, it could be penalty killing, it could be really good coaching where you have the best matchup possible when the other teamâ€™s best players are on the ice which makes it tougher for that other team to score goals against you. I think weâ€™ve kind of gotten away from that as a team. Manny Legace had a strong first period in Chicago before getting hurt and Marek Schwarz came in and struggled. The last two games against Nashville, Manny hasnâ€™t giving the goaltending we usually get from Manny. So weâ€™ve had three straight games where weâ€™ve received below-par goaltending. And for 99.9 percent of the season, weâ€™ve received above-par goaltending from Manny. That happens. Itâ€™s a bit of a cycle and I expect Manny to get out of it right away. Our penalty killing has slipped a little bit. Mike Johnson is out with a bad shoulder and is done for the season. Heâ€™s not a scoring-type player, but heâ€™s a very intelligent penalty killer. Weâ€™ve got to compensate for that and get better again. The power play is getting a little better even though weâ€™re not winning. Andy McDonald is a big part of that, getting healthy and getting more ice time. I also think, and this is interesting, when you get into a season with a very young team, and for the most part we have, your younger players will hit the wall once in awhile. And that includes Erik Johnson and David Perron. It just happens. These guys have never been through a schedule like this. You look at Erik Johnson and a year and a half ago, heâ€™s playing high school hockey. Now heâ€™s playing against men 35 years of age. He and David Perron have both hit the wall at certain times, and thatâ€™s totally expected. And itâ€™s up to the coaching staff, in fact both of them might not play tonight from what I understand. And sometimes thatâ€™s good. You get back in the lineup tomorrow or the following game. You have to read these players. If theyâ€™re not playing well or theyâ€™ve hit the wall, they need to be recharged. They need to get the batteries full again so they can go continue playing. Itâ€™s a little bit of everything. I donâ€™t think weâ€™re in a panic mode. Weâ€™re not happy of course but hopefully weâ€™ll get better.Â Â
Â TM: I was thinking that since the team has played the fewest number of games in the NHL, youâ€™ve got all these games in hand on everyone that that was a good thing. But if the team is starting to tire, thatâ€™s something to worry about. What do you think.
JD: I donâ€™t know if the team is tiring, maybe some guys who havenâ€™t been through it before. When you take a David Perron who was expected to play in Junior hockey this year and all of a sudden heâ€™s in the bigs, itâ€™s tough. I mean mentally, itâ€™s a grind. They donâ€™t practice like this in the junior hockey world. They donâ€™t play in the junior hockey world like they do here. They donâ€™t travel in the junior hockey world like they do here. Itâ€™s a completely different dynamic. Then you take an Erik Johnson who played for the University of Minnesota last year when they play on weekends only primarily. And a year before that he was in high school like I said earlier, this is a whole new world. In my opinion our organization, Iâ€™ve used this term before, weâ€™re about 130 games into a rebuild including last season and this season. We want to make sure we develop from within for the most part. That means we want to draft well and get these kids in the lineup like Erik Johnson and David Perron and let them grow. But part of having a young player grow is you take two or three steps forward, youâ€™re going to take a step back. Itâ€™s part of growth, maturing at the NHL level. And weâ€™re going through it. We want this team, when we get there, to be a long term good team. And you have to go through growing pains to get there. And I know our team has played well for the most part albeit not the last couple of weeks. But if we can get ourselves through tonight and tomorrow, which will be tough. Itâ€™s a late night trip through the border. Itâ€™s going to be late getting to San Jose to play tomorrow. Then weâ€™re off for the All-Star break and then weâ€™re on the road at Toronto. Then we come back home and weâ€™re home for a pretty good stretch. Weâ€™ve got to get something out of tonight and tomorrow, in Toronto and then do well on the homestand. If we do that, we'll be in pretty good position before that long road trip in March.
Doug Vaughn: You talk about players hitting the wall, and some would say watching the play of Manny Legace, maybe heâ€™s hit the wall. Does he look banged up to you?
JD: No not at all. I know he got run over in Chicago, but that happens. He practiced the next day. He actually took a pretty good slapshot off that same area from one of the players and shrugged it off. Heâ€™s 100 percent. Thereâ€™s no question his health is fine. Trust me, theyâ€™d tell me if he wasnâ€™t because weâ€™d rest him. Itâ€™s crazy to play a guy. If he canâ€™t give us good goaltending and heâ€™s hurting, then thereâ€™s no sense in having him play. Heâ€™s fine. Heâ€™s just had a couple of rough nights. When you look at Manny Legace with what heâ€™s done for us, as the old saying goes, â€œThatâ€™s hockey.â€ Youâ€™re going to have to deal with that. Just like starting pitchers, sometimes they get roughed up too.
Chris Pelikan: I know youâ€™ve said thereâ€™s no set plan for what this team will do at the trading deadline. Itâ€™s a fluid situation and depending on how the team is playing, you could bring people in or send people out. With the last five games, have you done a re-evaluation?
JD: No. Itâ€™s the end of February. Weâ€™re 34 days out from the deadline. We met yesterday and weâ€™ll continue talking. We have to have ourselves to be prepared to do nothing. We have to be prepared to add something. We have to have our affairs in order if weâ€™re going to move people like we did last season. The biggest thing is to believe in our team and hopefully get on a pretty good ride here and look like weâ€™re going to make the playoffs. The worst thing we can do is not play well, miss the playoffs and do nothing about it and then let assets leave after the season and sign with other teams while not making good deals like we did last year at the deadline to improve our draft positioning in particular where we can find guys like David Perron and others. So we really have an open mind about aspect of this whole thing over the next month and a little bit. We really have to make sure we have everything in order no matter which way it goes. Weâ€™ve been on the phone with every general manager in the league over the last week. Everyone starts to posture and figure out what theyâ€™re going to do. Are they going to be a buyer or a seller? If theyâ€™re a buyer, what are they looking for, what are they willing to give up. Weâ€™re not going to stand still. We canâ€™t. Weâ€™re rebuilding a franchise here and shame on us if we stand still.
TM: We menionted you were going to be on earlyer and we received a 1uestion from a fan via e-mai. â€œI understand that the team is still early in a rebuild and it would be impatient to expect too much too soon, but there are a lot of veteran players like Tkachuk, Kariya and an All-Star goalie. Thereâ€™s only two rookies on this team and doesnâ€™t look like a work-in-progress team. In what ways do the Blues need to improve to significantly improve before we can have â€˜sky is the limit expectations.â€™â€
JD: Thatâ€™s a fair question, and a very thoughtful question. I think when you look at our club, we have a lot of young players. Brad Boyes is a young player. Lee Stempniak is a young player. Jay McClement is a very young player. David Backes is a very young player. He has about 80 games experience, period. David Perron is a raw rookie. Our other defenseman, Erik Johnson is a raw rookie. Weâ€™ve had Steve Wagner up here and thereâ€™s a good chance heâ€™ll be here next year, a raw rookie. Thereâ€™s a good chance a kid by the name of Polak will be here next year, a big, strong defenseman, but a raw rookie. And thatâ€™s just to start. Thereâ€™s a good chance that T.J. Oshie will be here next year. Thereâ€™s a good chance Patrik Berglund will be here as a centerman next year. So you have to have experienced players to get you into a good place. A good place is the playoffs in this league. And the Kariyas and the Tkachuks they help us in that area. Our defense has been the strength of our team all year. And there have been certain times where our defense hasnâ€™t played well as a group, thereâ€™s no question there. But until 10 days we were in the six in goals against, top five or six in PK. Thatâ€™s pretty darn good. Weâ€™d like to improve the gritty forward position and the offensive, power play style defenseman. A lot of us know that. Weâ€™d like to improve it, weâ€™re going to improve it, but you just canâ€™t wave a magical wand and say, â€œOk, weâ€™re going to go out and get this guy.â€ We get calls all the time from general managers saying, â€œHowâ€™s it going? What are you looking for?â€ And theyâ€™ll tell us weâ€™re looking for a good power play defenseman all the time. Theyâ€™re hard to find.
DV: Youâ€™ve got one right there in the front office.
JD: Yeah, and he probably could still play. But they are hard, hard to find. You look in the draft, in development. You wonder if Steve Wagner is going to be that guy. Itâ€™s just hard to find.
TM: John thanks so much for the time. And have some safe travels.
JD: Thanks guys. ###
As usual, your thoughts are welcome in the comments.