Scottie Upshall finished a four year stint with the Florida Panthers at the start of April. He wound up starting off the season solidly, and then an ankle injury caused him to slide down the depth chart and out of the Panthers' plans. In an interview with the Sun Sentinel, Upshall was contrite about his last season in Sunrise:
"It wasn't a great year personally,'' said Upshall, 31, who has eight goals and seven assists in 61 games, his lowest point total of his 14-year career when playing in 32 or more games. "It started off really well but getting hurt was unfortunate. I came back from that, felt good, but never really got the opportunity. Guys started playing good. It happens. It's the business of it.''
"The offensive guys you count on to score goals are the guys who play the power play. That's how you win games, on the power play and penalty kill,'' said Upshall, who averaged just 27 seconds of power-play time. "It's tough, but at the same time you don't want a guy making $3 million playing on the fourth line, too.''
Upshall helped improve the Panthers' penalty kill, and could slide in to the Blues' PK, which was ranked 7th overall last season after being the fourth-best the season before. He is also one season away from a year that saw him pot 15 goals and 22 helpers.
"It’s been a long summer," Upshall said. "It’s tough not making the playoffs and then being in a position not really knowing where you’re going for the first time in your career. For the first time in 15 years, I was going into August with my training and not really knowing where I was going. It was definitely an eye-opener. You realize that you don’t take things for granted and you’ve got to work extra hard."
"I had a chance to explain why I think St. Louis would be an amazing place to come and I think they were pleased to be able to invite me to camp," Upshall said. "They’re definitely not rebuilding, they’re trying to win, and I think Hitch was able to explain the environment to me through a few phone calls. Just having an opportunity to come into a camp like this for me is something special."
But Armstrong isn’t making any promises.
"When you get to this time of year and players are coming on tryouts, it’s a reflection of their (past) play and a reflection of the market," Armstrong said. "I think Scott’s got a lot to prove. He’s a quality person, a good personality, lots of energy and I think he can bring some of that to our team. But at the end of the day, he’s going to have to come in against guys that want to fight."
Armstrong makes it clear in Rutherford's article that this is about motivation and competition for both guys like Upshall and Scott Gomez as well as young prospects who want to show their stuff. Upshall may or may not have gas in the tank, but the young guys in camp will be dealing with some difficult competition from players who are just as hungry for a spot on the Blues as he is. Reading between the lines, it appears that Gomez may have a better chance than Upshall to crack the roster.
"I think [Gomez] can be a utility skilled player for us," Armstrong said. "His camp will dictate whether he can be a competitive player on a nightly basis or is he more of a good player in your group of 13-14 forwards that can go up and play with top-end players if there’s an injury."
Perhaps Umlaut isn't a sure-fire think for the pressbox after all.