On Friday night in Chicago, the St. Louis Blues were one of the most discussed teams on the draft floor. The team made two first round selections, including the top ranked European skater by ISS, and was involved in two trades encompassing four players and four draft picks.
The first of those trades was with Philadelphia, and it saw Jori Lehtera and two draft picks sent to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Brayden Schenn. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the deal from the podium in Chicago before the Blues were due to pick at number 27, and in doing so, became the first person to break news of the deal.
It’s possible that the surprise around that announcement was assisted by a partial media blackout from the St. Louis perspective, as the Blues are the only NHL team that was not covered at the draft by a credentialed beat writer focused on that team.
Game Time has confirmed through research and reporting that 29 of the 31 NHL teams had their reporting beats covered by an independent, credentialed writer who was present in Chicago during the draft on Friday and Saturday. A 30th team, the Dallas Stars, offered coverage through Stars Inside Edge, a contracted labor service controlled by the team.
The Carolina Hurricanes were covered primarily by Brian LeBlanc of Canes Country, the SB Nation affiliate dedicated to the Hurricanes. Coverage of the Florida Panthers was provided by Dan Dorfman, a local Chicago reporter hired on special assignment by the Miami Herald.
In all, 27 of the 31 NHL teams were covered at the draft by an assigned reporter working permanently for a major newspaper or media outlet in that team’s city.
The St. Louis Blues were not given focused coverage by a single reporter on the ground at the draft, despite being at the center of the action. The Blues entered the weekend as one of only four teams holding at least two first round selections, and yet plans were not made by local media outlets to cover the event.
St. Louis native Luke Martin was consistently listed among the top available prospects and was drafted 52nd overall by Carolina. Unfortunately, when Martin spoke to the media following his selection, his hometown paper was not there to ask him questions.
Game Time reached out to the editorial staff at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Belleville News Democrat to inquire as to their decision making process.
Reached via email, Todd Eschman, the sports editor at the News Democrat, said that the paper has “always relied on wire services and Norm [Sanders]’s local contacts to report the draft.” The News Democrat has never attended.
Roger Hensley, sports editor at the Post-Dispatch, was reached via email and declined an opportunity to comment on this story.
It should be noted that independent coverage decisions are not made by the team. Indeed, the Blues’ public relations and social media staff did an excellent job providing video coverage throughout the weekend and utilized Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest as an on-site host of that coverage.
Still, there is undeniable value in attending events and providing independent, on-the-ground reporting. Indeed, the Post-Dispatch acknowledged that value when they dispatched reporter Jim Thomas to the 2016 NFL Draft, also located in Chicago. Thomas also attended the 2016 Super Bowl in Santa Clara and the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston. Thomas was also contacted for a comment and did not reply.
Astute readers may point out that St. Louis did not have an NFL team at the time of any of those NFL events, and yet the Post-Dispatch deemed that a reporting effort worthy of the expenditure of resources.
In an era where traditional print journalism is constantly pressured by new media outlets and evolving economic challenges, readers and revenue can only be secured through strong content. St. Louis, through Post-Dispatch writers Jeremy Rutherford and Tom Timmermann and a stalwart staff of columnists, has the talent available to provide that content.
Unfortunately, the only major daily newspaper in this top 20 market made the decision that an entry draft located less than 350 miles away and attended by one of its two major professional sports franchises was not an event worthy of in-person coverage.
The Post-Dispatch and its writers have been gracious to and supportive of Game Time in the past, both in reporting efforts and on social media. That attitude is admirable and should be lauded for its inclusiveness. More importantly, the Post-Dispatch offers consistently excellent Blues coverage, but this past weekend, the powers that be decided that that coverage could be sacrificed.
That decision was unfair, unfortunate, and unworthy of both a diligent reporting staff and a supportive readership.