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The Hangover With J.R. Mannigel

Training camp starts, Sanford gets hurt and fans will get their first look at the newly renovated Scottrade Center.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, Blues hockey is officially back in our lives. Maybe it’s not the most fan-friendly kind but at least it’s something.

In case you haven’t heard the St. Louis Blues started training camp on Friday at the Ice Zone. Camp runs from mid-morning to the middle of the afternoon, so unless you are willing to take off work to go watch you pretty much have to rely on reporters to get some idea of what is happening. Thank God for Twitter.

Friday afternoon the Blues released head coach Mike Yeo’s full post-practice press conference with the media.

Before we unpack it I want to take a second to say how much I am enjoying Yeo’s press conferences. I know some people think he is not as entertaining as former head coach Ken Hitchcock and maybe doesn’t talk the X’s and O’s as much but at least you get some honest, hard facts with him.

To often Hitchcock would talk in circles while leading the press, and the fans, on a wild goose chase that would end up right back where they started, with a coy smile from Hitch as their only reward. The need-to-know basis that he kept everyone on got really tiresome towards the end.

I feel that Mike Yeo is going to try and be as honest and upfront as possible with information involving his team. Maybe it won’t be as flashy, some might even say boring, but I feel like he is going to do his best to give us a straight answer. It is a nice change not to have to constantly try deciphering what the head coach just said.

There are three points from that video that I would like to touch on.

  • First and most importantly, the Blues want Robby Fabbri to be the team’s number one center. Maybe not today, and maybe not this season, but it is pretty obvious that this is the direction the club wants to go. Whether it works out or not remains to be seen but they are going to give him every opportunity to succeed. Fabbri has played center his entire life so so being able to do that in today’s NHL is not that far of a stretch. The only real problem is his size. At 5’ 10” and a 170 pounds he is neither big or hefty. However, he has apparently fully recovered from last season’s ACL injury so the hope is he can use his speed and vision to offset his lack of size. As Mike Yeo pointed out, they are not as concerned with his offense, it’s whether or not he can handle the defensive responsibilities that come with being an NHL center.
  • Vladimir Tarasenko is ready to lead this team. Yes, Alex Pietrangelo is the Blues captain but lets face it this team is built around Tarasenko and will live and die with how seriously he takes that responsibility. And I am not talking about simply scoring more goals. More than one reporter, as well as Mike Yeo, commented on Tarasenko’s improved English. This is good news because like it or not he is going to be the face of this franchise, to us and the rest of the NHL. Night after night he is going to have to stand in front of reporters and project his feeling about this team. The more comfortable he is, the easier it will be on him and the rest of his game. He also showed up to camp faster and in better shape. Tarasenko will never have an Ovechkin-like one-timer so if he wants to become a truly elite goalscorer his play with the puck needs to be better. Couple his hall of fame release with some new found speed and agility and the sky is the limit. Lastly, it appears that he has taken some of the younger Russian prospects under his wing. Not only does this speak to his leadership ability but it also helps the rest of the players see him as a teammate and not some prima donna superstar. Whoever ends up being on Tarasenko’s line needs to feel comfortable doing what is best for the team and not worrying about stroking his ego.
  • Unfortunately, along with the good news from camp there comes some bad. Young forward Zach Sanford, who was part of last year’s Shattenkirk deal with the Washington Capitals, injured his shoulder during Friday’s practice and Saturday afternoon we learned that he would be out at least a couple weeks. Not only does this suck for the Blues it is some real shitty luck for young Sanford who many were hoping would roster a permanent spot on the Blues lineup this year. More than likely he will fully recover from his injury but he will be miles behind the rest of the team’s younger players when he returns. In a perfect world no player would ever get hurt during training camp or practice but unfortunately things like this happen far too often.

Note: Early I thought that the open house was on Tuesday the 19th and open to the public. It turns out the open house is on Saturday the 23rd. The 19th is only for Season Ticket Holders. My bad.

Before I wrap this up I want to remind everyone that the Blues are having an open house on Saturday the 23rd.

This will be Blues fans first chance to see the new renovations that were completed this offseason as well as watch the team practice on the new ice.

Thanks for reading and Go Blues!