The St. Louis Blues have done everything they can to retool their team to not only get them back into the playoffs, but make a deep run of it. They went out and acquired Ryan O’Reilly, signed Tyler Bozak, David Perron and Patrick Maroon and have two top prospects on the brink of joining their team in Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou.
However while answering mailbag questions, The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford (subscription required) suggests that the biggest improvement to the team should come from within as he believes that Vladimir Tarasenko has just scratched the surface of what he’s capable of. The 26-year-old has posted goal totals of 37, 40, 39 and 33 goals over the past four seasons, but he is more than capable of becoming the superstar that many felt he could be when he was drafted in the first round in 2010. Rutherford even compared him to Brett Hull.
However, the scribe says he needs to fix a few things if he wants to take that next step, including playing more relaxed and not let everything around him frustrate him. He also feels that although he’s coming off shoulder surgery this offseason, he needs to get into the best shape of his life and be more engaged on the ice.
- Chicago Blackhawks’ Nick Schmaltz has come a long way since being viewed as a prospect two years ago. Now the team’s second-line center, who many view as the eventual successor to Jonathan Toews on the first line, Schmaltz feels he’s ready to take on a bigger role with the team, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times. However, the first thing the 22-year-old must do is improve on his faceoffs. Schmaltz has struggled with faceoffs for two straight years, winning just 31 percent of his faceoffs in his rookie year, while improving to 40 percent this year (321 faceoffs won out of 801). Unfortunately, that number is still not good enough as the team hopes for closer to 50 percent. “I’ve got some stuff that I’m going to continue to work on, especially in the faceoff circle,” Schmaltz said. “If I can continue to get that up, that’ll only help our team game with the puck.”
- John Dietz of the Daily Herald interviewed Duncan Keith at the 11th annual Fan Convention on Friday and Keith, who scored just two goals on 187 shots, was quick to take the blame for the Chicago Blackhawks’ struggles last season that had them missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. The 35-year-old defender has averaged 25:13 of ATOI throughout his career, but saw those numbers decline to 23:50 last year and it might drop even further in the future. “I definitely take some of the blame from last year, knowing that there were certain things I could do better,” Keith said. “On the good things, I’ll continue to do that. Other things, I’ll try to work on and be better at.”