Welcome to “Blues Notes,” a regular column discussing all the headlines for the St. Louis Blues. This week, we’ll discuss the two players coming in on Professional Tryouts (PTOs), as well as the red hot play of Jordan Binnington.
Brouwer and McGinn on PTOs
The St. Louis Blues have suffered a number of injuries recently, and general manager Doug Armstrong has made another move to address the losses. Today, he announced they would be bringing NHL veterans Jamie McGinn and Troy Brouwer in on PTOs (we’ll discuss the players shortly).
What is a PTO? In the NHL, a PTO is a unique contract status mostly used for veteran players (though it can be used for some prospects towards the end of a season). It allows a player to practice with an NHL team for up to ten days to give coaches and management an opportunity to evaluate their performance. During that time, the players can travel and practice with the team; however, they are not allowed to play in games without signing a standard contract.
Armstrong explained that the rash of recent injuries and the lack of NHL experience helped motivate the move:
We’re down to 12 healthy forwards right now. I think in our game in Calgary I think we had eight players on our roster with less than 200 NHL games, and we started five guys with less than 100, at the start of… the season. It’s an experienced League, and we just wanted to see if there are any experienced players that can help us… There are no guarantees for Jamie or for Troy, but we’re going to take a look at them.Doug Armstrong explaining his recent roster move
In the next 10 days, Armstrong and head coach Craig Berube will have to decide whether they have a role for Brouwer or McGinn. Let’s take a moment to familiarize fans with the players.
Fans won’t need much familiarizing with Brouwer, of course. He played just one season with the Blues, in 2015-16, after arriving during the T.J. Oshie trade, but it was a strong campaign. He scored 18 goals and added 21 assists for 39 points in 82 games, and scored one of the most momentous goals in Blues history to that point in Game 7 of the first round to put them past the Chicago Blackhawks (his former team).
Brouwer departed after his one season with the Blues to sign with the Calgary Flames (closer to his home in Vancouver). But his time in Calgary was a disaster. He collected just 47 points in 150 games and the team cut him after just two seasons.
Brouwer couldn’t find a home after one season with the Florida Panthers, but at just 34-years-old, and with his history with the team, Armstrong is hoping he can bring some value to his old squad.
McGinn is less familiar to Blues fans, though he spent parts of four seasons with their division rival, the Colorado Avalanche. The 31-year-old comes to St. Louis as a veteran of 617 NHL games, most recently playing alongside Brouwer with the Panthers. He has also been a frequent teammate of Blues leader Ryan O’Reilly, who was a groomsman at his wedding this summer.
McGinn has scored 117 goals and added 103 assists in his career, playing in mostly a third and fourth-line role. He would be a nice addition to the Blues’ bottom-six that just got stronger with the arrival of Jacob de la Rose. From his quotes today, he has every intention of making the team.
Though Armstrong insisted that there wasn’t a set roster spot for the players, and that one, both, or neither of them could be signed, it seems most likely that one of the two will get the opportunity. Brouwer might have the inside track given his history with the team; however, McGinn’s youth and his strong connection to O’Reilly make him a threat as well.
Jordan Binnington is Red Hot
Before we go, we should make mention of the impressive run of form for Binnington, the team’s goalkeeper. After a rocky start to the season (at least by the standards he set as a Calder Trophy Finalist last season), he has won each of his last five games. The streak started with a tough victory against the Detroit Red Wings, in which he was starting both halves of a back-to-back because backup Jake Allen had the flu.
His following four games were very strong. He stopped 122 of 129 shots, good for a save percentage (SV%) of .946 and a goals against average (GAA) of roughly 1.75. He’s a major reason the Blues have won seven games in a row.
Binnington currently sits eighth in the league in goals saved above average (GSAA) with 5.85, and ninth in SV% amongst starters with nine or more starts. The argument that he is a one-year flash in the pan is dwindling quickly.
A Brief Home Stay
The Blues have one home game on Tuesday night against the Arizona Coyotes, before heading out again for an away-and-home back-to-back with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks. Expect Binnington to start two of those three games. By the end of that stretch, there could well be more news on Brouwer and McGinn, too, so come back here for all the updates.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.