Oh my! After a long delay, we are back on track with the St. Louis Blues “Q&A”. Today we grilled Jeff Ponder, fellow member of The Hockey Writers and put him on the hot seat. These eleven questions were meant to test him so let’s see how he did. Below is some of Jeff’s particulars and where he can be found.
Jeff’s byline (which is pretty impressive) and where you can find him.
Associate Producer at SnapCall
Contributing Sports Writer at KSDK.com
St. Louis Blues Lead Writer at TheHockeyWriters.com
1. We hit a little below the bell but have to ask. What went wrong in the
playoffs yet again last year?
Blues management all but admitted that Ryan Miller was not the key to
success when the franchise let him walk, re-signed backup Brian
Elliott and gave him No. 1 status. That idea was pushed further along
with a slew of forward signings this summer, most notably Paul
Stastny. A lack of offense was the problem before; the ship seems to
be sailing in the right direction this summer.
2. The Blues signed the number one free agent in the frenzy in Paul Stastny.
What does he bring to the table for St. Louis?
In his last season in Colorado, Stastny became more of a two-way
center that had an offensive gift (rather than a pure offensive
talent). He fits the Blues’ mold perfectly, but he provides the Blues
with that extra kick on the power play and in late-game situations.
Factor in that he’s a St. Louis native and you get a fan base that is
going to truly enjoy having Stastny aboard.
3. Going through some fantasy rankings and St. Louis has the number one
group when it comes to forward depth in the league. Why is that so?
Although Stastny, David Backes and T.J. Oshie jump out of the page at
you, the Blues’ true strength is possessing four lines that can chip
in offensively, yet leave everything on the ice in the defensive zone.
GM Doug Armstrong did everything he could this summer to grab talent
from all levels to provide the Blues with offensive depth in case of
injury. It resulted in the Blues having such a deep team, moves may
need to be made in order to provide the best players with the most
4. Jake Allen and Brian Elliott are the goaltenders going into the camp.
Which one starts the season? Which ones finishes the season and why?
After years of providing nothing but top-notch goaltending since
signing in 2011 (with the exception of a small snafu in 2012-13),
Elliott has deservedly been handed the keys to the crease and he’ll
continue to provide the Blues with more of the same; he starts the
season. However, Allen is the next big thing in the NHL, and his
ability to take goalie coach Jim Corsi’s training to heart and his
ability to compete at high levels will earn him the starting job by
the end of the 2014-15 season.
5. Is this year the put up or shut up year for Ken Hitchcock? Are we barking
up the wrong tree here?
Hitchcock stepped in during the 2011-12 season and completely changed
the dynamic of this roster. He deserves chance after chance for
turning this team into the perennial Cup contenders they are, but this
may be the last go if the Blues can’t get past the first or second
rounds this postseason. The core of this team has gone through two
coaches already (Andy Murray and Davis Payne); I think the players
should be the ones held responsible if the team falls short again, but
we all know that the sports world is a completely different animal
from the jobs the rest of us work.
6. What team should St. Louis be most concerned in the division?
Chicago is always the scary big brother, but teams on the rise include
Colorado, Dallas and Minnesota. The cop out answer is Chicago, but
Dallas is the one that most intrigues me.
7. What does St. Louis need to do to actually take the next step just to be
They did it this summer. The additions of Stastny, Finnish sensation
Jori Lehtera and a ridiculous amount of depth (including Nate Prosser,
Chris Butler, Peter Mueller and Colin Fraser) make this team a hungry
offensive lineup that will be able to fill the back of the net when it
matters most: the postseason.
8. Big things are coming up for the St. Louis Blues Face Off Show? Are you and
Mike ready for this?
There are some exciting things planned for this upcoming season. Mike
and I are doing everything we can to get the Blues fans involved in
our show, so make sure to use that hashtag #faceoffshow on Facebook
and Twitter to follow the exciting developments. Be prepared for some
zany predictions and crazy hockey talk.
9. Which player do you want to see most in training camp?
I was most excited to see Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko jump on
the rink together. They did not disappoint; in drills against the
Blues’ top defensive pairing, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester,
the two lit the defensemen up brighter than a Christmas tree. People
are raving about the Stastny signing, but bringing in Lehtera could be
the Blues’ strongest move of the summer.
10. What is on the farm that we may not know about as far as St. Louis?
Dmitrij Jaskin and Ty Rattie both had stints with the Blues last
season and prove to be the teams’ top prospects in AHL Chicago.
However, the Blues have been auditioning goaltender Matt Climie
throughout training camp and the preseason. He’s not a prospect
anymore (31-years old), but it seems he is the likely alternative if a
Blues goalie suffers an injury. He’s had some NHL games sprinkled in
throughout his career and is mostly an AHL goaltender, but there is a
reason he is beloved by Wolves fans. He’s a reliable option if the
Blues need him.
11. Where do you see the St. Louis Blues finishing in the Central Division?
Now what about the playoffs?
The Blues will be right in the midst of the battle for the top of the
Central. I still think that the tried-and-true Blackhawks will capture
the division, but the Blues won’t be far behind. This is the year the
Blues make the jump and get out of the first round, but the West has
proved to be extremely difficult. It’s a hopeful Stanley Cup Final
appearance for St. Louis this season, but I would not be surprised to
see a Western powerhouse take the Blues out in the second or third