Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pietrangelo: Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

The Blues went into the season last year trying to determine if Alex Pietrangelo was ready to compete in the National Hockey League. After eight games, they decided that Pietrangelo was not ready to play NHL hockey all season long and decided to send him back to his junior team, the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League.

Coming into this season, the Blues are in that same position in deciding if Alex is ready to play for the St. Louis Blues.

Now, I for one think Pietrangelo is more than ready to play for the Blues this year. He is bigger, stronger, and he thinks the game better than he did last season.

So where are we now? Seven games in and Pietrangelo has played one game. He didn’t really look out of place in this game but he didn’t really fit in either. He finished the game with 13:20 of ice time without recording a point. His +/- stat was at even and he didn’t record any penalty minutes.

After seven games, I expected to see Pietrangelo three, maybe four times. Only playing him in one out of seven games isn’t going to help him progress though. He needs to play and he needs to see ice time, which is something he isn’t getting.

Practicing in the NHL helps compared to his junior practices, but at this point, would he benefit more playing 30 minutes a night in Niagara or just in practices in the NHL? The Blues either need to figure out a way to get him into games with the big club, or send him to Niagara.

Pietrangelo’s OHL team, the Ice Dogs are already 12 games into their season. I truly believe that sending Pietrangelo back to Niagara could stunt his development as his game is miles ahead of the OHL level, but others disagree. Some say that playing Pietrangelo 30 minutes a night could help develop him into a true leader and a work horse. But when you think about it, having Pietrangelo play DOWN to the level in the OHL could hurt his game.

Pietrangelo, drafted by the Blues 4th overall in 2008, can play up to nine games before the Blues have to make a decision on his future, but at the rate things are going now, he might get nine games in around the team’s 63rd game of the season.

All I am saying is, sending Pietrangelo down could hurt his development, but right now, it’s probably better than him just practicing with the team. Unless the Blues can start fitting Alex in to real games, his development isn’t going to go along that well.

Andy Strickland has his opinion on Pietrangelo and his time here so far in St. Louis. You can read it here.

Randall Ritchey

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Around the League

I know it’s been a while since I have posted a blog, and today I have decided to run through all of the teams and talk about them, in my own opinion.

Starting with the Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

New York Rangers: I am absolutely surprised by this team. They lost a lot of their good players in the off season, and they are still pulling out the Ws. They are on a 5 win streak, and even though I don’t care much for the rangers, I hope they keep it going.

Pittsburgh Penguins: No surprise on the past Stanley cup winners. Not much to say, but I hope they won’t repeat last year. They need to lose.

Philadelphia Flyers: Has the flyers finally found what they were looking for last year? Starting out at 3-1-1 with 7 points and holding a third spot in the Atlantic Division, they are moving forward. I will continue to support the Flyers, only because Brian Boucher is there.

New Jersey Devils: A little surprised by this, but I won’t be surprised if they pick it up after some more games.

New York Islanders: I am not surprised by this team being at the bottom again. I don’t see Tavares producing that much, only 2 goals and 3 assists with a +1 rating. What happened to the guy that was all talk this off season? I would have expected a bit more, but then again it is early. NYI’s record is 0-1-3.

Northeast Division

Ottawa Senators: It’s nice to see Ottawa producing wins even with the lost of big time scorer Danny Heatley. Their record is 3-2 so far this season.

Buffalo Sabres : Two wins and one overtime lost. Will Buffalo be able to continue this sort of streak? I hope so; I want to see them continue to dominate.

Boston Bruins: They had a chance last year, they blew it. Now they are down a great scorer, and they are doing even worse. Can they turn it around? I honestly don’t think so, they will stay a mediocre team this year. Prove me wrong.

Montreal Canadiens: Not surprised at all by this. I expected the same showing we got from them last year, this year.

Toronto Maple Leafs: This is one of the teams that have surprised me the most. I honestly expected a showing of Toronto being on top of the Northeast, and riding strong. They had great structure in the off season, good scorers. Toronto scored Jonas Gustavsson over the off season, and he played in two losing games, but showed strong. I hope he comes back soon, or this team won’t survive.

Southeast Division:

Tampa Bay Lightning: I am happy to see them continue to dominate, showing a strong fight against any team they go against, even if they lose.

Washington Capitals: The newly dubbed biggest whining fan base and it rings true for the team. Six games, 2-2-2. What’s up Caps? I would have expected a better showing from Ovie.

Atlanta Thrashers: Three games, two wins and one loss. Honestly, I can’t wait to see them play again soon; they are on fire and will continue to be I think all season long, unless some major injuries come.

Carolina Hurricanes: I see these guys still struggling with their record of 2-3; I hope they can turn it around. They had long playoff runs last year, and they need to show everyone they are still contenders.

Florida Panthers: To simply put, it’s the Florida Panthers. Record is 1-4. Sorry Imber.

Western Conference

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks: I would gladly write some good things about the Hawks, but they only seem to be posers to me after the off season and all of the hype that was after them. They lost in the playoffs, and they are talked more about than Detroit? Record 3-1-1, I am sure they will continue this.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Doing good, and I hope they continue their strong showing this season. 3-1 is their record.

St Louis Blues: Surprised to see them above Detroit so far, and I hope they continue to stay on top of them. Keep it going Blues.

Detroit Red Wings: I hate them. I hope they lose to put it simply. They are 2-2 and nearly at the bottom of the division. I hope THAT continues.

Nashville Predators: Also 2-2 with the Wings and Blues, I hope they will be able to bully Detroit around.

Northwest Division

Calgary Flames: No surprise here, good scorers and Krip is still in goal doing his great thing. I hope they will continue their strong showing. Record is 4-1-1

Colorado Avalanche: Very surprised by this, with their first game beating San Jose. I hope that Colorado will keep fighting like they are doing, and I see a playoff run. Record is 3-1-1

Edmonton Oilers: Great to see this team keeping a strong showing in this division. The Bulin Wall is a great addition to the team and they are showing a 3-1-1 record.

Vancouver Canucks: Very surprised here. I would have expected more from them, they showed great promise in the off season and pre season, and now they are riding a 2-3 record.

Minnesota Wild: I still hope this team will be able to pull themselves out of the hole that was made with their record, 1-3. I will always root for the Wild, being the, in my opinion, biggest underdog in all of the NHL.

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Kings: I like seeing big underdog teams from last year pulling off great wins, but my team is San Jose, and look at these guys. Hah. Anyways, I honestly think they kings will continue like this for a while, but I do not think they will be able to continue it all season. Surprise me, LA.

San Jose Sharks: So far, so good. I like what I see with the Sharks and their strong lines. All of their lines are producing great shots and goals. They were beaten by a couple of seemingly underdog teams, Colorado and LA just to name a few, but they pulled off great victories over Minnesota and Anaheim. With their Thornton and Heater lines, and some greater showing by Nabby, they will be contenders for the President’s Trophy and some more playoff runs, maybe without the first round exit please?

Phoenix Coyotes: I like to see this team pulling off wins, even their SO win last night over the Sharks. They were a major losing team last year, and nearly got bought out of Phoenix, and now they are showing their strong force against everyone in the NHL. Will this be able to fix their debt problems? Heck no, Phoenix is a horrible city for any sports, but I will continue to hope so.

Dallas Stars: Nothing surprising or new from this team, with a record of 1-0-3.

Anaheim Ducks: A tad surprising for the Ducks, but not that much. I am sure they will repeat like last year, minus the deep playoff runs.

Please join us at The NHL Arena and join in discussions about all of these teams on the boards. If you feel you need to comment on this, please feel free to comment on the blog, I will happily respond.

Interview with Aaron Palushaj

Many of you read my first Q&A session with Aaron earlier in the season. I got another chance to sit down and talk with St. Louis Blues prospects Aaron Palushaj and he was kind enough to grant me a short question and answer session. I tried to give a mixed array of questions to give a little wider variety of questions. My questions will be in bold while Aaron's answers will be in italics.

After my first Q&A session with you, you had just signed your first professional contract to play in Peoria. What was that experience like for you? Playing at a professional level?

The experience was incredible! After losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament, it allowed me to play in four regular season games with Peoria and in those games, I played in many roles. I ended up four games in the playoffs which was great. It really gave me a sense of the pro-game and it showed me what I need to work on in order to be a dominant player at that level and later on down the road. Everything was in a professional manner; meetings, meals, practices and rest/down time.You realize how much you need to prepare for everything practice and every game. It was also great to get some good quality time with some of the guys I will be seeing in training camp this September.

What do you think you need to improve on most to be ready to play in the NHL and how do you plan on going about working on that?

I have to get stronger. My core strength is there, I just need to add muscle to my legs and upperbody. I am in St. Louis for most of the summer and I'm working out with Nelson (Ayotte). He's doing a great job and I am not worried about being raedy in September as for strength wise.

Has your limited time in Peoria shown that you need to make any adjustments to the way you think the game, and if so, in what way?

No, I don't think I have to make any adjustments in the way I think the game. I think that's one of my better traits as a player and it's a lot different from college so it's just getting to know the system and catching on to what the coach is doing with the team.

What do you do to mentally prepare for a period, game and season?

I like visually preparing my self for games in periods. Go over plays in me head and think of plays I could have made better or maybe shouldn't have tried to do. For a season, the preparation just comes natural. Just go out every practice and get better every time you hit the ice and success in a season will come.

What type of line mates' compliment your game the best, and why?

I'm a pretty easy player to play with so it doesn't really matter. Someone who sees the ice offensively like me is a line mate I would prefer to play with. Someone with a good shot because I Can get them the puck from the corners or off the rush. I like having the puck in my possession and controlling and making the play.

The Blues website list you at 5'11; 187. Is that your actual size?

My actual size is 5'11.5 and 184 lbs.

Many fans; including myself; have a hard time pronouncing your last name. We've heard PUH-LOO-SHA and PUH-LOO-SHY. What is the correct pronunciation of your last name?

It's actually PUH-LU-SHY.

If you had to point to one person who has helped you the most in your development as a hockey player, who would it be and what has that person done for you?

I'd probably have to say my parents, with all the support and help that way. But if it had to be a coach, I think it would be my midget minor coach. He was really dedicated to making me a better player.

The Blues have a strong rivalry with the Red Wings; with you being a Michigan boy, and possibly a fan of the winged wheel, would you still be able to give 100% against them in a game?

Without question would I be able to give 110% against detroit. I am a competitor; I give 100% in everything I do.

I want to give a special thanks to Aaron Palushaj for taking the time out of his life to answer a few Blues fans questions.

I hope you all enjoyed this interview and I hope to have more for you soon.

Randall Ritchey