ST. LOUIS - The Blues drafted the top-ranked European skater in Klim Kostin at the 2017 NHL Draft, but acquiring the first-round pick to draft him meant parting ways with fan-favorite Ryan Reaves, who is now playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
By losing Reaves, the Blues also lost some toughness, so General Manager Doug Armstrong used free agency to find his club a new player to fulfill that role.
Enter Chris Thorburn, a 34-year-old forward who entered the league in 2005. Thorburn has played 750 NHL games, all but 41 of which have been spent with the Atlanta Thrashers / Winnipeg Jets organization. A tough guy himself, Thorburn has proven he won't back down from anybody, and he's certainly one of the first to stick up for his teammates when necessary.
We sat down with Thorburn to learn more about him, and our coversation topics ranged from his brief tenure as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, his perspective of the tough, physical contests between the Blues and Jets over the years, and bulldozers.
BLUES: Any time the NHL schedule put the Blues and Winnipeg Jets head to head, the Blues knew they were in for a tough, physical contest. What were those games like from your perspective on the other side?
THORBURN: It was exactly what you would think. Every game was a battle. For a long time, St. Louis was a measuring stick for the Jets. It was a game that we were always ready for. I think they were all one-goal games for the most part… they were hard-fought games, very little room on the ice and obviously big bodies and guys who liked to compete. It made for a fun game and a fun atmosphere.
BLUES: What kind of player are Blues fans getting in Chris Thorburn?
THORBURN: I go up and down the ice and I play a simple game. I bring intensity, I stick up for my teammates, all that good stuff.
BLUES: And from all accounts, you're a good-in-the-locker room guy, too!
THORBURN: That's what I've heard! I love being around the guys, and since I've been here, the guys have brought me in with open arms. Obviously they lost a great guy with 'Reavo.' I'm not trying to replace him by any means, but at the same time, just trying be me. So far it's been good.
BLUES: In one of those Blues / Jets games back in 2014, you dropped the gloves against Reaves. That was some heavyweight battle.
THORBURN: At that time, 'Reavo' was - and still is - considered one of the toughest guys in the League. For me, it might have been a little bit out of my weight class at the time, but once your adrenaline is running, anybody can win any fight at any given time. It was just a battle - one of those games where there was some hitting. Like me, he addressed it and we just settled it between the two of us. That's the way hockey is. Rather than the chippy stuff, we had two guys ready to settle the score in a different way, in a respectful manner. I have a lot of respect for guys like that.
BLUES: You got to chat with Reaves briefly after the Kraft Hockeyville game. What did you guys talk about?
THORBURN: I've gotten to know him over the years in Winnipeg because he sticks around there in the summer and I would get back (to Winnipeg) early, so we would skate together. We just caught up. He's a great guy, easy to talk to.
BLUES: You'll be an answer to a trivia question one day - not many will remember that you were a member of the Vegas Golden Knights.
THORBURN: Yeah! Where's my Golden Knights jersey?!!!! (Laughing)… I got drafted (in the expansion draft) and it was weird, but it was a cool experience. I was at an amusement park with my family when I got a text that I was going to be drafted. It was chaos there for a little bit until I talked to my agent. We rushed home after the amusement park and we made it home for the draft, two picks before my name was called. I had my mom on Skype when we got home and she had no idea I was getting drafted, so it was like I was 19 again. My mom's reaction was hilarious.
BLUES: You signed with the club as a free agent on July 1. What made St. Louis an appealing destination for you?
THORBURN: Just the organization, from playing against them as much as I did, knowing what kind of team, structure, coaching staff, management and players they have. It was an easy decision, really, to be part of a group like this. I don't know how many more years I have left, but I felt like this was an opportunity for me to make a run. St. Louis was a big attraction and like I said, an easy decision.
BLUES: What has the transition been like so far?
THORBURN: It's been easy, it's been great. The first couple days were chaos because the movers moved my stuff from Winnipeg to St. Louis without me being here, so we showed up at the house and it was just chaos. Thank God I had my parents here, and my wife's parents came and we just cleaned the house, set everything up. For the last three weeks, it's been smooth. My kid is in school, so everything is falling into place.
BLUES: What can you tell us about Chris Thorburn that we can't find on Google? Any hidden talents? Did you play an instrument in Ryan Miller and Derek Roy's band back when you were in Buffalo?
THORBURN: I wasn't in that band, but I supported them big time. It started in Rochester where we played in the minors. 'Roysie' and 'Millsy' and then a couple other guys. It was an awesome band actually for four hockey players, and they played around the city and we'd always go watch them. 'Roysie' thought he had a good voice… he SO didn't. But as for me, not really any special talents… I drive tractors and bulldozers. You couldn't find that on Google.
BLUES: What expectations do you have for yourself in the upcoming season?
THORBURN: I'm just hoping for success and hopefully the stuff that I do will help bring some success, whether it's in the room or on the ice or anywhere. I just want to help out as much as I can. I'm honored to be part of the group and can't wait to get the season going.