Every Sunday, Dan O'Neill will be reflecting on the week that was and the week ahead at stlouisblues.com.
This week examines Brian Elliott's stellar play, the Blues' offense, John Scott's All-Star appearance, the upcoming Dad's Trip and more.
Elliott Keeps Blues on Track
Brian Elliott has been the Blues’ guide since Jake Allen went down with a lower-body injury on Jan. 8. Elliott is in a rare situation, one in which an NHL team carries two number one goaltenders. While Jake Allen has served as the starter for the majority of the season, it was Elliott who jump-started the Blues out of the gate. Elliott started four of the Blues’ first six games this season and won them all. After that stretch, he was largely relegated to practice action due to Allen’s stellar play. Between his Oct. 20 and Jan. 8, Elliott started just eight of 38 games. But, in typical Elliott fashion, he kept his head up and continued work – anxiously waiting for his next opportunity. Unfortunately, Allen’s injury was the catalyst for the bat signal this time, but nevertheless, duty calls. In Allen’s absence, Elliott has gone 6-3-2 with a 1.90 goals-against average, a .940 save percentage and one shutout. The numbers are even more eye-popping when you consider he’s been given an average of 1.99 goals per game in support during this stretch. In fact, Elliott is one of seven goalies to have played at least five games since Jan. 8 and received fewer than two goals per game in support. His .636 win percentage is tops amongst that group, while none of the other goaltenders are north of .500.
The Blues are struggling to score, which usually has a negative effect on the win-loss register. I don’t think anyone would argue that the fact that the Blues have never won when scoring less than one goal is a disturbing trend. However, there is reason for optimism, or at least reason to avoid panic. The club is 11-15-4 when scoring two or fewer goals, which, though it’s below .500, is a pretty impressive mark. The good news is that we don’t need to become the 1983-84 Oilers to have success. The triumphs of the last five Stanley Cup winners did not necessarily correlate with scoring, but strongly correlated with keeping the puck out of the net. Since 2011, only two of the five Stanley Cup winners (13’ Blackhawks, 11’ Bruins) ranked in the top five in goals per game during the regular season. However, each of the last five was either first or second in goals allowed per game during the regular season. That said, we know – we have never won a Cup. But the team isn’t going to stop playing, so I’m not going to cease with the propaganda.
The big story around the League from last week was John Scott’s All-Star appearance. It was certainly strange to see a player not currently on an NHL roster not only get nominated for the All-Star Game but win the game’s MVP Award. By the way, Jonathan Quick and John Gibson were the MVP’s but any other winner than Scott would have drawn unanimous “boos.” It was smart for the League to avoid the potential awkwardness of that moment and simply give the people what they wanted.
John Scott is not an All-Star. His nomination – though not his fault – meant that a lot of worthy candidates missed the opportunity to not only add that honor to their resume, but win their share of $1 million and possibly take home a new car. The League’s annual showcase is just that, the chance for fans to see all of the most skilled and exciting players on the ice at the same time.
That said, even if you disagreed with Scott’s presence at the game, you couldn’t help but smile watching the event unfold. Just as it would have been great to see another player with world-class talent, it was better to see a world-class ambassador soak-in his moment in the spotlight. He deserves, and has received, recognition for how well he represented the NHL, himself and his family under the circumstances. He clearly understands how lucky he is to be playing a game for a living. Scott’s humility and sense of reality was a welcome change.
The whole show had a tinge of charity to it, but Scott displayed no shame. His attitude was genuine, refreshing and positive for the NHL and sports in general.
The three-on-three All-Star format was better. The pace was more entertaining and the players seemed more engaged. That wasn’t surprising – a chance to win a share of $1 million is a highly caffeinated cup of coffee.
I think the League can force even more “want to” amongst the players. Instead of raising the purse through sponsorship, why not have the players ante-up. My idea calls for each All-Star to put up $25k and the winning team to take the $1.1 million pot. Now, in order to balance out the players’ buy-in, the League would basket-together 25k worth of sponsorship items for each All-Star. A year-long lease on a new car, vacation vouchers, electronics and so on.
This isn’t serious. The NHL, nor players association, would ever entertain the idea, but it would give the players something to lose, albeit something modest. Let’s assume an All-Star makes $4 million per year, 25k is .625% of their annual salary. Relatively, for someone making 35k per year, that’s about $218. So, for the average person, you could put up $218 for a chance to win $872 – a four to one return on investment in exchange for winning two periods of hockey.
The Blues will hold their annual Casino Night on Wednesday, Feb. 10. This year’s fundraiser, which benefits Blues For Kids, is themed “Blues Under the Big Top.” Inspired by the circus culture from the days of Charlie Chaplin, the soiree will include dinner, an open bar, a live and silent auction, live music and the main course – casino games dealt by Blues players. I highly recommend the event. It gives fans a rare opportunity to rub shoulders with the players in a fun and playful setting.
The Blues’ Community Relations Department, lead by Director Randy Girsch and Manager Hannah Uhlenbrock, are responsible for putting on the event. They do an amazing job of planning and executing a memorable event each and every year. Their efforts in getting numerous highly collectable and valuable auction items are responsible for raising a lot of money for the Blues’ charitable endeavors.
Kudos to the Blues design team, including Brenda Wilbur, Amber Taylor and Maggie Michael. They put together the graphics and the overall look for this year’s event. This is one talented crew.
The Blues will host the “Dads Trip” next weekend when they visit Florida on Feb. 12 and Tampa Bay on Feb. 14. Look for some detailed and heart-warming coverage, including a feature with Alexander Steen and his Dad, Thomas. See below to re-live last season’s Dads Trip feature…
Video of the Week
If you haven’t seen this, check it out. It was posted on Jan. 25, 2016, so we are a bit behind. Damien Brunner currently plays in Switzerland for Lugano. Previously he made brief NHL stints with both Detroit and New Jersey. You could hurt yourself even trying this move, so practice with caution. WATCH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiYCUebQu7U