(Photo Credit: Steve Overbey/Associated Press)
The St. Louis Blues, as many know by now, were one of the more active teams across the league in improving their roster this offseason as General Manager Doug Armstrong promised he would. Here to recap the offseason with a quick, concise Q & A is St. Louis’ own Scott Mandziara.
Scott is a senior at Lindenwood University and is a mass communications major with an emphasis in broadcasting. In addition, he is pursuing a minor in journalism. Currently, Scott works as a fill-in producer and board-operator for many radio shows at the local sports station 101 ESPN. In addition to filling in on 101 ESPN’s radio shows, he attends most Blues games for the station and obtained a media pass to gather audio and interviews at post game interviews, press conferences, and also attended some practices. I thought Scott would be a great mind to pick about the Blues offseason and he sure did not disappoint so without further a do, here is our Q & A recapping the offseason.
Brenden: First off, just your overall impressions of the offseason. Doug Armstrong said coming into it that this offseason would be a big one for the organization. After seeing the moves to support his claim, what are your overall thoughts?
Scott: I think the Blues have improved the most of any team in the NHL this offseason. I think they have addressed all of their offseason needs. They parted ways or did not resign six players last year. Five of those players being positional players (Sobotka, Berglund, Thompson, Brodziak, and Upshall) and they combined for 118 points this past season. Now, the four positional players they’ve acquired combined for 213 points last season. It’s pretty obvious that this team got significantly better this year on paper, we’ll see how the chemistry meshes. I know there is concern about the first and second round draft pick in the O’Reilly deal, but I would not be concerned. The Blues have top tier prospects ready to come up and they can afford to lose next year’s first round pick to get a proven player. If it is what you had to do to get the deal done, then [Armstrong] made the right decision.
Brenden: Speaking of the O’Reilly trade, was it tough to see the Blues part ways with one of “The Big Four” by shipping Tage Thompson to Buffalo or are you excited about the present in getting a proven top six center?
Scott: It is always tough because Tage is only 20 years old. No one knows how his NHL career will play out and hopefully it is a good one. I think after watching Tage last year it was tough to gauge. Clearly, he is talented, but the numbers do not lie. He was a healthy scratch in the most important game of this past season in Colorado and had only nine points in 41 games. It is always a gamble, but I think it was the right move. You have seen success from O’Reilly throughout his career and you have other prospects waiting for their opportunity to play. If the Blues did not have these other prospects, it may be a different story. But, since they do, I think you make the deal and move forward and they did that.
Brenden: The news broke Tuesday that Patrick Maroon was coming home to sign with the Blues on a one year, $1.75 million deal. What do you think he can bring to the table for a team that lacked grit last season and where do you think he may slot into the lineup?
Scott: I think he brings a lot of talent and grit. I mean when you talk about a hometown discount, Maroon gave them that. One year at $1.75 million for a player that has scored 17 or more goals in the last seasons. That’s incredibly selfless in a time when the Blues needed that cap to get Joel Edmundson to come back. He’s played alongside one of the greatest players in the NHL in Connor McDavid. I think he will line up on the first line along side O’Reilly and Tarasenko on opening night. He can fit in on that top line very nice and like I said he has experience and success playing with top players like McDavid.
Brenden: We know where you would like to see Patrick Maroon in the lineup on opening night now, but where do you think Robert Thomas will fit in the lineup now with the additions of not only Maroon, but also Bozak, Perron, and O’Reilly? Does Thomas get lost in the mix of the top nine depth that the Blues now have?
Scott: Well, Doug Armstrong has come out publicly and said that he wants Thomas to earn the Blues fourth line center spot for opening night. So, I think that is where he is going to start. I do not think fans should be worried about him getting lost and instead they should be happy that the Blues are not depending on Robert Thomas to be a big producer in the top six next year as a rookie. That is why the additions up the middle were so important with signing Bozak and trading for O’Reilly.
Brenden: After all of the additions the Blues made this offseason, including backup goaltender Chad Johnson, this team appears to be built to get back to the playoffs and potentially do damage. Where do you see this team stacking up in the Central Division this year?
Scott: I think the Blues are the third best team in the Western Conference on paper, as well as the third best team in the Central Division. I have them behind the Predators and Jets. I think it is a lot to ask in year one when you are going to have most likely five forwards in the lineup that were not on the team last year. It is really going to come down to Jake Allen.
Brenden: You mentioned Jake Allen and that leads to my next question. What is your biggest concern about this team as it is currently constructed?
Scott: The chemistry and how it will all play out. I absolutely love the moves that have been made this year. The team needed a shake-up and Armstrong delivered. Now, the tough part is getting all of these pieces to work together. Again, there will be five of the twelve forwards that are new to the lineup. Assuming Edmundson resigns, you will return all of your defensemen. I am not concerned about Jake Allen; I think he is a number one goalie and everyone has seen it.
Brenden: Lastly, just to have a little fun here, how many potential All-Stars do you think the Blues could have this year and who could they be? We are keeping in mind that it is a 3 on 3 format still.
Scott: Tough question. I think the Blues could have three All-Stars this year and I would have to say Tarasenko, O’Reilly and Pietrangelo would be the three guys to make the team.
That is all from Scott Mandziara and I in our offseason Q & A recap. Make sure to give Scott a follow on Twitter (@Smandziara2) and keep an eye out for the young gun in the sports broadcasting industry. Hope you enjoyed!
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