Aside from not watching their favorite team since April, Blues fans have had a pretty good summer. General manager Doug Armstrong has done some wheeling, dealing and trading, and has put a lot of folks’ minds somewhat at ease regarding the Note.
While head coach Mike Yeo probably hasn’t quite reached nirvana after the recent moves, he certainly sees additions like Patrick Maroon, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak and David Perron as great big positives. After all, he and his coaches won’t have to play lineup roulette if the current roster stays healthy.
“I think Army did a hell of a job this summer,” Yeo told ‘The Bernie Miklasz Show’ Thursday. “It’s one thing to identify people that you think could help your team; then, obviously, you’re competing with not necessarily everybody in the league, but a number of teams in the league. So, for him to land these guys I think was huge.
“I think we’re stronger because we’re stronger through the middle of the ice,” Yeo added. “Our center ice position has been addressed. We’re deeper and I would say at the very least, our top three lines, even four lines, we can roll out without having to try to hide anybody or try to shelter anybody, and feel that we can win that shift and potentially score a goal every shift that somebody’s out there.”
Any inkling of what those top three lines might look like?
“Ha. I don’t think I’m going to share them yet, because this is something I haven’t even had a chance really to talk to my assistant coaches about it a little bit,” Yeo said. “I would say before [Maroon] decided to come on-board with us, Army and I had talked about it a lot in our potential lines and how we saw them shaping up.
“We have options right now,” he added. “We don’t necessarily know the way our fourth line is going to look exactly, but what I can tell you is our top three lines, for sure; we’re going to be able to put those lines out there, and whatever the combinations are…Obviously, Vladdy had a lot of chemistry at certain points of the year with [Jaden Schwartz] and [Brayden Schenn], and we know how well those two guys play together.
“But now, the ability to move Vladdy with two other centermen who are very dangerous; it makes it a lot more difficult for teams to match up against us.”
Last season’s Blues dealt with a lot of injuries, making it necessary for guys to play a line above some of their skill levels and putting the team at a match-up advantage much of the time. Yeo seemed enthused from the added depth and added it won’t hurt the young crop of players coming up through the Blues pipeline.
“Depth was a huge factor in us not making the playoffs last year,” Yeo said. “Injuries are always going to happen and now we’ve got a number of players that we believe can come up and play games, and not only that; they can challenge for spots and that’s how your team gets better.
“You want these kids, when they come up, to be successful. Part of that is putting them in a position and maybe giving them the match-up that is going to give them a chance,” He added. “It also gives you the luxury and the opportunity not to force anybody into a position they’re not ready for.”
Yeo also offered his thoughts on the newest Note skaters, which you can read below followed by his entire 101 ESPN chat’s audio. Stay tuned to 101 ESPN and 101Sports.com for plenty of Blues talk as the season approaches.
Mike Yeo on the Blues signing Patrick Maroon:
“I had the chance to meet with him before he signed with us during the grace period and I was really impressed in his personality, in how humble he was; he seemed like a guy that I would be excited to coach.
“The other thing that we haven’t even touched on yet is just how much it means to him to be a member of the St. Louis Blues. It was a dream come true for him. He’s not here for the money…He chose this team and there is a huge advantage to having a player with that much pride and it means that much to them. I think he’s going to fit in really well with our group.
On Maroon bringing physicality in front of the net:
“I definitely want a team that has somebody called the ‘Big Rig’ on it…We’ve had big bodies, but not necessarily guys…They do the flyby. They kind of go to the net, but then they don’t want to stay in the confrontation. They don’t want to continue to get cross-checked or deal with what you have to deal with in order to score those ugly goals.
“I think that Pat is one of those guys that, first off, defensemen might think twice about cross-checking him, but they know that he’s not going to be moved. He’s going to screen the goalie. He’s going to create chaos. It might be him that’s scoring the goal, but quite often what’s happening is he’s occupying a defenseman in front of the net in a battle and a secondary player is picking up the loose change and putting it home.”
On Ryan O’Reilly’s skill set:
“I’ve had a chance to coach [O’Reilly] twice at the World Championships and he is a real pro. This guy is going to be the first guy to the rink on game days and the last guy off the ice on practice days.
“You have to kick him off the ice just because he’s always working on his game, he’s always working on his craft. Which is going to be great for our young guys; to learn from a guy like that. There are so many intangibles with his game. He’s arguably the best face-off guy in the National Hockey League and puck possession, as we all know, is so important in today’s game. He’s a guy that’s going to help out our power play an awful lot.”
On Tyler Bozak and David Perron:
“We’ve added two skilled, right-shot forwards, which I think was a really big need for us when I look at our power play. Not having any one-time threats; it makes it difficult, and now we’ve got two guys that are right-shooting forwards, but they have a lot of skill.
“When you’re strong in the center ice position it makes everybody else better. Your wingers are better. Your defensemen are better. It’s just such a crucial position and Tyler’s going to be a really great fit for us there.”