Signing players to contract extensions does not always work out.
Exhibit A: Vincent Lecavalier. After scoring 40 goals and posting 92 points in 2007-08, the Tampa Bay Captain inked an 11-year, $85 million contract extension. Tampa was hoping for another fantastic season from the gifted center. Imagine the disappointment when he scored just 67 points the following season, 70 last season and is now on pace for just under 38 points this season.
Exhibit B: Rick DiPietro. After charging Team USA through the 2006 Olympic Games and playing stellar between the pipes on the Island, newly appointed General Manager Garth Snow signed DiPietro to a 15-year, $67.5 million contract in September of 2006. DiPietro played strong the following season, recording a .919 save percentage in 62 games. He played fairly well the following season, but the contract started looking like a bust soon after. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, DiPietro has played in just 30 NHL games. Injuries have taken over the player’s career not even halfway through his 15-year contract.
David Backes is not looking to be another contract extension punchline.
Davis Payne sure has proven that he is ready for the big time.
Just over a year ago, Blues Team President John Davidson announced that he had relieved Andy Murray of his coaching duties and replaced him with former Peoria Rivermen Head Coach Davis Payne. Davidson only had warm things to say about his new head coach.
"Davis is very knowledgeable of the players in our organization and we feel he is the best candidate to coach our team," Davidson said during the press conference.
So many questions followed; could Payne be ready for the NHL? Would the players respond well to a new NHL coach? Could this be the guy that could finally get the Blues over the hump and into a regular-playoff spot every season?
In his first outing as an NHL coach, Payne led his new team to a devastating 6-3 loss to the rival Chicago Blackhawks. The questions immediately rose regarding Payne’s ability to coach an NHL team.
Coming off a five-game winning streak, the Blues looked to take out the Dallas Stars – something that they have not been able to do all season. It did not seem to go as planned.
Both teams came out of the gate with some offense, but David Backes struck first.
David Backes tallied his tenth goal of the season, after Sobotka caused a turnover in the neutral zone and line-mate Matt D’Agostini took the puck into the offensive zone and fired a shot that tipped off Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Backes beat former Blue Jeff Woywitka to the puck (no surprise there) and tipped the puck into the gaping net from his knees. The goal came at 13:51 of the first period for the 1-0 lead.
Brendan Morrow answered fast, scoring .54 seconds after Backes. Brad Richards fed Morrow a beautiful pass from his own zone while on the power-play, and Morrow broke in all alone. After missing the net, the Stars captain received his own rebound off the back boards and beat Halak to tie the game at 1-1.
This is the final straw. Blues management saw it fit that Marek Svatos should wear a Blues jersey by signing him to a two-way contract for a miniscule amount of money. Everything was set for Svatos to join the Blues. The only thing that was keeping him from skating in a Blues uniform was a 24-hour waiting period where Svatos had to clear waivers. The 24th hour hit and what do you know; the Nashville Predators claimed Svatos! It’s obvious this was done to keep the Blues from adding scoring depth; Nashville has no need for Svatos on their offensive unit. This is not the first time that Nashville has found a way to screw over the Blues.
The truth is, this team has been doing everything to destroy the Blues since day one. The NHL held its expansion draft on June 26, 1998 for two new teams, including the Atlanta Thrashers and Nashville Predators. The new Central Division team, Nashville, selected Blues forward Blair Atcheynum from their roster. Atcheynum was 1/3 of one of the most premier checking lines in the NHL. They broke up the infamous CPA line (Craig Conroy – Scott Pellerin – Blair Atcheynum), and pretty much ruined Atcheynum’s career from there on out. He played just 53 games for the Predators, then bounced around the NHL and other leagues until he finally left professional hockey in 2001, playing in his last game with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL.
It didn’t end there. While the Blues were easy to be stepped on, Nashville made sure to grind the Blues into the dirt. Blues fans try to forget 2005-06, but Nashville’s neglect of the Gateway City cannot go unnoticed. Remember Simon Gamache and Timofei Shishkanov? The Blues claimed Gamache off waivers from the Predators, hoping for some kind of offensive spark from the Quebec native. He put up three goals and four assists in 15 games, but was immediately put back on waivers. Nashville took him back. Why, I don’t know, but it was a failed experiment for St. Louis. And Shishkanov… well, let’s not even talk about Shishkanov.
The Blues shut down those pesky Predators Sunday night for their third straight victory.
The story was the Blues’ goaltending. Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves in the game, recording his fourth shutout of the season, placing him in a tie for second in the NHL. One of these saves was a gem that took place at about the 8:29 mark of the second period. On a three-on-two, Ryan Suter slid the puck to Cal O’Reilly, who wristed a shot to Halak’s glove side. The fast-reacting Halak slid over and snagged the puck Grant Fuhr-style for a great save.
Just like how the Blues fans have come to expect, the goaltender gave credit to his teammates.
“The guys did a hell of a job,” Halak said, “I think they only had seven shots in the third period and we kept their scoring chances down.”