Blues buck trend, dou­ble down on big and heavy

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

When gen­eral man­ager Doug Armstrong de­cided to bring coach Ken Hitch­cock back af­ter another early play­off exit, T. J. Oshie fig­ured there’d be at least a change or two to the St. Louis Blues’ ros­ter.

One change came Thurs­day when St. Louis traded Oshie to the Washington Cap­i­tals for big­ger right- winger Troy Brouwer, goal­tend­ing prospect Pheonix Co­p­ley and a thir­dround pick. The Cap­i­tals got the more skilled play­maker, but the Blues got what they wanted.

In Brouwer, the Blues have more size and heft as Armstrong dou­bles down on big and heavy, go­ing against the league- wide trend to­ward small and quick that got the Chicago Black­hawks and Tampa Bay Light­ning to the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal. It’s a sim­i­lar strat­egy to the one used by the two-time-cham­pion Los An­ge­les Kings, who traded for power for­ward Mi­lan Lu­cic.

“You look at our con­fer­ence, you have to play with size and you have to play with weight,’’ Armstrong said Thurs­day on a con­fer­ence call. “I think this cer­tainly makes us a more dif­fi­cult team to play against.’’

Armstrong men­tioned a “dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion’’ for the Blues, who went with more pure skill last sea­son. Be­yond grind­ing cap­tain David Backes, the top for­wards were Alex Steen, Paul Stastny, bud­ding su­per­star Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Oshie and Jori Le­htera.

There is some heav­i­ness there and more so with the six­foot- three Brouwer, who has al­most iden­ti­cal goal to­tals in his ca­reer as Oshie. Armstrong said Brouwer “plays the way that the Blues are look­ing to play mov­ing for­ward.’’

“It’s a dif­fer­ent style of player than T.J.,’’ Armstrong said. “We prob­a­bly have more play­ers in our group like T.J. and less like Troy. That’s prob­a­bly the eas­i­est way to ex­plain it.’’

Oshie is no scape­goat for the Blues los­ing in the first round, but some­thing had to give af­ter he, Backes, Stastny, Schwartz and Le­htera com­bined for 10 points against the Min­nesota Wild.

The Cap­i­tals’ new­est top-six winger thought a com­ment he made about be­ing re­freshed af­ter miss­ing time with the flu was blown out of pro­por­tion, but he didn’t feel un­fairly blamed for the Blues’ play­off strug­gles.

“I ex­pected big things out of my­self,’’ Oshie said. “I think the fans did as well. There’s a lot of dis­ap­point­ment af­ter the way we lost out.’’


Washington Cap­i­tals right wing Troy Brouwer (20) smiles as he leaves the rink af­ter the Win­ter Clas­sic out­door NHL game against the Chicago Black­hawks at Na­tion­als Park in Washington on Jan. 1, 2015.

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