BERNIE'S BREAKDOWN: Blues on thin ice

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Bernie Federko

St. Louis Blues legend Bernie Federko is in his second season as the color analyst for the St. Louis Blues television network. Federko, a 14-year NHL veteran, played for the Blues for 13 seasons (1976-88). He holds team records for games played (927), assists (721) and points (1,073). Bernie retired from hockey after the 1989-90 season. His No. 24 sweater was retired March 16, 1991 by the Blues and hangs from the ceiling at Savvis Center. Check in with Bernie every week for his look at the NHL. FOXSports.com: How bad a situation is it right now for the Blues? Bernie Federko: Well, they can't seem to find any chemistry. They can't seem to find any drive to push them over the slump that they're in. They can't seem to find the way. They'll put things together a little to where they want them to be and they'll win a few games, but they haven't played well. They gave up a two-goal lead in Chicago (Sunday) with six minutes to go and then lost in overtime. Then Keith Tkachuk gets suspended, and they lose last night in Minnesota. They just can't seem to get the ball rolling. They've put themselves in a situation where every game down the stretch is going to be a "must." Now they're in a bind where the schedule is tough and they're going to have to grind out and get as many wins as they can. FOXSports.com: Obviously this is a team that everybody thought was a lock for the playoffs and now they're fighting to stay alive for the postseason. Is there a lot of concern among the team or are the players reasonably sure they'll plug the hole in time for the playoffs? BF: Well, if you look at the faces, I think there's a lot of concern. If you look at the two teams that have totally underachieved this year it's got to be Dallas and the Blues. Both of these teams were picked by the so-called early experts as two of the teams that would finish in the top three or four of the league. And it's not been that way. Dallas has made a lot of changes and they continue to change. The Blues have made their changes and kind of rested with everything in the hopes that everything would kind of come together by playoff time. The only trade they made is when they traded Mike Keane to Colorado for Shjon Podein, and now they added Ray Ferraro (at last week's deadline) because of the Doug Weight injury. This is a team that has totally underachieved, and this is a team we were told was a veteran team that was built to grind out wins night after night. They've not been able to do that. FOXSports.com: You mentioned the team added Ferraro and they added Podein a few weeks ago. Dallas made a big trade at the deadline and Edmonton made a trade at the deadline. These are two of the teams the Blues are battling with for a playoff spot. Is there reason to believe those two teams improved themselves enough to overtake the Blues? BF: Well, Dallas has been in a constant state of transition right from the start of the year. They signed all those free agents — Valeri Kamensky, Pierre Turgeon, Donald Audette — and they didn't feel satisfied with that and they made changes. They continued to make changes right through the year. I think they've had trouble maintaining a constant. They fired their coach, their general manager resigned, the president resigned. I think there's been turmoil throughout that organization. The Blues have been different. There really hasn't been any turmoil, they just haven't been able to find their chemistry. As you said, Edmonton made a trade to improve their hockey team, adding Mike York. They gave up Tom Poti, and we'll see how that plays out. But they seem to be on a roll right now, and that's what you want to do. You want to be getting a win streak together. We've struggled to win games. We've won some games lately, but if you look at who we've beaten, we've beaten Nashville and we've beaten Anaheim a couple of times. So it's not like we've beaten the teams that are in the playoffs right now. This is a team that's still searching for an identity. Obviously, when you lose a key person like Doug Weight, you can't replace that. But, again, you have to learn to play without key people. Colorado has played without Peter Forsberg all year long, and they've found a way to overcome that. The guys here have to learn how to overcome the injury to Doug Weight. Right now they haven't been able to do that. They're having a bear of a time scoring goals. There's just been no offense. Weight, Tkachuk and Pavol Demitra have basically been the offense. If they're not scoring, it really becomes a chore for anyone else to score. FOXSports.com: With the situation the way it is in St. Louis, was there a surprise that there wasn't a bigger deal completed than the Ferraro deal? BF: You know, yes and no. But I think when you look at what the Blues have left in the minor system, they would have to make a deal strictly based on what they have here on the team. I don't know if there was a situation where Larry (Pleau, the Blues' GM) could find an interested party to make the changes that he wanted to make. You've got a couple of key people in the minor system (for the Blues), but that's all you've really got left. Most of the youth on this team has been traded away. Michal Handzus, Ladislav Nagy and Jeff Taffe went to Phoenix last year in the Tkachuk deal. Jochen Hecht and Reasoner went to Edmonton as part of the Doug Weight deal. So the youth that was in the minor system is no longer there. You're only dealing with a bunch of veterans, and I think it's often easier to trade youth to these teams rather than veterans. That's why I think Larry had trouble doing that. FOXSports.com: You mentioned Doug Weight. What's the latest on him? BF: We're still not sure. He's starting to skate now, but he's just getting on the ice with no equipment. He's just trying to get back on skates. They're optimistic that he'll be back in time for the playoffs, but I think anything before that would be a real question mark. You have to feel that the next 10 games are going to be without Doug Weight. FOXSports.com: Has Brent Johnson solidified his old on the No. 1 goalie job right now? BF: Not really. They've given him the No. 1. He's started 12 straight now. He's been inconsistent. He's been just OK. He's not been great by any means. They told him that he's going to play down the stretch. Is that going to continue? There's still 10 games left and I think desperation is setting in right now. They've got to have the best of what they've got between the pipes. They can't really afford to have a bad night from anybody. Whether or not Brent continues to play. ¿ A trend has been set with Brent playing every game. Will Joel (Quenneville, the Blues coach) change that? I don't know. They keep saying that Brent is their No. 1 guy, but time will tell. Strange things can happen when there's 10 games left and you're desperate to make the playoffs. FOXSports.com: Looking back at last week's trade deadline, were there any surprise moves made in your eyes? BF: Well, Philadelphia giving up a first, a second, a third and a goalie for Adam Oates, especially with Oates being as old as he is. The Rangers taking Pavel Bure, although there was some speculation it was going to happen. I don't think there were any real surprises. I think there were more moves than we normally see at that time of the year, especially when there are big-name players moving. The acquisition of Darius Kasparaitis by Colorado was a real good deal. Oates going to Philadelphia was a good deal for Philadelphia. They gave up an awful lot, but there's no question that Oatesie's going to really help them. If Jeremy Roenick comes back, and you've got Oates and Roenick up the middle, you're in a pretty strong situation there. FOXSports.com: You mentioned Bure going to the Rangers. They made a few moves, but that situation seems to just be getting worse out there. BF: There's another revolving door, too. You don't know what they're going for the most part. Just when you think they're going to be building with some of the young guys, they go ahead and start making changes again. I think they're desperate to make the playoffs, and now that Mike Richter goes out and gets hurt again, that makes it all the more difficult. Obviously, the Bure deal and the fact that they kept Richter told me that they were doing everything they can to make the playoffs. It's going to take some chemistry in the last few games to get them in a situation where they can make the playoffs, especially with Richter down. You have to have solid goaltending. Dan Blackburn's going to be a good goaltender, but to put that much pressure on a kid is going to be difficult. But, maybe this could be the best thing that ever happens to Blackburn.
Tagged: Oilers, Stars, Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, Avalanche, Blues, Capitals, Coyotes, Panthers, Jets, Tom Poti, Jochen Hecht, Pierre Turgeon, Mike York, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight, Michal Handzus

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