Hitchcock talks about Blues' moves

ST. LOUIS — Blues coach Ken Hitchcock met with the media last week during the team’s developmental camp for prospects.

It was the first public opportunity for Hitchcock to talk about the team’s offseason moves, which included signing free agent forwards Paul Stastny and Joakim Lindstrom, convincing 2008 draft pick Jori Lehtera to play in St. Louis after playing overseas previously and then swapping defenseman Roman Polak for Carl Gunnarsson in a trade with Toronto.

Here are some of the highlights from Hitchcock’s time with the media, when he answered several questions on various topics:

On the Stastny signing:

“Stas is obviously a big boost for the organization, big boost for our team. Players like him. Players know him. He’s got tremendous friends and teammates on the team from USA competitions. But adding (Jori) Lehtera and (Joakim) Lindstrom are going to help us too, because these are two guys who could potentially play in our top nine. When you add three players who potentially can play in your top nine, it puts significant depth into your roster. So for us, those three guys could make a big difference for us because it’s going to allow us to play players in the right spots. It’s going to give us more scoring than we’ve probably ever had, at least since I’ve been here. So it’s going to hopefully balance out things a little better for us in the West here.”

On whether he saw Lehtera at the Olympics and what do he likes about Lehtera’s game:

“What I saw there was Jori started out as a fourth-line left winger on a pretty good Finnish team and ended up as the second center. He turned around … four months later and was the No. 1 center on the world team in the World Championships. He’s a guy, to me, they trust. He can play up and down the lineup. He played some left wing. He played a lot of center. He killed penalties. He played on the power play. He quarterbacked the power play at the World Championships. He ended up on the power play at the end of the Olympics. So to me he’s a guy that when you see the coaches play him like that, they trust him. I talked to two of the coaches during the Olympics (about) what he was like and things like that. They really liked him. They thought he had, the word that kept coming up was hockey savvy. They really felt like he’s got great hockey savvy. He was obviously a player that they took him ahead of some of the people that were in the NHL. That’s a pretty big feather in a guy’s cap when you get to be like that.”

On how Gunnarsson changes the look of the defense:

“Well, we’re less physical but better transitionally. We’re going to be better on our exits. We’re going to be better on a puck movement. We’re going to be able to make more direct plays. We’re going to lose some physicality without Romie (Roman Polak) there but we think we can make it up by adding a guy like Ian Cole, who’s got size and mobility. We just feel like we’ve got to create a spot for Cole. We think he can play the right side. He looked better on the right than he did on the left. We think it’s his time. He’s mentally ready. He’s really grown up in the last 12 months. And we just felt like we have to create room and make that opportunity and we also need a better transitional player, puck movement-wise, for either Shatty (Kevin Shattenkirk) or Petro (Alex Pietrangelo).”

On an early look at potential line pairings for the forwards:

“I just feel like, with seven exhibition games, we’ve got lots of time to look at players. I really would like to see some different combinations at training camp and see how they look. I think it really depends on how far Lindstrom and Lehtera work their way up the lineup. I want to give them every chance to play as many exhibition games as they can so that they get used to the competition and it also gives us a chance to see where they fit and how much they can help us, how far up the lineup. Both guys are really good pros. They are not 22 year olds. One guy is 27. The other guy is 30 years of age. They know how to play. So I just want to find out how they look. I think the two combinations, if training camp started tomorrow, that we’d look at would be (Vladimir) Tarasenko with Lehtera, because it’s worked before, and then we’d also want to see (Alexander) Steen with Lindstrom because those guys know how to play and they’ve played a lot together.”

On if Stastny’s two-way game means the Blues can put him wherever they need to:

“He’s a great positionally-defensive player from that standpoint. It’s offensively. He gets a lot of his offense from certain areas of the ice, so we need players who compliment that. When he’s on the ice, we need people that really attack the net on his line. So whoever he plays with defensively isn’t going to matter. Because he’s positionally sound, he’s going to be able to do the little work. He can carry his own weight there. But offensively we need a player or two that really go to the net, because he puts the puck into those short scoring areas — those bang-bang areas — better than anybody that we’ve had here. So we’re going to have to find guys that know how to do that.”

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.

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