Isn’t it nice when a plan comes together and actually works?
One of the many reasons the St. Louis Blues were so aggressive in getting Jori Lehtera to sign last summer and leave the KHL is that they knew the Finnish center had nice chemistry playing in Russia with Vladimir Tarasenko in 2011-12.
It wasn’t the only reason, but it was an important one.
"We felt Lehtera could bring us a top-nine forward because of his play we saw in the Olympics and world championships," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said after the board of governors meetings Tuesday. "We knew that he and Tarasenko had chemistry in the KHL. Now, because it’s chemistry in the KHL doesn’t mean it’s going to be chemistry in the NHL. We were hoping.
"When he got over here in the first couple of practices you could see that chemistry. [Coach] Ken [Hitchcock] was bright enough to put them together early and keep them together. It looks like that chemistry has transferred over. Lehtera is a great passer and Tarasenko is a great shooter, so it’s a good match."
It doesn’t always work that way. In fact, Armstrong pointed to 1997, when Wayne Gretzky was traded to St. Louis. The obvious thought was that The Great One would have instant chemistry with his old pal Brett Hull.
"They never really found it," Armstrong said.
And when you look back to July 1, it was Paul Stastny's signing in St. Louis that generated way more buzz than Lehtera's signature, but Stastny took a while to hit his stride with his new team.
"I think his training camp was the feeling-out process and then he got injured early and the team started playing well," Armstrong said. "I think anytime a player comes in to a situation with that type of character, they want to come in and they don’t want to rock the boat.
"He was . . . I don’t want to say relinquishing ice time that he needed to fight for, and now I think he’s fighting for that ice time and demanding with his play that he’s on the ice at certain times. And we’re the benefactors of it. He’s scored goals in recent games and was an excellent player against Long Island [Saturday]."
If Lehtera keeps it up, that’s one heck of a one-two-three punch down the middle with David Backes, Lehtera and Stastny.