Standing for interviews following his first official practice since re-tearing his ACL last year, Robby Fabbri carried a buoyant smile talking to St. Louis sports media.
“I think i was a little bit more excited to be out there with the guys again,” Fabbri said during Blues training camp, day one. “Being able to go through those practices and feel a part of the team again; it was a good skate and they really worked us.”
Told there might be naysayers in Blues fan-land skeptical he can return to the kid scoring hat-tricks in his rookie season, Fabbri replied without missing a beat: “People are saying i can’t?” followed by a laugh and more smiles.
“No, I know there is that doubt in everyone’s minds, but, you know, in my head there is one thing and I’m confident with how I’m prepared for this season and how I feel. So, yeah, I guess you could say I’m gonna prove them wrong.”
It’s easy to admire the optimism, but it’s also easy to be a skeptic, which doesn’t mean one doubts the forward’s ability, but rather they’re tempering expectations after ACL tears in in 2016 and during 2017 training camp. Fabbri hadn’t played in a hockey game for a very long time before this week.
Blues FSM announcer Darren Pang has tempered expectations as far as timeline goes, but not with Fabbri’s final outcome.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time. I think that he’s got to make sure that he, No.1: Stays patient, because that is very important. It just doesn’t come back to you right away,” Panger said in a recent visit with ‘The Bernie Miklasz Show.’
“And No. 2: That he takes care of himself. I think he’s such a great kid. He thinks of everybody else before he thinks of himself. One thing I got out of the conversation I had with him the other day was that he’s grown up a lot,” Pang added. “It’s time for him to make sure that he’s ready and that if he’s having any problems with that knee, he tells somebody and that he doesn’t hold it inside because those are two serious knee injuries.”
Panger added the Blues will likely be cautious with where they place Fabbri line-wise, as skating with and against NHL players for the first time in over a year adds to the growing pains at first.
“I think Robby’s right on track. I think he’s got to feel really good about his game,” Pang said. “One thing is he probably won’t start up on the top six and maybe he doesn’t start up in the top nine. Maybe he starts off a little bit more on that fourth line or gets a little action with the third line.
“In time, as the season goes, he’s only going to get better and better and that’s when the Blues are going to need him the most anyway.”
No real comparison
Blue-bleeders are usually excited this time of year anyway, even if the Blues were forecasted as nothing special. But this season’s a little different, with Doug Armstrong putting in extra summer work to tick off plenty of empty boxes, the main one being overall depth.
Injury bugs were regular 2017-18 Note occurrences, and exacerbated largely by a shallow depth chart. This is an area head coach Mike Yeo is already feeling more comfortable about heading into this season.
“One thing I’ll say is when you look around, whether it’s what Army did in the summer, the guys that he brought in, or whether some of the young guys and the way they looked out here today, I also feel that we have more depth and more ability to get through those types of things.”
Panger echoed this sentiment, with extra emphasis on help up the middle and the (literally) large addition of Patrick Maroon.
“I look at the center ice position with [Ryan] O’Reilly and with [Brayden] Schenn and with [Tyler] Bozak and you’ve got young players like [Ivan] Barbashev and like Robert Thomas. The middle of the ice is outstanding,” Pang said. “I think that’s No. 1, and then you look at having a guy like big [left winger] Patrick Maroon. I mean, boy, it’s been a while since you’ve had a dedicated guy at the front of the net.
“David Backes was really good at going to the front of the net, but even Maroon’s a different style of player. He’s got hockey sense. He’ll park himself there. He’ll back up any teammate; if there’s any kind of trouble whatsoever you want Patrick Maroon on your team.”
Not as bad as we thought
Jake Allen was already a Blues fan concern before taking time off with back spasms, and likely will be until he minds consistently strong net through January. But the good news now is Allen’s back problems still aren’t thought to be a major concern.
“I talked to [Allen] yesterday for a while and the good news is he is back on the ice. I watched him practice yesterday and he was going through every drill that you would go through if you were 100 percent healthy,” Pang said.
“Does he have to be careful and take care of himself? Do a little bit more afterwards and do a little bit more back stretching and core exercises to make sure that back, the spasms don’t pop back up? Absolutely, but I think the good news is he will get in a couple of preseason games and it’s not as bad as what he first thought and what the team first thought.”
If there’s been any good to come from Allen’s brief time on the shelf, though, it’s Ville Husso’s getting a little bit of a closer look to kick off the 2018-19 campaign.
“I’ve been really impressed with Ville Husso. I think, years from now, our fans will recognize that name as an everyday name and he’ll challenge,” Panger said. “He was really good the other night in Des Moines against the Minnesota Wild. I thought last year in training camp he was outstanding. He’s trending in the right direction to eventually, and ultimately, be a top goalie on the St. Louis Blues.”
You can hear Pang’s entire 101 ESPN chat below. Stay tuned for plenty more Note talk as the regular season gets closer and closer.