Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Blues Loosen Reins on Hedican, Hope for an Offensive Defense

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Blues Loosen Reins on Hedican, Hope for an Offensive Defense

Article excerpt

With the shackles of a purely defensive scheme removed from his powerful legs, Blues defenseman Bret Hedican embraced his new-found freedom Wednesday afternoon.

Hedican frequently charged out of the Blues' defensive zone during a training camp scrimmage at Brentwood Ice Rink. He carried the puck out of danger. He pushed it up ice. He pressured in the attacking zone.

Free at last.

He created some scoring chances and excitement, not to mention a few tense moments as well. Once, he was caught up ice, inadvertently springing Brendan Shanahan for a breakaway. Oops.

Parris Duffus stopped Shan The Man, drawing oohs and ahs from the overflow crowd at Brentwood with a spectacular glove save. Hedican might not be so lucky all the time, but these are the perils of defensemen who are free to join the rush.

The Blues plan to give Hedican the green light this season. They want him to use his blazing speed to help clear the Blues' zone and start the transition game.

Then, they want him to join the rush as a fourth forward, creating problems for opposing defenses and improving the Blues' pop-gun offense.

"Obviously, when someone has skating skill and speed like that, you want to utilize it," Blues coach Bob Berry said. "He has the ability to get the puck out of your end when you have problems.

"I don't intend to put any pressure on Bret to score 25 goals or be like Jeff Brown. He has to be a solid player for us defensively, and certainly, we want to use his assets offensively."

The Blues had the same plan last season, but they expected too much too soon from Hedican, a 10th-round pick in 1988 from St. Cloud State University.

A knee injury delayed the start of Hedican's season for seven weeks, and by the time he arrived in late November, the Blues already were scrambling to make the playoffs. There was no time to nurture Hedican, who struggled to find his way. The Blues sent him down to Peoria on Feb. 13. He had played 35 games and had only four points.

He was confused and unsure of himself, and well-meaning people bombarded him with advice.

"I had this guy telling me to bring this to the team and another guy telling me to bring that to the team," he said. …

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