After tightening their leadership group prior to the 2015-16 season, the St. Louis Blues will expand it again for 2016-17.
The St. Louis Blues held a press conference on Thursday afternoon, and the main purpose of the function was to announce that Alex Pietrangelo would serve as the club’s new captain for the 2016-17 season (a factoid that had been leaked on Wednesday.) GM Doug Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock also announced the remainder of the team’s new leadership group on Thursday, though, revealing that defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, center Paul Stastny, and winger Vladimir Tarasenko will join Alexander Steen as alternate captains this season.
After incumbent alternate captains Barret Jackman and T.J. Oshie departed following the 2014-15 season, the Blues made a conscious decision to tighten their leadership group for 2015-16, relying on captain David Backes and alternates Steen and Pietrangelo to serve as the team’s designated leaders. The team’s vast array of 30-plus veterans, including Troy Brouwer, Scott Gomez, Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak, Steve Ott, Jay Bouwmeester, and Brian Elliott, undoubtedly had influence in the room as well.
As the Blues head into 2016-17 season, though, their only players over 30 that remain are fourth-liners Upshall and Brodziak and the notoriously quiet Bouwmeester.
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Stastny and newly-acquired backup goalie Carter Hutton also turned 30 in December. The point in all of this, though, is that the Blues are going to have to grow a group of young leaders rather than relying on grizzled veterans to fill those roles.
While this will be the first time that Stastny, Tarasenko, and Shattenkirk have been official alternate captains with the Blues, it’s not really anything new for the trio. All three of them wore the ‘A’ in February and March of last season while Pietrangelo and Steen were injured, while Stastny wore an ‘A’ on a regular basis with the Colorado Avalanche before joining the Blues. Armstrong pointed out on Thursday that Shattenkirk had been a captain for his entire career until he reached the NHL, so leadership should come easy to him as well.
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The Blues have other guys on the roster who should be experienced enough by now to provide leadership as well. David Perron has been around since 2007-08, while Patrik Berglund has been in the league since 08-09, so both of those guys have plenty of pro experience to draw on, and though they’re the guys who are theoretically supposed to be getting “led”, second-year pros Colton Parayko and Robby Fabbri were part of the Blues’ leadership group at the Traverse City prospect tournament last year.
It’d also be irresponsible to ignore that the Blues’ decision to name four alternate captains safeguards them in case another two members of their leadership group–Steen and Shattenkirk–step out the door as free agents next summer. Stastny is signed through the end of the 2017-18 season, while Tarasenko is locked up through 2022-23. Pietrangelo is signed through 2019-20, so barring a trade or a change in judgement after this coming season, the Blues won’t need to add anyone new to their leadership group until 2018 at the earliest.