Owner of one Cup would love to help give city its first championship
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Jason Arnott understands that he's closer to the end than he is to the beginning. A long and for the most part, successful career has also seen its fair share of arduous times.
But the owner of a Stanley Cup in 2000 with the New Jersey Devils -- he scored the game-winner in the clinching game in double overtime against the Dallas Stars -- Arnott craves more championships. He craves a winning atmosphere at this stage of his career.
So when Arnott, who will be 37 on Oct. 11, chose to sign a one-year, $2.875 million incentive-laden deal with the Blues this summer, it was with the intent of winning and winning titles. Arnott believes the Blues, who open camp Friday, are on the cusp of breaking through.
Jason Arnott (right) enters his 18th season in the NHL with the Blues.
That's why he chose to add St. Louis as the latest chapter of what will be his 18th season in the NHL.
"For me, it was a no-brainer," Arnott said. "It just felt like a good fit to come in and help out the young guys and play for a great organization."
The most intriguing aspect about the Blues, Arnott said, "Probably the amount of talent you get to play with. I think we've got the top nine guys who are real talented forwards. No matter who you play with, you're going to play with somebody really good.
"From playing them over the years, they're a hard-working team. They don't have a lot of big superstars. They've got a lot of spread-out talent, great on the backend, they've got gritty older guys on the backend as well as younger guys (and) talented up front coming into the league with a great goaltender. To me, it was just the makings of a great team. I played for (Blues general manager Doug Armstrong) in Dallas for a little bit (from 2001-2006) and I got to know him."
Arnott, who also knows the Blues from years of playing in the Western Conference with Edmonton (the Oilers drafted him with the 7th overall pick in 1993), Dallas and most recently in Nashville, spent last season in New Jersey before being dealt at the trade deadline to Washington to help the Capitals' playoff push.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Collingwood, Ontario native scored 17 goals and added another 14 assists in what turned out to be his lowest point production in any season. But coming back to the West and being in an upbeat environment thirsting for playoff success should help invigorate Arnott's hockey juices once again.
"Veteran presence is important on our team," Armstrong said. "We don't have a lot of players that have that been-there, done-that experience."
Arnott's been there and done that. Along with having his name engraved on the Cup, he also has 400 goals and 904 points in 1,172 career games and of his 17 previous seasons, he's scored 20-plus goals in 12 of them.
"The game is getting younger and younger every year, but you always want to have those older guys in the room," said Arnott, who two seasons ago matched a career-best 33 goals with the Predators. "Most times, it's just the presence. A lot of the times, we don't have to say much. We just have to go out and be a pro and do our thing on the ice and just our presence in the room and on the ice will hopefully help."
It's projected that Arnott will center a line with Jamie Langenbrunner on the right side and Alex Steen on the left. It will arguably pose as one of the league's best third-line units in the game.
"The good thing about that is we can play at both ends of the rink," Arnott said. "All of us can score and make plays. I think each one of us brings something different to the table. That's good because when you get too many guys that do the same thing on every line, sometimes it just doesn't work.
"Who knows, it may not gel, but it's got the makings of a great line. I'm looking forward to it. I played with Jamie a little bit in New Jersey. We clicked pretty well. Steener's an all-around gifted athlete. He can do pretty much anything on the ice and sees the ice so well. We just have to get in the open for him, let him go, all back each other up and have fun."
With Arnott, Langenbrunner (2), Andy McDonald and newly signed defenseman Kent Huskins, the Blues will have five Stanley Cup winners in their locker room. Adding some more been-there, done-that voices should help a team through the ups and downs a season can pose.
Jason Arnott would love to add another Cup to his
resume. Can he do it with the Blues?
"Yeah, and it's an everyday thing. The nights that you're not feeling up to par and you've got some soreness, you're always going to have fatigue and injuries and stuff," Arnott said. "It's just playing through that and knowing what's at the other end. If you can get that across to young guys, who knows what can happen. Jamie and myself have been through those trial and errors. We've won and we've lost. We've been on both ends of the spectrum. It's a hard game to win at and if you can just help out a little bit and just tell them a little bit, hopefully that will help.
"... Young guys keep you energized. If you can help them out as much as you can with presence and a little bit of talk, hopefully it will make a better team."
When the free agency period began, Arnott said he had multiple offers on the table. He looked over the ones he felt had a playoff pedigree. Arnott said the Blues do.
"Oh absolutely. I don't think I would have came here if it didn't," he said. "That's one thing that I would like to do is win again before I'm done. I think any older guy would tell you that. Once you win, it's hard to lose. You just want to keep winning. In this league, I think you can say anything can happen as long as you get into the playoffs.
"It's going to be tough. It's not going to be easy. The Western Conference is a lot tougher than the Eastern Conference. Just in the past with getting in, I think it's going to be a battle again. You can't just take one night off. Every night's going to count and every shift's going to count. If you get that across, hopefully it will work."
Arnott is banking on it working here, which is why winning is all that's left to prove.
"Yeah, I want to win again," Arnott said. "I would like to win again before I'm done. Hopefully I have a few more years left in me. But right now, I'm focused in on this year and winning with this organization. I think it would be a phenomenal city to win in.
"Coming into this rink every year, it's a tough building to play in, the fans are fantastic, the city seems like it gets behind the organization a lot. I've heard nothing but unbelievable things from other players that have played here. ... I'm looking forward to the year. It should be a lot of fun."