Veteran winger feeling "25 again;" feels healthier than he was last season
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Andy McDonald is a voice of reason.
The Blues' winger understands that an athlete's biological clock doesn't last forever and Father Time catches up with everyone.
For McDonald, who turned 35 on Aug. 25, it's only natural to have those after-hockey thoughts and think about how much more time's left in the tank, especially with the lifespan of a hockey player.
A healthy Andy McDonald gives the Blues a
much-needed offensive weapon.
But as McDonald enters his 12th season in the NHL -- his fourth full season in St. Louis -- he feels like Father Time will have to take a backseat and wait a while longer before the Strathroy, Ontario native checks out of his skates.
If McDonald's as refreshed and energized as he was while the Blues were skating informally at their practice facility, there are quite a few more miles remaining in those speedy skates.
"Physically I feel 25 again and I'm really looking forward to this year," McDonald said. "... I'm really looking forward to it. I feel better this year than I did last year. I think you play so many years with injuries and things going on, you don't realize what good health is. I feel great. I had a really good off-season. I'm healthy."
McDonald, who has 468 points in 648 career games, was also healthy going into last season, one in which the Blues had one of their best seasons in franchise history going 49-22-11. However, McDonald's season was unexpectedly derailed when he suffered yet another concussion the third game of the season in Dallas. That was on Oct. 13. He wouldn't see NHL action again until Feb. 12, missing 51 games.
It was the sixth concussion of McDonald's career, and at one point during the recovery process, he admitted there were times where he didn't know if he would ever play again. With a wife and two young kids to think about, the long-term future was definitely in play.
But McDonald went through the treatments, the rest and took the proper channels of concussion protocol, vowing to return. He played an abbreviated 25-game schedule last season and finished with 22 points as the Blues finished tied with the second-most points in the NHL with 109. McDonald would go on and tear it up for the Blues in their opening round playoff series win against San Jose with four goals and four assists in five games before the Blues were derailed by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
But the return to action was a different feel for McDonald, considering it wasn't the customary off-season program that builds a player up for the ruggedness of an 82-game season.
"Physically, I probably wasn't where I wanted to be because you really take advantage to having the off-season to get your strength," McDonald said. "When you go through a concussion, there's a good portion of the time where you're not doing anything, you're not training. To come back in and try to play and not kind of have that summer to train and get ready made it a little bit tougher. But I was probably just a little bit lighter and probably strength-wise, I could have been a little bit stronger.
"I was so happy to be back playing and I was pretty happy about my health at that point. I feel like I'm in better shape this time around. I will have my conditioning back, I will have my strength back. I'm a lot better off now."
When Andy McDonald was in the Blues' lineup in 2011-12,
he was nearly a point-per-game player. But a sixth career
concussion forced the veteran to miss 51 games.
McDonald, who is experimenting with wearing a new helmet, one that will help protect from the vulnerabilities of a concussion, is projected to be playing the upcoming season on a line with Alex Steen and 2010 first round pick Vladimir Tarasenko. It has the potential to be one of the more lethal third lines in the league.
And for McDonald, who's entering the final year of a four-year, $18.8 million contract and can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2013, he's eager and anxious to play a full 82-game season. That's only happened twice. Plus, McDonald would love to prolong his NHL career here, perhaps finish it in St. Louis.
"I feel better now mentally than I did last year," McDonald said. "I had some lingering things from years with concussions.
"I don't think I realized what 100 percent was until last season being able to come back and get the treatments and go through all that and to get to a point where I really felt confident that I was 100 percent. That's why I'm so upbeat about this season. I've had a great summer and I'm really looking forward to playing a full year with this kind of health."