Blues captain wants to see group bind together and work towards
making team not only strong regular season team but playoff team
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Blues forward David Backes will be entering his 10th season in the NHL and fifth as captain.
He'll begin his first full season as a new father to a daughter, Stella.
Backes, who had 26 goals and 58 points in 80 games during the regular season, reflects on changes made by the team to improve this season, his feelings on where the team needs to go and embracing coach Ken Hitchcock behind the bench again.
See what he has to say here:
Fans expected massive turnover after last season; what's your take on the changes that were made?
There were some big changes made. If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don't think that was realistic. You've seen two guys that were core parts of the leadership group that were core parts of building an awesome St. Louis Blues culture of hard work. A guy you thought was going to be a Blue for life in Barret Jackman and another guy that was the face of the franchise in T.J. Oshie that aren't here anymore. ... We expect Troy (Brouwer) to be a huge part of this thing going forward. We're going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it's pretty significant. It's up to us as a group now to come together, bind together, become a unit of one and go out there and execute a game plan that's put in front of us and win games.
Do you think the new guys are going to help you get where you want to be?
That's the trust in the management and the decisions they're making that they're making those for the better of the team. It's up to us in the room to find common ground and a connection with all 23 guys and probably a few more that are going to be in and out of town that that group of guys is cohesive and we're all on the same page and working together towards a common goal, and that's winning games each and every game that we're up against; whether that's regular season or postseason.
When you hear coach Ken Hitchcock talk about getting back to being reckless or playing faster, what does that tell you as players?
Reckless for a 63-year-old man might be different than reckless for some young bucks, but I think he's obviously a guy that still lives in the game and watches a ton of hockey. He's seen something that's going to be tweaked in our systems where we are more reckless and more on the move and playing a faster game rather than slowing it down. Not that we played slow but making that fast game our identity and trending in that direction and getting transition, capitalizing on odd-man rushes and being more dangerous off the rush. That makes us a better team. He puts the work in, he puts the game plan in along with the other coaches. It's up to us as the leadership group, as captains to sell that to the guys and lead by example and everyone else jump on board, follow it and when we do that, we're a helluva good team.
Were there too many ups and downs in last season's team game rather than individual players?
To think that we're going to be a perfect, consistent level all year I think is a fallacy for 82 games and six or seven months. When we have those downs and putting them behind us and bringing our best game the next day or when we have a great game, putting that behind us and preparing for the next game on a consistent basis and not dwelling on, 'Oh, we beat a good team by a large margin,' people start getting too ahead of themselves. Same thing when we lose to a team by a bigger margin, people get ahead of themselves and push the panic button. If we just think about the next game preparing for it, the team will level itself out. Players and individual games level themselves out and as a group we'll have a ton more success.
Did you reflect on being ousted from the playoffs last year? If so, how much? Or were you able to turn the page quickly?
If I was to tell you that we lose to Minnesota and I flipped a switch and was golfing all summer and didn't think another thought about it, that would be pretty disappointing and pretty shocking. You wouldn't want that. From me, it was long, individual reflection and then I was here for eight weeks after the season with meetings and conversations and a few beverages to try to talk out and try to solve problems. They've subsided a bit; they haven't completely gone away and we're focused on finding how we take a step forward in the playoffs and not status quo is definitely not acceptable around here. Reflecting on it, yes, and then after reflecting on what happened, you get to the next point and that's problem solutions. Bring me a problem; OK. Bring me a problem with a solution, that's what we're looking for and that's what we spent a ton of time on this summer.
Do you think players are on board with Hitchcock coming back as coach?
He is our coach. Tough cookies if you don't like it. From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan. When it's followed, we have tons of success. Him and the rest of the coaching staff does a fantastic job. It's up to the leadership group, led by myself, to put that game plan into motion and sell it to the rest of the guys. The best way to sell it is to lead by example. We need that core leadership group of three, five, seven guys maybe to be the first bought in. After that, everyone else will tote along and we're going to have tons of success. In the playoffs, it's even more so. It's unselfish, it's team first and it's as a group. As a group, we have success. As individuals, we have plenty of failure.
Do you ever get caught up in the talk of you moving back to the right wing?
I never get caught up in it. It seems like every summer, these conversations happen. You're playing wing, you're playing center. If I told you I knew a concrete answer, I'd lie to you, but it seems as though through injury or through play or Hitch or whatever coach seems to like me playing center, that's where I end up. That being said, I'm open to whatever makes us more successful as a team. It may be a little back and forth depending on, but more than likely, I'll be in the middle and we'll see what happens.
As players wearing the 'A,' are those big shoes to fill replacing Barret Jackman and T.J. Oshie as leaders?
Really heart and soul guys. 'Osh' was a big, emotional leader. 'Jax' was a stalwart and steady guy for us and a huge presence in a room. I've never walked into a St. Louis Blues dressing room without Barret Jackman there. It's going to be something new for me this year. I didn't spend much time on the ice without T.J. Oshie out there. Big changes in my eyes and they'll be sorely missed. We need guys to step up and fill those voids. We need to turn the page as a group because you sit there and play boo-hoo, sorry for yourselves, you've got friends and good friends that have moved on and that have been moved on. That's not productive. They'll be missed, but they're not here and we've got to find ways to have success. Troy Brouwer's a heck of a player and we've got other guys from within to step up on defense and play big roles.