ST. LOUIS -- For the first time since he turned pro, Scottie Upshall enters September without an idea of what his immediate hockey future holds.
The 31-year-old Upshall, who spent the past four seasons with the Florida Panthers, is at Blues camp on a professional tryout attempting to perform well enough to earn a contract.
Upshall, a 2002 first-round pick (sixth overall) with the Nashville Predators, talks about the number of NHL veterans looking for contracts this season, why he chose to come to the Blues and wanting to make this roster:
What do you feel there's an abundance of veterans going to camps on PTO's?
There's an abundance of us that have played many years that still I feel have things left in the tank and have stuff to prove. It puts things into perspective. It's a time in your career when you realize that the game in your career can't be taken for granted and you've got to continue to work and continually get better. Everyone's so competitive now. You look at the difference in making the playoffs, it's a point here and a point there. Guys making the team it's doing one thing maybe better than the other guy. For the first time in my career, 16-17 years since I've played professional junior, I'm going into September not really knowing kind of where I am. I've watched teammates in the past come in on PTO's play really well, make the team, have great years. Now with an abundance of us, it's maybe the times are changing. They want to see young players come in and if the young players can't do it, they want us guys to push them and push for spots. We're all in a position, I feel. I'm just happy to be in this organization right now wearing this jersey. It's a great jersey to wear. This team speaks for itself with the way they play hockey and I'm proud to compete for a spot here.
Why is this team, this particular situation the right fit?
For me, I felt at this stage of my career ... I'm 31, I made it to the conference finals once, been to the playoffs four times. I would love to be part of something knowing right from the get-go that this team means business. Their goal here isn't just to make the playoffs. I've been part of that in the past where you start the season off, you didn't have a great year and as a team, you just want to get in the dance and have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. But here, I feel this team wants to win the Presidents' Trophy, this team wants to go on 20-game winning streaks. This group in here knows how to win and the coaching staff sets a precedent that they have a mandate of how they want us playing. That was a big-time deciding factor in where I wanted to go. Having the opportunity coming here, talking to Ken before camp, having him kind of explain what he wants this team to be like, fast and play hard, in your face, I feel like that's what I've been able to bring to the table and who I am. I've been there, I've been an assistant captain, I know how to lead, help these leaders do the job, just push to make this team.
Was it a pretty quick decision once the Blues contacted you?
Yeah. Once Septtember hit, I was like, 'I need to focus on where I'm going to be.' I didn't want to push it any longer. I knew there were guys in my spot. Playing in Florida, not having a couple great seasons as a group down there, you've got to prove yourself. This game gets tougher and tougher as you get older. You can't take this for granted. This sport is the best sport in the world. Being good at it, you've got to continually work. I feel as healthy as can be, I feel like I'm on top of my game. I'm just here at camp trying to do my best to make this team.
Is it natural these days for veteran guys to be looking over their shoulders with so many younger guys making the NHL these days?
We've all been part of it. We've all been young guys before doing the same thing to older guys. You definitely see a lot of younger players now. It's a fast game. You've got to be able to skate, you've got to play fast, you've got to shoot the puck, you've got to be first in on the forecheck. These are all things that this team wants their guys to do, what I believe in as a hockey player, the things I believe work well are just those things. Play with tenacity, play with heart, be a good teammate, help this team reach goals that they haven't got to. That's where I am.
So you're in a situation where now you're trying to take someone else's job and earn a contract. Do you go into it with a nothing-to-lose mentality?
For sure. You play controlled, but you bleed out here, you give it your all every time you're out on the ice. There's eyes on you. That's the major thing. This team is a successful group. These exhibition games mean a lot for guys like me and guys around the league. If it doesn't work here, other guys are watching. It's a tough league, guys get hurt, you never know what happens. All you can do is control the way you play, how hard you work, how good of a teammate you are. People recognize that.