Monday, October 3, 2011

Blues have one of the more versatile players in Alex Steen

Winger says he's "sick of these long summers"

ST. LOUIS -- The motivation that Alex Steen brings with him into this season is simple.

"Making the playoffs," Steen said sternly. "I'm so sick of these long summers. That's my goal."

And with that, the 27-year-old Winnipeg, Manitoba native took another summer and spent it going between Winnipeg and Sweden using the time to prepare for what Steen hopes will culminate with the Blues getting back into the postseason. He also spends time running the Amadeus Steen Foundation
(Getty Images)
Alex Steen gives the Blues an element at both ends of the ice.

Steen, who scored 20 goals and added 31 assists in 72 games last season, says the drive to getting better and staying fit is all about keeping it fun. He may be the best all-around athlete on the Blues' roster.

"I find when you do the same things over and over again, it's harder to motivate yourself, so last year, I did roller blading ... it's almost like skiing but on roller blades," Steen said. "This year was a lot more running. I've done some boxing, biking, cycling ... I do all sorts of stuff. Some soccer here and there.

"You just try and find ways to motivate yourself and make it fun. When you have fun, you always seem to push yourself a little bit harder. You almost don't realize how hard you're going until it's almost over and done."

Steen said he's worked out with the Sedin brothers, Daniel and Henrik in Sweden. He calls them some of the most fit guys he's seen, and judging by the numbers the duo put up with the Vancouver Canucks, why not try and duplicate it?

"Every year is different," Steen said. "I find new ways and talk to new people over in Sweden. We've got a good group of guys. ... You pick programs off of (the Sedins') programs in the summer. Obviously (Blues strength and conditioning coach) Nelson (Ayotte) has some stuff that I really like and I do. There's a strength coach back home in Modo that I really like. I think it just keeps you excited.

"During the summer, it's a lot of mental preparation for this year, but the physical parts was getting quicker and getting better endurance. I've found the last couple years that it's gotten really good and I'm able to last a long time. Those have always been key elements. I've obviously put some strength in these bones. That helps, too."

Steen, who has 100 goals and 248 points in 454 career games, is a commodity that is rare in the league these days. The Blues are able to utilize Steen in a number of different roles, and in each situation, they all seem to pay positive dividends.

Steen can play a checking role and has been used in that scenario on multiple occasions. But when the Blues went through a rash of injuries in season's past, Steen was first in line to be used in a scoring role. Power play or penalty kill, Steen is up for the challenge.

"We know how well he deals with playing all the different positions and all the different variables we throw at him," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "He does a very good job in that, but we want to get him solidified and cohesive with a group of guys so that he doesn't have to continue to adjust and bounce. He knows coming to the rink he's got his guys and he's going to play his game. That's part of the big picture we want to get to.

"We want to make sure Steener gets to a spot where he's locked in and he's got some constant in his game, including with his linemates."

Steen, who was thought to be projected to play on a line with Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, has developed a nice niche recently with Vladimir Sobotka and Matt D'Agostini. He said it's all about making the right adjustments.

"You adapt to the type of players they are," Steen said. "Dags and Sobe, I've played together with them before. Langs, we've practiced a lot together, played one game and now Arnie had that eye surgery.

"I think the biggest thing is communication. You talk both on the ice and in the room about what type of situations you like to get yourself into and what they expect and where they like to be. You just get a feel for guys."

D'Agostini said you can't help but be a better player playing on a line with Steen.

"He's just such a great all-around player," said D'Agostini, who had a career-high 21 goals a season ago and has played with Steen previously before this season. "He plays both ends of the ice so well.

"I know personally for myself, he's gotten pucks to me where shooting it is the easy part. The work that he does to get you pucks is what makes him so good. And when guys get pucks to him, he makes it look easy. He drives to open ice as good as anyone I know."
(Getty Images)
Alex Steen (right) has 100 career goals, 50 of them in 201 career games with
the Blues.

Steen said the quickness aspect to his game is an area he feels needs to be continuously enhanced, and it's an area he particularly focused on this past off-season.

"I think I've gone up a lot in the quickness area, and since Day 1, that's something I've been working on," he said. "Goalies get quicker and quicker and almost stay ahead of guys.

"Every year, it seems like the league gets quicker and quicker. I feel like I want to try and stay a step ahead of that instead of falling behind."

Payne said he's already noticed it.

"He looks faster this year," Payne said. "Talking to him, he said he feels a little bit stronger on his feet.

"He's a guy with great pace, great acceleration, a guy who can really drive to open ice very very well. I sat down and talked to him and really encouraged him to use that ability, whether it's on a self-chip or clear possession, if he's got some wide ice, let's go ahead and take it. Let's maintain it, let's see what happens underneath those defensemen. He's the kind of guy that has that pace going both ways very effectively. ... He can really provide some direction to our game, but he's obviously gone back in the summer and worked on some things, gained a little bit of strength and with that comes a little bit of speed. He looks pretty sharp out there."

Steen, who has been named one of the assistant captains this season along with Barret Jackman, Andy McDonald and Langenbrunner, applauds the moves the Blues made this off-season and gives the Blues a look he hasn't seen here since being acquired from Toronto (along with Carlo Colaiacovo) on Nov. 24, 2008.

"Really good additions," he said. "We had some injury problems obviously last year. We were a little thin at times, but I think the character guys that we brought in, they're veteran-type of guys that have been around the league for a long time. They've won and they bring different elements to the team, most importantly a winning attitude. It's already spread within the room. The guys are awesome. You met all these guys, they're great guys. They've come in and it's like they've been a part of the team forever. I think we're going to have a really fun year."

Steen notes in order for the Blues to be successful and be a playoff team, they have to start strong and stay consistent, something that was lacking in an injury-plagued season. With expectations high, he's looking forward to being a part of something that could be special and contribute any way he can.

"Everybody's excited," Steen said. "You (media) guys are excited, the city's excited. I think it's going to be a fun year. We've got to come out of the gates hard, start the season fast and quick and get some wins right away and go from there.

"I think the biggest thing for me personally is I always want to grow and get better. That's something that drives me throughout the whole year."

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