Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Q & A with Alex Pietrangelo

Blues defenseman addresses start of 2015-16 season, 
past teammates, willingness to take necessary steps

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues' Alex Pietrangelo recently answered questions about a variety of topics. 

The 25-year-old is entering his eighth NHL season, sixth full one. See what the defenseman had to say about another disappointing Stanley Cup Playoff exit, moving on without T.J. Oshie and Barret Jackman and coach Ken Hitchcock: 
Alex Pietrangelo
Guys have come in early to prepare for following season; is it tiresome trying to put frustrations of the previous season behind you and always working on fixing things?
That's why everyone gets here and we start practicing as a team and get to things early. I think the most important thing is you bring in few faces, guys like Troy and he's been here for a couple weeks. It's important to kind of develop a relationship with each other going into training camp, going into the season. You want to feel comfortable with one another.

Has last season's sting gone away?
The more you keep bringing it up, the more I gotta think about it (laughing). ... We're all disappointed. Everybody can agree on that. It's not a good feeling. Basically about a month or so, you feel like you can move on and start moving on. The best way to do it is you've got to kind of change your thought process to get ready for next year. Summers are so important now in a sense of training and getting ready for next season. It gives you an opportunity to focus and move forward. It's a lot of wasted energy now that we're sitting here dwelling on last year; we can go out and learn from it, but the ultimate goal is to get better. To get better, you learn from mistakes. We all had time to sit back and reflect. It was uncomfortable. It's never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens. Training camp's the first step in that direction.

Is there talk within the team, conversations with leadership on how last season ended?
Yeah, it's been like that every year. Between the coaching staff and management and players, that's how you've got to do it. The important thing is we're all on the same page. We've all got to make sure we've got the same thought process here. We've all kind of flipped the switch here and generated for next year. We're that close to training camp. We don't really have a choice but to prepare ourselves.

Hitchcock spoke of going back to playing reckless, team was being too careful with its play last season. What does he mean by playing reckless?
We've got a lot of dynamic players up front and on the back end. I think there's opportunities for us to let those guys go, to let those guys create advantages with their skill set. Hitch is a fantastic coach. He's going to create a good base with a system to follow. It's up to us to follow it, but to have the same amount of recklessness, the freedom -- whichever way you want to put it -- to create things and to get the opportunity.

On Hitchcock coming back?
All the players are on board. We all think Hitch is a great coach. His track record speaks for itself. We've said that from the day he got here. Obviously at the end of the season, start of the summer, we didn't know what was going to happen. It's never easy for players to go through that, especially when you've been with a coach for so many years and you've developed a relationship. But we're to have him back, we're happy to have all of them back. We learned a lot from each other last year; last year wasn't easy. Hitch will have a great mindset going into this year. He always does. Hopefully we can execute everything they come up with.

What was that uncertainty like among the team whether you'd stay in tact or not?
You kept a lot of the same group together. We've had a lot of success obviously by what we do in the regular season. We know the results have not been the way we've wanted in the playoffs, but I think we're at that point now where myself and the leaders, we know if we're going to get better with the group that's here, it starts with us leaders. Myself, David (Backes), 'Steener' (Alexander Steen), Vladi (Tarasenko), we're the group that's going to carry the team. We need to perform better in the playoffs so that we can get to that next level.

Where does your game need to go now?
Start better than I did last year. I think getting off on the right foot is always a good thing. It builds your confidence starting into the season. Like I say every year, I make improvements as much as I can in every area. My goal is to always contribute at both ends of the ice. I know the coaches believe that I'm capable in doing that. My goal is to do that to the best of my abilities. You've got to make sure you're working on everything.

Does Tarasenko have to be more a leader with new contract?
Vladi was a leader last year, especially on the ice. As he gets more comfortable off the ice, he's going to become a better leader. His play speaks for itself. We know having Vladi, he's a rare breed and we're lucky to have a guy like that. Army did a great job obviously locking him up. He's an important piece to this franchise moving forward. The older he gets, the more success he has. He's obviously going to build on that. In talking to him this summer, you can already see the maturity and how he's changed his life. It happens to all of us. At some point, we all take that next step off the ice to be a leader. 

Moving on without Jackman?
I think if you went around the dressing room, anybody that's been here when 'Jax' was here, he's had an influence on everybody. It's always been in a positive way. It's tough to see a guy go; he's been here for so many years. It's a long time in one spot. The important thing about 'Jax' is you go around the community and talk to people and you see the impact that he had. Not only on the hockey community but outside of that as well. On the hockey side of things, you're going to miss a guy like 'Jax.' He's a leader. He brought a lot to the table night in, night out. He touched on me; he was such an important part on me. He started when he was young, I started when I was young. I owe a lot to him today to where I am. It's going to be tough to see him go, but lucky enough, he still resides in St. Louis. 

And moving on without Oshie?
'Osh' is another guy that I grew in this organization with. We started at the same time. You kind of develop and you mature, not only in hockey but in life together. You go through a lot of different things. A week after he was traded, I was at his wedding. It still hasn't really sunk in that he got traded. It's an unfortunate part of the business, but you try and keep those friendships even if we're on a different team. It's tough to see a guy like that go, but we have some new pieces that can help us move forward here.

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