Sunday, April 15, 2018

Blues forward Alexander Steen

ST. LOUIS -- The longest-tenured member of the Blues, forward Alexander Steen echoes the thoughts of many of his teammates after the completion of the 2017-18 season: it was a disappointment.

Steen, who has been with the Blues since the 2008-09 season, completed his ninth year in St. Louis and 13th in the NHL. 
Blues forward Alexander Steen

One of the remaining core players from the team that reached the Western Conference Final two seasons ago, Steen's offensive numbers -- most notably, goal-scoring -- have slipped each season since scoring a career-high 33 goals in 2013-14 and finished with 46 points (15 goals, 31 assists) in 76 games after missing the first six games of the season with a wrist injury.

When he plays his second game next season, Steen will reach 900 NHL regular-season games. 

He talks about missing out on the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, what needs to be addressed in the offseason and how the team rallied and gave it a final push before missing out on the playoffs by one point despite a roster that continues to transition to a younger group:

Can you point to anything specific or are there a broad range of reasons why you're standing here talking about not making the playoffs instead of being in them?
It's difficult to put everything into words I think right now. Still a lot of emotions and the biggest one being disappointment and frustration. We have an extremely long summer ahead of us that needs to be used in the right way.

How do you use it in the right way?
I'm sure we're going to have some good discussions here in the next little bit. From there, it's about preparation for the upcoming season. For us as players, it's getting the bodies ready, the brains ready for what's going to be a big year for us.

When you look at a team like Colorado that was able to do what they did, go from 48 points to the playoffs, can you draw some similarities of how you'd like to make sire this doesn't happen to you next year in terms of bouncing back?
I don't think those are similar situations. For us as a group, it's looking at things that went on throughout the course of the year. I think the fact that we weren't able to sustain what we had at the start of the year, obviously special teams, both sides of it that's been a staple of our group for years and years, you kind of slipped already a little last year and this year was obviously far from good enough. Those are two big points that we'll need to address.

You guys are used to going to the playoffs. Is it hard to cope with the fact that you're not this year?
Yeah, it's hard to swallow. Like I said, that we weren't able to sustain what we had at the beginning of the season, we'll obviously look at why that was, the special teams part of it, and even down the stretch, we had our share of chances to lock up a playoff spot and made similar mistakes to what we did at the start or the midpoint of the season. As the season progresses, you want to progress as a group and make sure that you learned from what's gone wrong in the past. To let some of those games slip, it's a disappointing time right now. It'll take a while to get over and obviously get into some discussions to make sure we're on the right track going into next season.

There were multiple times where you stood here and said that was unacceptable, whether it was effort or the way the team played. How do you prevent those?
Those aren't really what I'm talking about. I'm talking about more mistakes that are made in-game allowing goals in Nashville on our power play for them to come back and tie it up or not being able to get a big kill or mental lapses that end up costing us goals and momentum in games, things like that. It's something that we'll talk about and address and clean up.

What was the mindset at the time Paul Stastny was traded?
It was definitely a difficult time for the group. He's a big part of who we've become and the culture and identity of the team. I think even though that game in Minnesota ended up the way it did, I still think there was something that got ignited in our group. I don't know how many games were left from that point on, but we knew that there were 17 games or whatever it might have been and we knew where we were in the standings and that we needed to get a good push. There were a lot of guys that really responded and the care was there and we started playing with a lot of selflessness again. It started adding up and we started getting some points. 

What do you think this team needs moving forward?
Like I said, special teams has been a staple of our group and that's something we'll need to address on both sides of it, power play and penalty kill. We'll go over, we'll have discussions here about this past season and clean up what we need to clean up. From that point on, it's about preparation and getting ready.

You don't control what goes on upstairs, but are you prepared to have a different group coming in here next year?
I think those things are, like you said, out of our control. They're sometimes more expected when seasons go like the way that they did this year. It's more of a question for the guys that run that part of our organization. We'll see what happens.

From your point of view being in your 30's and trying to bring a Stanley Cup here, do you feel like it was a wasted year?
Yeah, when you don't make the playoffs, the year's gone. That's pretty well put.

World Championships in your plans at all?
No, not really. I've got some things I've got to sort out here in St. Louis before that point in time.

Is that part of the sadness and disappointment that there will be guys that won't be back here?
That's something that happens every season, whether you go deep in the playoffs like we did a couple years ago or you're eliminated like this. You expect some changes to be made to make our team better. We'll see what those are. Right now, I think our focus is on these discussions on looking at ourselves in the mirror and what we didn't do well and what we need to do to sustain throughout the course of the year and get ready for next year. 

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