For years, the St. Louis Blues captain was David Backes, who embodied everything that a leader should. A true leader on and off the ice, he was the main part of the Blues’ identity and his no-nonsense approach is still adored by the fanbase. He did it all, he could hit opponents, kick their ass, yell at anyone, and even rescue a dog or two!
He and his wife share passions for rescuing and protecting the welfare of homeless pets throughout the country and founded the company “Athletes For Animals.” This kind of leadership and selflessness is heartwarming and certainly acts as a mentor to kids and athletes of the future.
As much as the majority of Blues fans wanted him to continue his tenure with the Blue Note, a deal could not be made. With his age and contract expectations, GM Doug Armstrong didn’t want to put the team’s future aside to accommodate one player. Backes tested free agency and as a result signed with the Boston Bruins.
His final act with the Blues was a sad moment for everyone connected with the organization as he broke down in tears after the Blues were eliminated from the playoffs in the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks back in May 2016. We all knew this was the last time we would suit up for the Blues.
The changing of the guard was to follow and David Backes had recommended Alex Pietrangelo for captaincy prior to his departure. He has since followed in David Backes’ footsteps leading the charge for the Blues. Pietrangelo (28) has been an elite defenseman in the NHL for years now and has even been suggested as a potential Norris Trophy candidate for the future.
He has led the Blues in average ice time per game for the seventh consecutive season (25.44). He is one of the leagues finest and most versatile defenseman. Pietrangelo is now the future and face of the organization, somewhat like his predecessor, but in a different way. He brings a presence as captain that is best described as friendly, energetic and laid back.
The Blue Note have been going through a transition season or two, mainly because of captaincy changes, coaching changes, and the change of the core of the organization. Although this may about to change with the astute additions done in this off season so far. Pietrangelo will be the most excited with the summers activity thus far as he is hoping to become the first Blues captain to hoist the Stanley Cup.
His captaincy has been questioned and his teammates have were mocked during the bad stretches during last season. The fickleness of those who side on the other side of the glass can be further demonstrated by the abuse and mocking of goaltender Jake Allen when he made a save during the downturn in form he had; when previously they were singing his praises when he almost single-handedly led the Blues past the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs for the 2016/17 season. Of course Allen has been inconsistent before that moment and since but he would not give up on his teammate. Pietrangelo was obviously upset and made the point that we all had to stick together, fans and organization alike.
Led by Pietrangelo, the team rallied after the bad stretch and with his leadership on the ice, he was the NHL first star of the week for the period ending March 18, putting up heavy points and allowing the team to come back into the playoff picture. When things went wrong, he would keep the issues in-house and not divulge to the media. He would not yell, he would encourage his teammates. These are the values of wearing the “C” in these desperate times.
His leadership qualities are justified by his King Clancy nomination back in April which is given to “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice.” He and some of his teammates have donated new hockey apparel to the Blues’ Special Hockey Club, which tells you the quality in his person, as he knows about a struggle and trials and tribulations young people go through.
In an article written earlier this year in the Players Tribune titled “There’s A Place You Can Go,” he opens up about many tragedies he faced in his younger days and even in the recent past. He is quoted saying, “For me hockey has always been like an escape from life especially when life gets complicated. And…. well it always seems to get complicated.” A very hard but ultimately warm story about the leader of the Blues organization; and with this sort of leader, the Blues’ future is in very good hands.