Note's top defenseman becomes new captain
For the first time since 2011, the Blues have a new wearer of the “C.”It’s an individual, though, who’s already served the organization with distinction for nearly a decade.
Last week, general manager Doug Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock officially named Alex Pietrangelo captain. The defenseman fills the leadership role previously held by forward David Backes, who landed a lucrative free-agent deal with Boston.
Pietrangelo’s appointment comes as he prepares for his eighth NHL campaign. The 26-year-old helped St. Louis advance to the Western Conference final several months ago, tallying 10 points in 20 playoff contests. In 459 regular-season games, he boasts 51 goals and 204 assists.
Yet Pietrangelo’s far from the only twentysomething on whom the Blues plan to rely heavily. After May’s gut-wrenching defeat to the Sharks, the team’s brass allowed older veterans like Backes, Troy Brouwer and Steve Ott to walk. Armstrong shipped dependable goalie Brian Elliott to the Flames, too, guaranteeing former second-round draft pick Jake Allen the No. 1 job. So the onus now falls on wunderkind wingers Vladimir Tarasenko, Robby Fabbri and Jaden Schwartz to pave the way for future success.
Hitchcock also possesses an array of complementary blue-line options. Erstwhile All-Star Kevin Shattenkirk’s puck-handling and vision make him a terrific quarterback for the first power-play unit. Meanwhile, Colton Parayko was a two-way revelation as a rookie.
Nonetheless, will the still-evolving nucleus be enough to finally capture the Stanley Cup? With training camps beginning soon, online sports book Bovada.lv gives the Note odds of +1400 to lift hockey’s sacred silver chalice Cup. Among Western Conference squads, only the Blackhawks (+900) and Stars (+1200) are held in higher esteem.
The Blues open their schedule with an Oct. 12 clash vs. Chicago, with Hitchcock patrolling the bench one more season. They’ve qualified for the playoffs in each of the past five years, thrice reaching at least the second round.