Looking for leadership: Who is the next St Louis Blues Captain?


Trading a captain away used to be a mortal sin for an organization. If players tended to stay with the same organization for the duration of their careers, the captains would stay part of the organization for the rest of their lives. Can anyone imagine Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau or Bob Gainey wearing anything other than the bleu blanc et rouge? Would the Red Wings ever trade Alex Delvecchio or even Steve Yzerman? Would the Boston Bruins ever trade Raymond Bou… nevermind.

Like many other things around the NHL, time brings change.

Over the course of the offseason, the New York Rangers have let their captain Chris Drury walk away and the Philadelphia Flyers have traded Mike Richards to the Kings. Adam Foote has retired in Colorado and Doug Weight has done the same in Long Island. But even more surprising, the Sabres, Devils, and Blues all traded their captains in the middle of the season last year. Craig Rivet was sitting in the press box by the time he was traded from the Sabres and Jaime Langenbrunner was fighting with Jacques Lemaire by the time he was sent out of town. But for the Blues, sending Captain Eric Brewer to the Lightning was a move that truly sent their leader to a new team.

As important as offseason acquisitions are for the Blues, perhaps the most important decision in shaping the team this offseason will be selecting the next captain of the proud franchise.

Returning to the team this season are all three alternate captains: Alex Steen, Barret Jackman, and David Backes. Elsewhere on the roster, Andy McDonald has provided leadership over the last four seasons and star-in-the-making Alex Pietrangelo wore the “A” for Team Canada in the 2010 World Junior Championships. The team has also welcomed veteran leaders and former NHL captains Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner to the team via free agency. For a team that traded away their leader at the deadline last season, the Blues certainly have their share of candidates to replace Brewer as captain for next season.

For our money, it’s hard to imagine a better captain for the Blues than David Backes. He’s the heart and soul of their young core combining skill, grit, and leadership in one powerful package. The 27-year-old is a two-time 30-goal scorer in the NHL and has only missed three games over the last three seasons. He’s represented the United States in the World Championships three times, was a member of Team USA’s silver medal winning team in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and was an all-star for the first time in his career last season. But more important than any stats that show up on his resume, it’s the way Backes plays the game that makes him the ideal leader for the Blues. He’s the type of player that would do anything for his team—whether its spark his teammates with a body check, an important goal, or even a fight. David Rogers from the Blues blog FrozenNotes.com agrees:

“Backes leads by example. He goes to the dirty areas of the ice and has no fear throwing his body around. Quite often, his physical play helps create scoring chances in the first place, by disrupting the other team’s flow of play. If he needs to stand up for his teammates, he will. If he needs to scrap, he will – and boy has he, just ask Team Canada.

Backes leads the Blues in plenty of offensive categories, but it is his overall play through the intangibles that will likely result in him leading the Blues as the team’s captain in the not too distant future.”

Last season, he signed a 5-year contract extension worth $22.5 million meaning he should be in town until at least 2016. Assuming the Blues don’t trade him after signing him to a long-term extension (see: Philadelphia Flyers), Backes would be an ideal candidate to lead the young team for the foreseeable future.

The Buzzer: Kane gets first hatty, Predators first to clinch

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Players of the Night:

Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks: It took him 565 NHL games and three teams, but Kane now has his first NHL hat trick. Then he made sure to grab his first four-goal NHL game for the hell of it. Kane has five goals and 10 points in eight games since the trade deadline, the most of any player dealt this year on deadline day.

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators: Hoffman had an assist in regulation and then one-timed his fifth game-winning goal of the season in overtime to help the Senators past the Dallas Stars.

Nashville Predators: For no other reason than they claimed first blood in a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

Highlights of the Night:

Bravo, Johnny:

Kane’s hat trick goal:



Factoids of the Night:


Senators 3, Stars 2 (OT)

Capitals 6, Islanders 3

Predators 4, Avalanche 2

Sharks 7, Flames 4

Ducks 4, Red Wings 2

Wild 4, Golden Knights 2

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Rangers getting a good look at the future, despite playoff disappointment

Getty Images

Silver linings for teams far off the playoff line are few and far between at this time of the year.

But if there is one that can be taken for any team looking at re-tooling or rebuilding for next season, it’s the ability to take a look at the future crop against NHL adversaries.

The New York Rangers are one of these teams. They declared themselves open for business prior to the trade deadline and dealt away some big names, including Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, for some younger talent.

They’re also facing a challenge with aging goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who, as great as he is, won’t win the battle with Father Time.

Needing to fill holes at several positions, the Rangers have been able to take a good look at a couple of promising prospects, including what may well be their future between the pipes.

New York has played rookie Alexandar Georgiev six times and owns a 3-2-0 record since he played his first NHL game on Feb. 22. Despite picking up the loss, Georgiev allowed just two goals on 40 shots for a .950 save percentage.

He’d give up four in his next start the following night, but since then has amassed three straight wins, including a 37-save performance on Wednesday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He’ll be called upon again on Saturday, another test and another chance for evaluation.

The inital analysis is promising. Georgiev is sitting on a very respectable .929 save percentage in his brief time in the NHL and he’s already turning heads around the league.

NHL.com’s Kevin Woodley’s wrote that Georgiev is taking after the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky — some pretty good company.

Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz Jr. took a really deep dive in Georgiev, concluding by calling him a “pleasant surprise.”

There’s a lot to like about him, his potential is visible, and the circumstances are set up in his favor for him to be able to prove himself more in an extended setting next season,” Urtz Jr. wrote.

Shifting to the men in the rearguard, Neal Pionk is making the most the big minutes he’s been getting over the past 17 games, and he’s starting to produce.

Pionk is on a three-game point streak with five assists during that span.

Also 22 and also undrafted, Pionk, like Georgiev, is showing real promise on defense.

“He competes hard and he’s got a good skill set,” Vigneault told NYRangers.com on Friday. “He can make that good pass and there’s no doubt that in his college and prior to that, he was considered an offensive defenseman. He’d join the rush and was good on the power play, so there is some upside there with him. We need to continue to work at his game and continue to improve it.”

The Rangers appear to have some budding young talent and an array of players to build around with the likes Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey — assuming they sign the latter two who are set to become RFAs at the end of this season.

And perhaps most importantly, the Rangers, who have long held the distinction as a team where old players go to get older, seem to finally be favoring youth over past-their-prime talent.

That’s good news for Rangers fans.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Ducks lose Bieksa for 2-5 weeks


ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa will be out for two to five weeks after surgery to remove scar tissue from his left hand.

Bieksa is having surgery Friday, the Ducks announced.

The 36-year-old Bieksa has eight assists in 59 games this season for Anaheim, which is fighting to get into playoff position with three weeks left in the regular season.

Anaheim recalled defenseman Korbinian Holzer from its AHL affiliate in San Diego before facing the Detroit Red Wings at Honda Center on Friday night.

The Ducks have won five consecutive Pacific Division titles and made five straight postseason appearances, reaching the Western Conference finals last season. But Anaheim (35-24-12) began this weekend out of playoff position and in fourth place in the Pacific.

More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/tags/NHLhockey

Canadiens need to look in mirror before moving forward


The Montreal Canadiens have been a colossal disappointment in 2017-18. Instead of building on their first-round playoff exit from last year, the Habs have bottomed out as one of the worst teams in the league from day one of the season.

The highs have been short and the lows have been long, but it sounds like current general manager Marc Bergevin will get an opportunity to improve his underwhelming roster. As owner and team president Geoff Molson reiterated at a team foundation event on Friday morning, Bergevin isn’t going anywhere.

“It has not been a satisfactory season so far,” Molson told PHT on Friday morning. “Marc and I both know that, the whole organization knows that. And I think if you asked every player, every coach and every person that’s involved, they’d all say the same thing. We have to get better. Marc knows that and I tell him that. He acknowledges that and he agrees with it, of course.

“There’s no question that I think Marc is very capable of accomplishing that, but he and I both know that this season’s been unsatisfactory.”

Don’t be mistaken, Molson also said the team will make adjustments to the way they operate before the start of next season. Someone is going to take the fall for this disaster, but it won’t be Bergevin.

When asked if the Canadiens have to make the playoffs next season, Molson hesitated before saying that he wasn’t sure how he wanted to express himself regarding next season. Those are things he wants to answer closer to next fall, but he also added that it’s important for the team to always do everything they can to be competitive every year.

Like most teams, the Habs will be in the mix for John Tavares if he becomes a free agent on July 1st. Whether or not they rebuild or retool might depend on if they can land Tavares, which has be considered a serious long shot at this point. But if he does decide to join former Team Canada teammates Carey Price and Shea Weber in Montreal, the Canadiens would once again be seen as legitimate playoff hopefuls.

“Do we need a franchise player? Probably,” said Molson, without ever mentioning the Islanders forward’s name. “And that’s something I see as an opportunity for us.”

Who knows what the plan is if they can’t land Tavares in free agency. All we really know for sure, is that the owner expects everyone to be better heading into next season. Molson isn’t putting the blame on any one particular person, but he acknowledged several times that the way this season unfolded was not acceptable.

“I’m not really going to point any fingers,” said Molson.

“So you can look at players, you can look at coaching, you can look at scouting, you can look at player development, you can look at the general manager, you could look everywhere and say there are areas to improve, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

It’ll be interesting to see just how long it takes for those improvements to turn into on-ice success for a that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 25 years.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.