When the Blues traded Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay at the deadline last season, it vacated the team’s captaincy. The Blues didn’t name an interim captain last year to play things out, but they’ll head into this season with a new leader who takes charge by force.
St. Louis named David Backes the 20th captain in team history and after his body of work with Team USA before and during the Olympics in 2010, he stands out as perhaps the best choice the Blues could’ve made. If you don’t remember, Backes went on a tear leading up to the Olympics getting rough with three different Team Canada members. Backes picking a fight with Corey Perry seemed logical enough but getting Rick Nash and Jonathan Toews to have a go earned him the nickname “Inglorious Backes.”
Was there really anyone else St. Louis could’ve gone with? No way.
The Blues also named four assistant captains in Barrett Jackman, Jamie Langenbrunner, Andy McDonald and Alex Steen. The choice of Langenbrunner might raise some eyebrows with fans from New Jersey as his team captaincy with the Devils was a point of contention. Jackman is the longest serving Blues player having been in St. Louis since his debut there in 2002.
McDonald and Steen have been two of the Blues better veteran players the last couple seasons. McDonald is a former Stanley Cup winner with the 2007 Ducks. McDonald is also the oldest of the Blues players returning from last season at 34 years-old.
With the veterans the Blues have added in Langenbrunner, Jason Arnott and Scott Nichol, many believe they’ll be contenders for a playoff spot this year as their younger players led by Backes as well as Steen, Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie should all be growing into even better players than they’ve shown already. With Backes setting the example for everyone, the Blues should be a much more difficult team to deal with night in and night out.
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.