Blues team captain Backes eager to get season going

News-DemocratSeptember 28, 2013 

— Call it the importance of being David Backes.

Backes' main responsibility is being captain of the St. Louis Blues while scoring points and locking down the opposition, but the job description doesn't stop there.

He centers the Blues' top line, routinely draws the defensive assignment on the opposition's top forward, assimilates coach Ken Hitchcock and management's messages to the players and is an integral part of the team's power-play and penalty kill units.

His 158 hits ranked seventh in the NHL last season and his tireless volunteer work with homeless and abused pets is legendary.

So when Backes dropped to six goals and 28 points in the lockout-shortened 48-game season a year ago, some wondered if the 29-year-old forward wasn't being yanked in too many directions.

He had 24 goals and 54 points in 2011-12 and scored 31 goals twice in the three previous seasons before that.

"Personal stats to me are something that I may have worried about a lot in the past," said Backes, who has 132 goals and 300 points in 494 NHL games. "I want to win games and ultimately be the best team in the league.

"If that means my role is six goals in 82 games and we win the Stanley Cup, I'll take that 10 years in a row over 30 goals and 30 assists, personal accolades and all that other stuff that comes with it. To me, it's about the team. It's about winning."

Backes said each member of the Blues needs to learn to accept their roles and then play those roles to the fullest to create a better club.

"That's what makes us successful is guys willing to relish any role that's called upon them to help that team," said Backes, one of the candidates for captain of Team USA's Olympic hockey squad. "That's really what we're all about here."

Following is a question-and-answer session from a recent interview with the Blues' captain:

The Blues were picked to win the Stanley Cup by The Hockey News and generally are being counted on for a much better finish. How do you handle that pressure?

"On the other side of that coin too, we've been not picked or picked in the bottom. In the same way we had to ignore it then, we have to ignore it now. While they're the geniuses and the experts, they don't play the games and the games aren't played on paper in the preseason. It's 82 games of hard-nosed hockey."

With a full season of veterans Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold added to a group that includes Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Barret Jackman and Roman Polak, is this the deepest Blues defense in franchise history?

"We've got a great D-group. We've got six or seven guys that are more than capable and No. 8, 9 and 10 are nipping on their heels to take spots. That's a good problem to have and with injuries and things that happen, we'll need that depth."

Based on franchise history, Blues fans tend to wait for bad things to happen in terms of injuries, shocking playoff exits, bad trades, etc. What will it take to change things?

"Maybe there's 46 years of scorn there because there hasn't been a (Stanley) Cup in St. Louis. But those are other teams, those are other guys. These are a group of guys where we've competed and found ways to win all the time, now we've got to make that next step -- and that's making a good, deep playoffs run. Hopefully we can find those late rounds and anything can happen."

What have the recent playoff losses to the Kings, including last season when the Blues won the first two games of the series, taught the team? Has there been an ingredient added to change the postseason formula?

"I don't know if it's an ingredient. I think it's maybe lessons learned and some seasoning of some hard playoff losses that have taught us some lessons, given us that fire.

"When you lose out, you see some of these other (teams) and the success that they're having, the enjoyment and reward that they get from putting a lot into that playoffs. As a group, that's really sparked that fire where that extra push is not going to be a question for us."

How do you feel about your line with Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie?

"It's three interchangeable parts, guys that are willing to work their butts off to get something accomplished. There's a skill level, especially on the wings, where when guys gets the puck it's almost magical. It's a good combination to have, but we can't be complacent. We've got to keep working every night to have a great impact and a positive impact on every game."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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