Welcoming New Leadership
The 2010-11 edition of the St. Louis Blues saw a roster noticeably lacking veteran leadership and experience. Once the wave of injuries began, the lineup was littered with players that had just a bit more NHL experience than the very fans that were in attendance. Keith Tkachuk had retired. Darryl Sydor retired. Paul Kariya was suffering with lingering symptoms from a concussion which recently forced him to retire as well. Last season, leadership was a glaring weakness - one the club believes they have addressed for 2011-12. It's pretty easy to blame the 2010-11 season entirely on injuries - no one would call you out or correct you. However, there were numerous games and opportunities that the Blues could have and should have capitalized on. The running story last year, aside from the injury plague, was that of inconsistency. As I thoroughly enjoyed saying, the Blues were consistently inconsistent (O.K., it's not the most original analysis but it was factual). Games the Blues might have closed out in previous seasons were slipping away as the team often looked directionless and fairly lost out on the ice. Often it seemed like someone needed to offer guidance from within and snap the team back into focus. We all know that Keith Tkachuk was an outstanding presence in the lineup and offered leadership that greatly outweighed his offensive production. He led by example and never strayed from trying to help his teammates be their best. Without him, and fellow classy veteran Darryl Sydor, the leadership position was mostly left vacant. Now, heading into 2011-12, the Blues have a bounty of veterans that are more than up to the task of guiding the club's youth. Jamie Langenbrunner (pictured above with T.J. Oshie), Jason Arnott and Scott Nichol all enter the scene with 36 years under their belt and a wealth of NHL experience. Langenbrunner, who was featured in an article on STLToday just a handful of days ago, is welcoming his new role with a new club. Langenbrunner stated in the article that, "I'm definitely not one that's going to come in here and start stepping on toes," Langenbrunner said. "There's more than one way to do things, and there's more than one way that can be successful. "But in saying that, there's got to be a little bit of accountability among the guys. From my standpoint, if you see something that doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. I know there's some great leaders in here, guys that have proven themselves over and over again, and those of us coming in are just going to try to add to the message." In my opinion, Langenbrunner (two Stanley Cups) and Arnott (0ne Stanley Cup) bring more to the table than just their pure statistical output. By no means am I ignoring their offensive talents which are a nice upgrade from the carousel of Peoria Rivermen we frequently found in the lineup. They bring depth and are a pure upgrade to the offense. However, like Tkachuk in his final season, these two bring positives that the box score won't record. Come training camp we should see the new veteran leaders on the team lead by example and offer invaluable knowledge to the team's group of younger skaters. We can hope that this season will see the Blues play a more complete style of hockey - one that doesn't back down and break down due to inexperience and poor communication. The new leadership and experience the Blues have brought in should make a large difference off the ice that eventually seeps into the game itself.