Alex Pietrangelo’s growth has been steady over his career with the St. Louis Blues as he’s gone from first-round draft pick to all-star calibre defenseman in six short seasons. And as of Thursday, Pietrangelo’s growth has officially taken the next — and arguably biggest — step as he was appointed the 21st captain in Blues history.
"I’m up for this challenge, and I think I’ve surrounded myself with a group of guys in this locker room that can support me, no matter what happens,” Pietrangelo said in a release. “Personally I want to keep growing as a player and lead by example on the ice. All I've known is the St. Louis Blues and the city of St. Louis. To be in this position to represent not only the team but the organization as a whole, it means a lot to me."
Pietrangelo was the obvious frontrunner for the captaincy, but he wasn’t the only possibility. Teammates Alex Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko and even relative-newcomer Paul Stastny all had somewhat legitimate claims to the ‘C’ that was vacated when David Backes left town for the Boston Bruins. However, each of Steen, Tarasenko and Stastny, as well as defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, will take on alternate captaincies this coming season with the top job going to Pietrangelo.
It makes perfect sense, too, because with Backes gone, Pietrangelo is the hands-down leader for the Blues, an all-around stud for the team who will be one of the major determining factors in deciding how far St. Louis goes in the near future.
“He touches every facet of our team: power play, penalty kill, shutting games down, trying to score at the end of the game,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong told StLouisBlues.com of Pietrangelo. “He’s just an elite player. When his name comes up for Team Canada, he’s a lock when I talk to Mike Babcock and coaches around the League. He’s viewed as a top player. We’re certainly lucky to have him, and when you add the character — I think he’s going to be a great captain for the Blues.”
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) August 25, 2016
It’s clear that Pietrangelo has been somewhat groomed for taking over the ‘C’ in St. Louis, too, as he has spent the past three seasons as an alternate captain for the Blues. He first landed an ‘A’ on his jersey during the 2013-14 campaign and has worn it in each successive season.
And though the captaincy will be a new role at this level, it’s not the first time he will have worn the ‘C’ in his career. During the 2008-09 season — a season in which he nearly cracked the Blues lineup full-time right out of his first training camp — he captained the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs.
It will be tough for Pietrangelo to follow Backes’ act in St. Louis, though. During his tenure as captain, the Blues enjoyed arguably the most successful period in franchise history and certainly the best run of play post-lockout. St. Louis won two division titles with Backes as the team’s leader and made the post-season each season, though they won only three total rounds.
That said, Pietrangelo can lay claim to the Blues’ recent success as much as any other player. That’s true of even the most recent post-season run that saw St. Louis get through the first round for the first time in their past four attempts. Pietrangelo averaged a mind-boggling 28:48 per game in the post-season and contributed two goals and 10 points in 20 games. He’s not thinking about the past right now, though. Rather, he has his sights set on the future.
"It makes me excited to know I could be the first captain to raise the Stanley Cup in the city of St. Louis,” Pietrangelo said.
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