Jason Arnott is no longer on the roster of the St. Louis Blues, gone after one season in which the 37-year-old had 17 goals in 72 games.
The veteran had two more goals than Chris Stewart, who was expected to do big things last year after two consecutive seasons of 28 goals. Whether Stewart bounces back this season remains to be seen, but he has spent the offseason doing everything possible after listening to advice from Arnott.
"I talked to a guy like Jason Arnott, who really prides himself on his nutrition and who really takes care of himself," Stewart told reporters. "We talked about it during the year, but at the end of the year, we sat down, talked about it and he really said if I can commit myself to the gym this summer and come back here that I can be a difference-maker next year.
"You can't really read into the hype or the hoopla. Everyone's entitled to write what they want. I do see myself as a goal-scorer in this League. That's something I can do. I think this year was a learning experience and a good year learning how to be a pro and what you've got to do to be successful in this League and look toward next year."
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Stewart is a mountain of a man who will be 25 years old in October. He was acquired at the 2011 trade deadline from the Colorado Avalanche, along with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, in exchange for defenseman Erik Johnson and forward Jay McClement.
Stewart made an immediate impact with 15 goals in 26 games. That performance raised expectations for the Toronto native the following season. But instead of reaching 30 or 40 goals or matching his output of the previous two seasons, Stewart found himself in a slump like never before in his career.
After scoring twice in the Blues' first two games, he went 10 games before scoring another goal. After that tally, he went another nine games before scoring his fourth goal of the season. Stewart had five stretches of at least six games without a goal and ended the nightmare season with zero goals in 13 games.
"When you do struggle a little bit, it starts to get your confidence," Stewart said. "You try to change your game or over-compensate. You can't really worry about it.
"I've got to be the player that I am. I've got to do the things that made me successful this year. I've got to get back to being Chris Stewart, just be me and playing my game. I got myself into this. I'm the only one that can get myself out of it and I'll do it."
Stewart is hoping that trainer Matt Nichol, who has worked with Mats Sundin, Michael Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak, will have the tonic for what ailed him last season. Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock believes it's a step in the right direction.
"I'm really excited because, to me, [Stewart] is starting to turn the corner we've needed him to turn," Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He has elite skill, he's an elite athlete, but now he's followed it with a high level of fitness training. Like, we're talking high level. Where he's at, the people that he's working with, it's a real high level of fitness training. He's getting pushed hard every day and he's responded. So, he's started to figure it out, and he's starting to figure out that you can't just rely on your skill level."
"When you just rely on your skill level, you go through peaks and valleys. You score 30 one year, 10 the next. When you just rely on your skill, people you play against end up outworking you. [Stewart’s] figured out that he wants to have a long career. It's not like he's suddenly found a trainer. What he's found is that he can only get so far himself doing the training. Now he's got somebody pushing him really hard every day. I'm really proud of him."
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