Stastny Eager to Win in Hometown
New Blues center was formally introduced at Ballpark Village on Monday
ST. LOUIS -- Paul Stastny is not one for taking strolls down memory lane.
The St. Louis Blues' new center isn't one to make bold predictions either. Stastny certainly wasn't going to predict that he would one day suit up in the city where he spent much of his childhood.
But like many who consider it a dream to play in their hometown, Stastny is living out his dream now, and for at least the next four seasons.
"God has a plan for myself, and whatever it is I take it in stride and I'm happy with the situation I'm in right now," said Stastny, who was formally introduced Monday evening at Fox Sports Midwest Live! inside Ballpark Village, which is just north of Busch Stadium, home of baseball's St. Louis Cardinals.
"I was just excited about playing juniors, then from juniors to playing college," said the 28-year-old Stastny, who was eight when his father, Hockey Hall of famer Peter Stastny, played for the Blues. "I didn't care where I got drafted. I got drafted, I was excited to keep developing as a player, then I got to Colorado and I was excited. I never looked that far down the road. That's the way I've always been. You can never really hope for stuff like that."
Stastny, who signed a four-year contract with the Blues after spending the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Central Division rival Colorado Avalanche, grew up in St. Louis, where Peter Stastny concluded his career with the Blues in 1995.
Paul Stastny, along with his older brother and Blues alum Yan, attended Chaminade College Preparatory High School in suburban St. Louis his freshman and sophomore years. Paul was brought back Monday morning to the school, along with Kirkwood, Mo., native, Blues defenseman and Chaminade alum Chris Butler in a surprise visit for the students.
"This is pretty special," said Butler, who signed a one-year, two-way contract this summer and will battle for spot on the top eight spots on defense. "This is where Paul and I first met. I think it was playing summer hockey in junior high school. To come back to kind of where our friendship kind of started, now will be the third time that we've played together. It's neat and special to kind of take a journey that we have and to have a friend that's been there for a good majority of it be there along the way is pretty neat."
The Blues, who were 52-23-7 a season ago but were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks, hope that Stastny, who scored 160 goals and had 458 points in 538 regular-season games with the Avalanche, supplies a void the team feels it lacked after losing to the Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings in 2012 (second round) and '13 (first round).
"You don't see him really doing the flashy things or anything like that, but playing with him at the [Winter] Olympics, he makes every part of the game so much easier on his linemates," forward T.J. Oshie said of Stastny. "... He makes the game easier, he makes it more simple and everything's more clear on the ice."
General manager Doug Armstrong got the blessing from team leaders, including captain David Backes and alternate Alexander Steen, to go out and acquire a top-notch player regardless of the cost. If Stastny, who is the highest-paid player on the team, can push the Blues over the edge, then the investment will be more than worth it.
"I think it's a respect for an older, veteran player in 'Steener' and myself knowing that the free-agent market was one where you were going to have to pay a premium for a great player," said Backes, who played with Stastny on the United States team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. "There was no hesitation on both parts to say, 'Absolutely, bring a guy like that in.' We're only going to be better for it. Ultimately, we're here to win. We're here to win games. We want to win a championship, and he's going to help us do that.
"[Stastny's] one of the smartest hockey players that you're ever going to find. He's got some great hands and ability to make plays to go with that. ... It's a great addition."
Stastny, who was the top center on the free-agent market, had one clear ulterior motive when he chose the Blues: He will certainly become their No. 1 center when players report for training camp Sept. 17.
"In the end, you just want to win," Stastny said. "You want to be comfortable in an area that you know away from hockey. What better area than going back home? For me, it's about winning and I look at this team, how good they are and how deep they are. I know in the last couple years, they've been that close. They could have beaten Chicago, Chicago could have easily beaten L.A. and been the Cup champions [this past season]. They had good battles with L.A. when L.A. won (in 2012 and '13). It's so hard to win. That's what you're really looking at, is looking at the best chance to win with a good group of guys and I think that's what we have here."
Stastny's eventful day was capped with a crowd of 4,000-plus that attended his official introduction, an event that brought out the most boisterous Blues fans. It saw Backes, Oshie, Stastny, Barret Jackman and Alex Pietrangelo also sport the team's new-look uniforms that have a retro style to them.
"It was a lot more than I expected," Jackman said. "I've been down here to check out Ballpark Village after a Cardinal game. To walk in here and see a sea of blue and gold, it's pretty special. You're still months away from training camp, but people are as excited now as they were in the playoffs last year."