Alexander Steen said he expects the St. Louis Blues will continue to be successful despite losing him and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo this offseason.
“They’ll be great,” Steen said Tuesday. “They have a tight team, a heck of a leadership group of guys, and I’m excited to watch and follow and be a part of it a little bit from the outside more than I was before. Nothing’s changing. It’s a high-quality, character room, and the guys know what it takes to win, and they’ll get prepared and ready. That’s a big part of the reason why this has been really emotional, because it’s such a good group and I think they’ll do great things.”
Steen retired from the NHL on Dec. 17 after 15 seasons, the last 12 with the Blues, because of a back injury. The 36-year-old has multiple levels of degenerative herniated disks in his lumbar spine. The forward told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Aug. 24 that he sustained the injury prior to the July training camp that was part of the NHL Return to Play Plan.
Pietrangelo, who was Blues captain from 2016-20, signed a seven-year contract with the Vegas Golden Knights as an unrestricted free agent Oct. 12. The 30-year-old has scored 450 points (109 goals, 341 assists) in 758 NHL games, all with St. Louis. The Blues have not named a new captain.
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association formally agreed Sunday to play a 56-game regular season beginning Jan. 13, 2021, and ending May 8. Under a temporary realignment, St. Louis will play this season in the West Division, with the Golden Knights, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks.
The Blues had the highest points percentage in the Western Conference last season (.662; 42-19-10) but were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six games by the Vancouver Canucks in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round.
Selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the No. 24 pick in the 2002 NHL Draft, Steen scored 622 points (245 goals, 377 assists) in 1,018 games for St. Louis and Toronto. He scored 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) in 91 NHL playoff games and helped the Blues win the Cup for the first time in their history in 2019, but he was limited to four games in the 2020 postseason because of the injury.
“It’s an indescribable moment,” Steen said of winning the Cup. “We’ve had upsetting times when we were knocked out early, but we played some tough teams in some tough series. I think because my father (Thomas) played for 14 years, I don’t know if he felt as if he was knocking on the door, truly. And I felt when we were here, we were (knocking on the door). It’s been incredible, and to finally get there was, for myself, having lived and played here the amount of years and to have the deep, meaningful relationships I have, be it with past or present players, everything around what we do, the people in the city, I knew how much we all wanted this. When we won, I feel it felt we all did it together.”
Steen is fourth in Blues history in games (765), fifth in points (496), sixth in assists (301) and ninth in goals (195). He was entering the final season of a four-year, $23 million contract (average annual value $5.75 million) he signed Sept. 23, 2016.
“I think there’s something in a book about the All Blacks (New Zealand rugby team) that they want to leave their jersey in a better place than when they got it,” Steen said. “That’s something I’ve kept in the back of my head, to keep pushing that forward, together with everybody I played with in the organization. It’s a group effort, you know, with the alumni, with what they’ve done before. When you come to an organization like St. Louis, when I came, there wasn’t a championship here, but there was plenty of history. They moved it forward, and as we played with our groups, we wanted to move it forward, and I think that’s, when people look back at my time here in St. Louis, that we were able to do that.”