The Real Captain America, David Backes (original image from blues.nhl.com)

 

The Real Captain America

When I saw there was a “Captain America” movie coming out, I was initially happy that someone wanted to make a movie about David Backes.  To my dismay, it’s about some weakling nerd from Brooklyn.  Bummer.

If you’re unsure as to whom should be the captain of the Blues, it’s American David Backes in my book.  And, unlike Steve Rogers, Backes doesn’t need Tommy Lee Jones (or whatever kind of freaky steroids they put the comic book hero Captain America on) to get motivated and into shape.  In an interview with one of the best – and classiest – broadcasters in the St. Louis area, Scott Warmann of KMOX, Backes talked about his offseason.  He said he nearly spent his entire summer training in preparation for another great season (82 games, 31 goals, 31 assists, +32, 93 penalty minutes in 2010-2011).  He said, “Hopefully, we can stay a bit healthier and continue that momentum that we started at the end of the season last year.”  We’re with, you David.  But why do I call him Captain America?

Backes was one of the leaders of the United States Olympic Hockey Team that nearly shocked the indomitable, Gold Medal-winning Canadian team in 2010.  And he will, no doubt, be an American leader next time around.  Because of his leadership on that team, my friends and I began calling him “Captain America”.  He seemed to take the defeat as hard as we did, and he took his frustration out on the rest of the league when NHL play resumed.  The Silver Medal just wasn’t enough for him, no matter how proud he and the rest of the team made The United States.  If you were wearing another team’s sweater, you were going to get pounded by him – especially if you had worn Team Canada’s sweater in the Olympics.  Talk about a real American hero…

Backes is saying all the things a captain should.  It was great to hear he was, again, as frustrated as I was once the playoffs began last year.  I thought I was the only sore loser when it comes to viewing the NHL Playoffs.  Once my team is out, I can’t bear to watch as much brutally entertaining playoff hockey as I should.  He explained, “It’s a bitter taste” to watch playoff hockey; “I don’t watch them religiously, but I’ll flip on ten minutes of a game or highlights, and see some of those guys who we dominated some of the years – especially Vancouver whom we played right with, and they ended up in the finals, and a Boston team we beat in the regular season that ended up winning the (Stanley) Cup.”

That’s what it’s all about for an unofficial captain of a team – winning the Cup.  Backes said he and his teammates know that’s what is most important.  Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Kent Huskins, and other new teammates know it, as well.  Those three guys already have their rings, but as Backes said, “they just want to hold the Cup over their heads again.”

When Warmann asked him his thoughts about being team captain, Backes (very captain-like) quickly brushed it off, especially with the new veteran leadership acquired by Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong this offseason.  He said Army transformed a talented young team into an “experienced team, now; we’re going to have veteran leaders that can keep us calm when things get crazy and give us a kick in the butt when we need it, too.”  He would love to be captain, but he said, “Even if it’s not me, I’ll be the same player I’d be with the ‘C’ on – trying to lead, trying to set examples with hard work, and trying to make things right and do what’s best for the team all the time.”

Though he wouldn’t take credit for persuading anyone, it should also be pointed out that Backes called Arnott and Langenbrunner before they signed with the team to help entice them to join up.  Again, that’s a team captain move.  The added size and experience on the Blues roster couldn’t have made too many Western Conference teams too happy.  The Blues were a pain as it was before the signings, and Backes agrees, “Those guys (the new signings) have played against the Blues, and know we got a hard working team that’s not fun to play against.”  And that has a lot to do with our Captain America.

I know our Captain America doesn’t quite have the ultimate villain that the big-screen Captain America does, the Nazis, but the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks are certainly villainous enough.  The Blackhawks are, well, the Blackhawks – Blues fans don’t have to learn to loathe our longtime regional rival.  And the Red Wings have been menacingly good for a maddeningly long time.  By the way, will Nicklas Lidstrom please retire?  The guy is 41, never seems to lose a step in his game, and has a hard time even missing a game.  In fact, the seven-time Norris Trophy winner – awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman – has never missed more than a handful of games in his entire career.  He’s like the Swedish Wolverine (sorry, I had to get another comic book reference in there).

Anyone who wants to be a captain cannot forget what he’s fighting for, and Backes certainly hasn’t.  He wants to win the Cup for his teammates and his organization.  But he certainly feels obligated to repay the loyalty of Blues fans.  He said, “It’s all about winning games, climbing the standings, and bringing the people in St. Louis what they have been supporting the Blues for so long now, and that’s winning a Stanley Cup.”  Please save us, Captain America.

 

Jonathon Cheechoo with the 2006 Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy (image from sharks.nhl.com)

Re-Launching a Rocket

And he does it again.  In last week’s post, we talked about Blues GM Doug Armstrong swooping in and saving the day by adding some quality veteran players to the talented young Blues roster.  Well, he donned his cape and did it again since then by acquiring Jonathon Cheechoo for a low-risk $600,000, two-way contract (according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).  Although Cheechoo hasn’t been the player he was years ago, he could be yet another vital component to the Blues prospective playoff run.  With all the additions Army made, the word “prospective” is hopefully no longer necessary.

Cheechoo turned 31 on the 15th of July, and injuries have hampered his production since he scored 56 goals and 93 points in 2005-2006.  The guy was one of the most dominant players in the league that year, winning the Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Award for leading the NHL in goals – and the Blues are looking to re-launch that missile.  A positive season in the AHL might be the very rocket fuel he needed.  As competitive as the AHL has become because of an influx of talent over the past couple decades (hockey is blowing up around Europe, the United States, even Mexico!), the “A” just isn’t the “N”.  Just having the NHL within the reach of his stick might be the dangling carrot Cheechoo needs to get his game together.  And don’t forget what the Blues strength and conditioning staff has done for its younger players.  Now that he’s (hopefully) healthy, Cheechoo could get the juggernaut-like power he had when he found the back of the net 56 times.  He doesn’t have to score fifty, though.  Cheechoo just has to add to the depth of a roster that needed all the help it could get last year due to the injury issues it had.

Even better about Cheechoo is his playoff experience.  With 59 career playoff games under Cheechoo’s belt, this acquisition now puts Armstrong’s total career playoff games added over the offseason up to 402.  And, as we talked about last week, before Armstrong’s superhero act this offseason the entire Blues roster had only 131 career playoff games on it.  That means Armstrong added three times more playoff games to the roster than it had prior to his hard work in the two months.  These guys are obviously as serious as the fans are about not just making it to the second season, but making a serious run at the Stanley Cup, as well.  It’s the kind of thing a prospective new owner might love to see.

And if you don’t believe me about hockey in Mexico, check out this link: http://www.hockeymexico.com/

Just don’t ask me to translate…yet.  It, along with the ridicule of my Spanish-speaking friends, makes me want to brush back up on those four years of Spanish I took, though.  Mexico’s Under-20 World Championships Team won the Gold Medal in Division III this year, earning them a spot in Division II next year.  However, I don’t quite see Army going after defenseman, and Team Mexico’s Captain, Manuel Escandon just yet.  And now you know too much about Mexican hockey.