St. Louis Blues: What Is A Captain To Do

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 3: Alex Pietrangelo
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 3: Alex Pietrangelo /

The St. Louis Blues thought they had a leader of the future when they handed the C over to Alex Pietrangelo. His skills and affinity with the fans have been severely tested.

The St. Louis Blues figured they had a guy that was going to wear their captain’s C for many years to come when they handed it over to Alex Pietrangelo. In only his second season with the leading role, he has felt the full wrath of the fans – at least the online fandom.

Like the rest of his teammates, Pietrangelo has not quite had the season he had hoped. He spent the first couple months of the year being discussed as a Norris Trophy candidate. Some even had him as the favorite.

However, prior to the entire team’s demise during the winter months, Pietrangelo hit a snag himself. He picked up a small injury earlier in the season, but never seemed to get his confidence back all the way.

Surprisingly, it was Pietrangelo’s defensive numbers that suffered. He’s still on or about his career average for plus/minus and time on the ice.

He seems ready to set a career high for giveaways though. Additionally, his advanced metrics, such as Corsi and Fenwick are all lower than last year, though not by astounding margins. His point shares are down and he hasn’t quite passed the eye test all the time.

Making matters worse, Pietrangelo’s less than stellar play began to coincide with the team’s slide. So, the captain was not playing his best and he could not lead the team out of their funk.

Out come the detractors. The people that did not want him as captain in the first place gained fuel. Those that were on the fence swayed toward one side over the other.

Now, Pietrangelo is under fire from several corners in the fan base. Adding kerosene to an already gigantic fire, Pietrangelo had a visually poor situation in Dallas.

Pietrangelo had a collision with Dallas Stars captian, Jamie Benn. Benn ended up on top of Pietrangelo, sat there a good while and then smashed his head into the ice when getting up. During this entire encounter, Pietrangelo put up little fuss and then did not retaliate when freed.


On the surface, it is understandable that some think this makes the team and it’s leader look weak. However, in reality, what was he supposed to do?

In these situations, you get all the hardliners saying take the penalty and stand up for yourself. The game in Dallas was still in the Blues’ hands at that point. Those same hardliners would have reamed Pietrangelo for putting the Blues shorthanded if he got an extra penalty.

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Sometimes it is smarter to be the bigger man. I don’t always agree with Dan Buffa of STLGameTime, but as he pointed out, the Stars would have loved it if the Blues best defenseman took himself out of the game for five minutes.

We need to get over this old school mentality that fighting is somehow showing leadership. I’m all for a good scrap and there are plenty of times it is needed. Brayden Schenn dropping the gloves right off the drop against Colorado was a good jolt to the team.

It would have served little purpose here other than to satiate the fans that were rightly upset at Benn.

Look at the captains around the league. Jonathan Toews just got in a fight in Anaheim, but you could likely count on one hand how many times he’s done that in recent years. Sydney Crosby does not fight, nor did guys like Hull, MacInnis or Gretzky.

Even if you take the star scorers out of the equation, not all good captains have been physical players. Andy Greene is the current captain of the Devils. He does not score and he has a total of 17 penalty minutes. He’s not getting in a bunch of altercations.

Scott Niedermayer led the Anaheim Ducks to a Stanley Cup. He was not dropping the gloves to stand up for himself.

There are many forms of leadership. Not all captains are gritty guys like Scott Stevens or Chris Pronger.

I fully accept that the mental makeup and leadership of this team is lacking. Guys need to step up their games, including Pietrangelo.

However, to think that this team would be in a different spot if Steen or Schenn (who is fantastic, but been here for a cup of coffee) or Schwartz were captain.

This team has problems as a unit. They have always had problems as a unit.

Suddenly David Backes has become somewhat of a messiah because he would go around hitting people. Fans forget how tired his postseason media sessions became, discussing the same old problems year after year and the captain doing nothing to fix them.

However, if we had good ol’ Backes back, they’d be all hunky dory? I think not.

Steen might have a longer contract than we’d like, but he’s not the future of this team. Vladimir Tarasenko is a great player, but he’s best left to do his thing without extra pressure – he puts enough on himself as it is.

Maybe Pietrangelo won’t go down as the best captain of all time. We don’t know yet though. This team is having problems from top to bottom. Placing blame on one or two players does nothing other than allow an easy venting avenue for aggravated fans.

When you are in the right frame of mind though, ask yourself what is Pietrangelo honestly supposed to do? He can scream at players and they may not respond. We have seen that from the coaching staff.

He can score goals or play better defense. There is no guarantee the team will follow suit.

Next: Alex Pietrangelo Highly Ranked Among League's Defensemen

There have been great captains of mediocre teams throughout history and there have been mediocre captains on great teams. One does not always coincide with the other.

If you do not see leadership capabilities in Pietrangelo, that is your opinion and you are welcome to it. There have been times I have shared that opinion this year, though I am not ready to strip him of the letter.

This foolish notion that one incident in Dallas or a few examples sprinkled throughout a terrible losing streak where all 23 players and coaches can take blame shows his lack of ability to lead is nonsense.