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5 Questions with GM Larry Pleau

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues
It's been a busy few months for Larry Pleau, the team's Sr. Vice President and General Manager. With the trade deadline passing in early March and the team's recent surge toward the postseason, we thought now was a good time to catch up with Pleau to discuss a variety of Blues topics.

Q: Unlike the past few seasons, the trade deadline came and went in early March without any major moves from the Blues. Can you give fans some insight on why the team stood pat?

A: It wasn’t that we wanted to stand pat. It was quiet, but that’s not exactly what we wanted to do. I think it was different than the last three or four years, when more or less, there were certain verteran players that we were looking to move to get draft picks, young players, future players for the organization. This trade deadline, we felt we were in the thick of the playoff race. We weren’t trading for a draft pick, we were trading for a player that would continue to help us battle for a playoff spot. That was the whole difference. We felt we were in the playoff run, we weren’t going to let that go just for another draft pick.

Anytime you make a trade, you’re always worried about the chemistry and how a player will fit in. We felt the players have played well, we’ve had a great run since the end of December, and the main thing there is to continue to put ourselves in a position that we’re fighting for the playoffs. If we can get a player on our team that was going to continue to help us drive for the playoffs, that was what we were going to do. We tried that, we just couldn’t get a dance partner.

Q: With all the injuries and adversity this year, what can you say about this team’s work ethic, which has put them in the thick of the playoff race as the season winds down?

A: I feel that the biggest thing here, and I think Coach said it a couple times: our work ethic, right from day one in training camp, right through to today, hasn’t changed. We’ve had a tremendous work ethic on and off the ice, we’ve worked hard in practice. Those things have been consistent. We haven’t used injuries as an excuse, you’ll never hear John Davidson or Coach talk about injuries in the media. We didn’t use them as excuses: it actually gave us a chance to play younger players that maybe wouldn’t have gotten a chance. I think we can all see how those players have improved.

Q: Considering how the team has battled since early January, do you think they are “playoff tested” already?

A: We’ve been playing 'desperate' hockey, I would say, since the end of December. I think the coaches have done a great job of keeping the players focused on the game-to-game situation, preparation, the opponents they’re playing against and understanding how important the games are: even if it was a game in January, it (was) going to affect where we end up in April.

Q: Any thoughts on what may be done with the current roster in the summer, whether you’ll make acquisitions, free agent signings, etc.?

A: I think you’re always trying to improve yourself. We’ll have to assess it after the season, but a quick look at it: where do we stand in goal? Do we want to improve ourselves there? How do we do that? Free agent, trade, in house? We’re definitely going to look at that.

There’s never a day in the NHL when you’re not looking for a defenseman. Everybody’s always looking for defense. We have a couple guys coming back into the lineup like Erik Johnson and Eric Brewer, two pretty good defenseman coming back next year. But you’re always looking to strengthen yourself on defense.

Up front, we look pretty strong up the middle with Andy McDonald, a huge signing for this franchise. The owners and John Davidson stepped up for Andy. When you put (David) Backes, (Andy) McDonald and (Patrik) Berglund in the middle, that’s three pretty good centers. So what are we looking for offensively? Is it a scoring winger? A third or fourth line player with more aggression? There’s things you’ll evaluate at the end of the year.

Q: A lot of focus has been on the team’s youth this season. How happy are you with their development so far?

I think we’ve had great development. We’re playing playoff games right from the end of December. All our kids are getting ice time, and we’ve got some great veteran leadership. (Keith) Tkachuk, (Jay) McKee, Andy McDonald, Paul Kariya when he was in there. You’ve got the middle-aged player like Backes who has really come along. (Alex) Steen, (Carlo) Colaiacovo, these are guys that have been in the league and taken themselves to another level. We’re getting some good results from (David) Perron, (Patrik) Berglund, (T.J.) Oshie, Roman Polak, some real good results there.

A great example is (March 24 vs. Los Angeles): Berglund had struggled quite a bit over the (previous) seven or eight games, but the coaches have worked with him and they get the rewards from it. He came up with a huge third period for us. Part of that is the coaches continue to give him confidence. The leadership of our players continue to help a player like Berglund get through the tough times. Keep himself working, focused…all these things we’re gaining now.
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