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Stastny Leading Blues in Different Way

by Dan Rosen / St. Louis Blues

Even though Paul Stastny was a veteran and the big-ticket free agent signee, it would have been hard for him to force his way into a leadership role with the St. Louis Blues this season considering he was the new guy in a room already filled with leaders such as David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, Alexander Steen and Barret Jackman.

So instead of trying to upset the leadership hierarchy of his new team, Stastny has found another way to be an important leader for the Blues.

"He has really taken [Dmitrij] Jaskin and [Patrik] Berglund under his wing and tried to help them become a line," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's kind of been the quarterback of those two guys to coordinate good play, and they've given us good minutes every night for the last little while.

"I think he's taken to heart leading a smaller group of athletes rather than the bigger group."

Stastny didn't envision being the Blues' third-line center when he signed a four-year contract July 1, but that's what he has become this season because of the emergence of Jori Lehtera and an early-season shoulder injury.

The result is St. Louis has become a better team with Stastny helping Jaskin become a reliable player and Berglund finding his game in a less pressurized role as a bottom-six wing.

Stastny's production has taken a hit because of his role. He is averaging 0.655 points per game through 58 games (38 points) this season. He averaged 0.851 in 538 games (458 points) in eight seasons with the Colorado Avalanche.

However, Jaskin has 11 goals in 39 games this season after scoring once in his first 20 NHL games. Stastny deserves some credit for that.

"There's a lot of details that young guys don't necessarily pay attention to, or when they do have success they sometimes let their foot off the gas," Hitchcock said. "That's the part that Stastny has helped a lot in. He hasn't allowed Dmitrij to take his foot off the gas for a very long time."

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong referenced Stastny's history in Colorado of taking young players under his wing to help them out. In particular, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog benefitted from having Stastny around the way Jaskin is now.

"It might not show up just in point totals, but what he's bringing to these guys about game management is really starting to take hold," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said Stastny's ability to talk to Jaskin from a position of experience is key.

"Paul is an experienced player that can guide him through the ebbs and flows of having a good game, a bad game, a good stretch followed by a bad stretch," Armstrong said. "It's the little conversations on the bench, the little conversations on the bus. It's the, 'Hey, tap the breaks, let's not get too high here,' but also, 'Hey, chin up, it's a long season and you're going to be fine.' Those are things that come from years of service. That's what Paul has got.

"Jaskin is doing a lot on his own, but I give credit to Paul. My experience is when these young guys get true assistance from a veteran player it expedites their process."

Hitchcock said Jaskin is starting to show flashes of the player he was in junior. He scored 99 points, including 46 goals, in 51 games with the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League during the 2012-13 season.

"He was a down-low, 1-on-1, protect-the-puck, come-off-the-wall-and-create-scoring-opportunities player in junior, but he wasn't able to do that when he first got up here," Hitchcock said. "Now he seems to be able to do some of those things. His identity, what he was in junior, is starting to show in pro now. That's a really good sign.

"It's turned into a really good line."

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