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Blues 'all-in' with arrivals of Miller, Ott

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The blue-and-gold color scheme is the same. Everything else couldn't be more different for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott.

Traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the St. Louis Blues on Friday, Miller and Ott join a team built to win now. The trade moves the Blues to "all-in" mode with a top-shelf goalie and a big-time agitator added to the mix in hopes of getting the oldest existing NHL team never to win a Stanley Cup over that Gateway Arch-sized hump.

"I've been through times when we were sellers at the deadline," said St. Louis captain David Backes, in his eighth year with the Blues. "You've lost a lot of pieces and those [future] draft picks are tough to play with when they haven't been selected yet. Now it seems like we're on the other side of that coin."

Traded from the Buffalo Sabres, Ryan Miller joins a St. Louis Blues team ready to win the Stanley Cup now. (Photo: Getty Images)

The short-term goal is to snap a two-game losing streak Sunday against the Phoenix Coyotes, and to score a goal for the first time since the League was halted for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. But with 84 points and areas where this team is producing at an elite level, the long-term goal is obvious.

"You've got to like where management and ownership's heads are at for going and get those pieces to add to what we have here" Backes said. "I don't think it adds pressure. We've got positive expectations and that's where our heads should be. We want to be playing June hockey.

"Pundits and experts can talk all they want but they don't decide the games. They aren't decided on paper. Now we've got a lot of work to do before the end of the season and hopefully a long playoff run."

Miller had a limited no-trade clause in his contract and gave Buffalo a list of seven destinations he would refuse. From the minute St. Louis was mentioned as a landing spot, his intrigue was piqued.

"I'm really excited to be here. It's a great team, and I do think it's a good fit," Miller said after arriving in Arizona on Saturday. "Talking about the attitude on teams, it's right up my alley. I like that competitive nature and it seems like guys are pretty accountable to each other. That's not an easy thing to build."

The friendships, new and old, already exist.

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock and general manager Doug Armstrong had a hand in drafting Ott in Dallas in 2000, where he played with current Blue Brenden Morrow for a decade. Miller spent two weeks playing with Backes, T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk last month as members of the United States national team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"Less than a week ago, we were having lunch at a cafe with [Backes], T.J. and our families right off the Black Sea in little Russian type cafe," Miller said. "And here we are in Phoenix, Ariz., a half a world away, and we get to play together. So it's pretty funny how the world works. I'm just happy to have it happen."

Miller won both the Vezina Trophy and the Vancouver Olympic tournament MVP in 2010, and is anxious to join a team with lofty expectation levels and pressure-packed games in its future.

"I've had an opportunity play some big hockey games and I look forward to it again," Miller said. "I like to think that I can have a settling effect for a team. That's kind of the mental approach that I take. I just want to let the guys know that everything is OK, and I'm going to try to take care of business back there.

"I want to find that next level of success and transition from coming close to getting some big wins."

The Blues feel the same way. After three Stanley Cup Final appearances in their first three seasons, the Blues have reached the conference finals only twice (1986 and 2001) and a run of 25 straight postseason appearances always ended short of the goal; a parade down Market Street.

Steve Ott
Steve Ott
Center - STL
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 20
SOG: 99 | +/-: -26
"For fans and people who have been around that long, it weighs on them a lot more," Backes said. "We weren't a part of those teams; we didn't have our hand in that. We don't feel like there is a curse or jinx or anything like that. We're trying to write our story and the group of guys in here has been assembled to get a job done.

"You saw what happened with the [Los Angeles] Kings [in 2012]. All of a sudden one great run can erase a lot of stories and superstitions created over 45 years."

Hitchcock feels the organization has paid its dues, built a core group, and has now added more talent, experience and credentials to the mix.

"People say, 'We are now all-in?' We're all in, period, for the next four [or] five years," he said. "Our players are in the prime of their careers. Until this trade we were one of the youngest teams in the League. We paid our dues five years ago, when we put young players in the lineup, and we bit the bullet and they learned to play in the NHL.

"We're all-in and we will be next year and the year after that and the year after that. That's how we're built."

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