ST. LOUIS -- Even if Jake Allen had a choice, from listening to him it sounds like he would still pick to be in the situation he's currently in instead of being a clearcut, defined No. 1 goalie for the St. Louis Blues.
Allen, who is scheduled to make his season debut against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, is locked in a 1A-1B goalie competition with Brian Elliott for the second straight season. He actually likes it.
"I've never really been handed anything at all and I don't want to be handed anything," Allen told NHL.com prior to being the backup to Elliot in the Blues' 3-1 season-opening win on Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers. "I want to get to the point that I earned it and I deserve it. There's still a long way to go."
There was some thought heading into training camp last month that Allen could or even would get the nod from coach Ken Hitchcock to be the No. 1 goalie going into the season.
Allen signed a two-year, $4.7 million contract on July 3 and was St. Louis' starting goalie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season against the Wild.
Granted, the Blues lost the series in six games and Allen was pulled with 8:41 to play in the second period of Game 6 after giving up two goals on 13 shots, but he's 25 years old, has been considered a future No. 1 in St. Louis for a while now, and has gone through the dues-paying phase of his career, including four full seasons in the American Hockey League.
It wouldn't be ridiculous to think it was his time, even though Elliott is signed for two more seasons with a salary-cap charge of $2.5 million, according to war-on-ice.com.
"I didn't see it that way at all," Allen said.
He didn't because he knows Hitchcock, and he knew his coach didn't see it that way.
Hitchcock put the notion that anybody was going to be handed the No. 1 job to bed early in training camp. The plan was and still is for Allen and Elliott to compete for playing time, just like they did last season, when Elliott started 45 games, Allen 32 and Martin Brodeur five before he announced his retirement.
Elliott won 26 games and Allen won 22 last season. Elliott had a 2.26 goals-against average; Allen had a 2.28 GAA. Elliott had a .917 save percentage; Allen had a .913 save percentage.
The Blues won the Central Division regular-season title with 109 points.
"I think as long as me and [Elliott] are here the next couple of years it's going to be a battle and it's a good battle, a positive battle," Allen said. "It's good for everyone, good for our team and good for me and him. I think it brings the best out of both of us. We're close friends and that drives us to be better."
Allen insists the competition with Elliott has made him a better goalie going into this season than he was last season. That's good for the Blues, obviously. If it proves to be true, it shows Hitchcock's system is working.
For now, at least, that's good enough for Allen. He likes it this way. He might even prefer it, as crazy as that sounds.
"You've gotta be a realist about everything," Allen said. "You can't put the blinders on and pretend things are going to go positively. You've gotta look at the whole situation. There are so many good goalies out there, and [Elliott] is such a good goalie. It's not just going to come overnight. You're not just going to be a No. 1 right away. It could take a year. It could take three years. It could take two months. You have to look at the whole picture, the whole package, and understand what you're getting yourself into.
"I think I'm in a good situation here."