Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 10/9/11
ST. LOUIS -- After the horn had sounded and his first regular-season game as the St. Louis Blues' captain was complete, wing David Backes hunched over and glided toward a tunnel. Behind him, Nashville Predators players cleared their bench and hugged one another near a goal after their 4-2 victory Saturday at the Scottrade Center. Backes stepped off the ice and walked toward the Blues' locker room. Four weeks had passed since he was named the 20th captain in franchise history. On Sept. 9, when Blues head coach Davis Payne and general manager Doug Armstrong made the announcement, Backes spoke of following a lineage he had come to admire. He talked about honoring the legacies left behind by former captains Bernie Federko, Brett Hull and Wayne Gretzky. He talked about leading by example and becoming a stable presence in the locker room. "I'm not going to change who I am or change the way I play," Backes said that day. "I'm going to go about business and make sure I'm doing all the things that made me successful." On Saturday, Backes learned his role as the Blues' captain will evolve as the season unfolds. Like his team, he will grow and adjust with each challenge, and so will his expectations that come with wearing the "C" as the Blues attempt to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season. "It's a learning experience," said Backes, who replaced Eric Brewer after the former captain was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in February. "It felt great to have that on my chest, and we'll look for a better outcome on Monday (against the Calgary Flames)." The postgame scene Saturday in the Blues' locker room hinted at what Backes will face this season. He was the first player to field questions about the Blues' loss, which came after Nashville scored three goals in the third period. Backes called the setback a speed bump -- a chance to address mistakes early in the season-long search for identity. He praised Nashville's defense -- the Blues outshot the Predators 33 to 16 -- but he didn't see his teammates lack effort. "We just need to sharpen up a few things," he said. Backes will sharpen his leadership qualities with time. He said he received a taste of what it meant to wear the "C" in the preseason. But he understood that was only a preview. He skated onto the ice Saturday knowing teammates will count on him to keep them from becoming too high or too low during the season. To Blues center T.J. Oshie, Backes has the personality traits to make that happen. Oshie recalled a time shortly after the 2005 NHL Entry Draft -- Oshie was selected in the first round -- when Backes showed the young player around St. Louis. During that time, Oshie picked up on Backes' leadership potential. Backes skated with Oshie and other younger players and toured them around the rink. Oshie was impressed, and a working relationship between the men grew. "Just the way he carried himself, you could tell that guy carries himself well," Oshie said. "You want to follow him. "Mostly, it's the way he leads by example. I think that's one way he stepped up tonight. He was getting some big hits. He was getting the crowd into it. He was getting the boys into it. He is being very positive in the locker room. It's easier for the guys who haven't been around awhile to stay positive when they have a leader like him pushing and leading the charge." The Blues' choice of Backes as captain marks the latest step in his development within the organization, the only one he has known as an NHL professional. The Blues selected him in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He had produced 218 points, including 102 goals and 116 assists, in 364 games in St. Louis before Saturday. Last season, he tied career-highs in goals and assists with 31 each. He also earned a new career-high points total with 62. "We haven't asked him to be anything different," Payne said. "He's going to work and do the things he has to do." Backes' work began Saturday, and his leadership style will evolve with time. The Blues think they have the right man for the job.
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