Avs’ Stastny can’t play like a kid anymore
The Denver Post
Paul Stastny is 23 years old. It only seems like he’s been around forever.
That is partly because of his hockey lineage, the son of a Hall of Fame player. He hung out in the locker room of the Quebec Nordiques as a kid with his father, Peter, and uncles Anton and Marian. He recites memories of playing with a rookie Joe Sakic in a locker room in the late 1980s, seemingly giving Stastny a longer life story than your average 23-year-old.
“Sometimes, maybe I do feel a little older than my age. But other times, I’m sure some people might tell you I seem younger than my age,” Stastny said, laughing.
While Stastny is 6 years younger than some rookies who tried to make the Avalanche roster during training camp, this will be his fourth NHL season and sixth year of playing organized hockey in Denver.
He’s just a kid to some, but Stastny is the Avs’ highest-paid player and the one the Avs will most rely on in the 2009-10 season, which starts Thursday. That’s OK. Stastny is used to growing up fast.
“It comes with the territory. I know what’s expected of me here, but I expect as much or more from myself,” he said. “We’ve got a younger team now, and I know I need to be an example to some of the younger guys. But I’m excited about it. I got to learn from some great players before me, so I hope to do some of the same things to other guys.”
Stastny will start the first year of a five-year, $33 million contract this season. He is eager to prove he’s worth the money and to make people forget about last season. Injuries limited him to 45 games, and he had the worst point production (11 goals, 36 points) of his three-year career.
“I think everyone wants to kind of throw away last year, but at the same time remember how bad it was and use it as a reminder we don’t want it to be that way again,” he said. “I learned a lot last year, even though I didn’t play much.”
Both of Stastny’s two big injuries last season came from blocking shots, producing broken bones in a wrist and ankle. So, while they weren’t the fault of any conditioning deficiencies, Stastny felt he needed to get in better shape in the offseason. He worked to strengthen different muscle groups, and he said he will take a different approach to blocking shots.
“I realize that I’d rather not block a shot than block a shot and get hurt and be out a while,” he said. “When I do try to block a shot, I’ll have a little different technique now too.”
Stastny was given one of the Avs’ two alternate captain designations, and it’s probable he’ll be the team captain when Adam Foote’s playing days are over. Stastny remains a quiet leader, rarely displaying outward emotion. Avs coach Joe Sacco didn’t think twice about giving Stastny an “A.”
“What I like about him is, he plays the whole rink,” Sacco said. “When your leader is playing the whole rink, the other guys feed off of that. He plays a complete game. What I’d heard about him before is what I’ve seen so far, and obviously he’s going to be a very big part of our club.”
Foote describes Stastny as “a guy who will do whatever it takes to win.”
“He never gives up on any play out there,” Foote said. “He’s always digging for the puck if he doesn’t have it. He’s a lot better defensive player than he gets credit for. He sees the whole ice with the puck, always thinking about the next play. He’s such a smart player for his age. He just knows how to play the game, knows how to do all the little things that a lot of guys don’t do.”
Off the ice, Stastny is living a quiet bachelor life, sharing a home with his sister, Katarina, and a new boarder he has taken in this fall: Avs rookie T.J. Galiardi.
“I like to cook a lot, so I do a lot of it. My sister’s out of town a lot, so Galiardi and I both do the cooking, but I do probably more,” Stastny said.
Said Galiardi: “It’s great to be able to be around him a lot, not only on the ice but off. It’s helped me learn more about what being a pro is all about.”
Stastny laughs when asked if he feels like an elder statesman to players such as 21-year-old Galiardi and 18-year-old center Matt Duchene.
“Maybe a little,” he said. “But I know I still have a lot more to learn too. I don’t want to ever be satisfied with my game. You can’t in this league. You have to always try to get better, because everybody else is trying to do the same thing. I want to have the best year of my career this year, and next year have a better one.”
Adrian Dater: 303-954-1360 or firstname.lastname@example.org