Ken Hitchcock wants Paul Stastny to 'play better'

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The NHL hits the quarter mark and Michael Finewax looks at slump of Paul Stastny and more in The Week Ahead
The NHL hits the quarter mark and Michael Finewax looks at slump of Paul Stastny and more in The Week Ahead

Reporter asks the normally talkative (at least from a pre-game perspective) Ken Hitchcock about Blues center Paul Stastny and whether the team's success has shielded the $28 million man's problems...

"No," said Hitchock. "He needs to play better."

But in what areas does he need to play better?

"He needs to play better, we need more from him," said Hitch

Is it frustrating as a coach...

"No, we just need more from him. It’s not frustrating, it is what it is, we just need more from him."

Ouch!

Stastny, who signed a four-year $28 million contract with the Blues in the off-season has been a total bust so far. He has seven points in 17 games. Granted a shoulder injury played a role. But those numbers are pretty putrid for a guy who was supposed to be the cream of the free agent crop this past summer. 

"I think I put as much pressure… the most pressure is from myself," Stastny said. "I think because I want to be at my best, do the best I can and that doesn’t change no matter where I’ve been or how old I am. That’s the competitive spirit in me."

The Stastny quotes were taken before the Hitchcock quotes, so who knows what the forward would have said if he was made aware of Hitch's public disdain. 

Still, no matter the pressures from within, Stastny gets the fact that he must improve -- and that he's lucky he's not in Toronto, Vancouver, Philadelphia, New York, or some other crazy market that would be ticked at his contract. 

Also, the fact that Vladimir Tarasenko has turned into a nightly human highlight reel and Jori Lehtera has been such a pleasant surprise -- though he may be Patient 0 for the mumps -- has lessened the sting for Stastny. 

But even without the gentle Hitchcock reporter nudgings, Stastny gets the fact that he can hide for now, but not over a full season. 

Also, with the Blues, it's about the playoffs, and Stastny gives them that strong guy up the middle to go against other Western Conference elite. Even if he struggles during the regular season, they'll gladly take the postseason he had a year ago where he scored five goals in seven games for Colorado. 

"Eventually to get over the hump, we’re going to need myself playing at my top and other guys as well," Stastny said. "Early in the season it’s easy to get away with it , but over the course of 82 games you have to step up."

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