Excellence takes both patience and the keen awareness of when to pounce on opportunity bestowed from the Hockey Gods. Harnessing talent funneled through the organization takes perseverance, leadership, communication and the ability change.
Together, John Davidson, Doug Armstrong and Davis Payne work perfectly in-tune, each strong in a different quality that makes an organization exceed.
Davidson was named president of the St. Louis Blues in June 2006. Ever since then he has been patiently and decisively rewriting an old-time St. Louis Blues song. While many have cried out against the product put on the ice year after year, they failed to see long-term plans. Do they connect his vision then with what they see now; all the first-round draft picks now on the ice, wearing those jerseys?
On July 1, 2010, Armstrong was named Executive VP and GM of the Blues. Without a visit to the Gateway Arch, he walked right in, picked-up the phone and triggered what was arguably the biggest deal of the summer.
"Armstrong has really put his stamp on this team by making this deal for (Jaroslav) Halak right away," Pang noted.
In trading for the Montreal Canadiens' goaltender, who defied physics throughout last season's playoffs, Armstrong announced his presence and instantly turned all eyes on St. Louis.
Between Armstrong's immediate take-charge actions and Davidson's slow and steady hand, the Blues are accomplishing what most in the NHL can't fathom: building and maintain their own. Pang looks to their philosophy, which is one he respects.
"The Blues have maintained and resigned their young players," he said. "Sometimes when you work hard to develop your own players and then all of a sudden you go out and sign a big unrestricted free agent and that free agent wants a one-hundred million dollar deal, it takes away the balance of what you've been trying to build."
Rounding out this philosophical meeting of the minds is coach Payne. Stepping up to the bench midway through last season, Payne took over for Andy Murray. Little was known about the youngest coach in the NHL and still many wonder about his experience and abilities.
Consistently, Pang used two words to describe what Payne is all about: Competitive Nature.
"There is a certain competitiveness that maybe everyone hasn't seen yet," Pang explained.
Payne was only in St. Louis half the season, there was little meet and greet time. His vision wasn't clear to the team. The NHL knew nothing of his personality and drive. However, Pang is certain that it won't take long for everyone to see what Payne is exactly about.
"(Payne) believes in accountability and will make (the players) accountable," Pang continued. "If they don't accomplish what is asked of them, they're not going to play. Very simple. Very black and white. He will structure this team the way he wants them to play and it will be a good team."
Accountability, however, isn't black and white to everyone. When the coach and player can't agree on what the player is "accountable for," a rainbow of colors can arise. Pang believes that Payne's ability to recognize a player's strengths and weaknesses will eliminate a lot of those colors.
"Davis has the ability to see where players are," he said. "If a person's strengths aren't fitting of a role or a line, then he's not going to leave them there. He's going to make changes."
Looking further into Payne's background there is logic behind this thought.
"Payne has done things the right way and he's paid a price, coming up through the minors," Pang said, with his voice becoming storyteller like. "He's been in the East Coast Hockey League and the American League. His theories and philosophies on coaching will keep him hear a long time."
From the organization to the coaching staff, the Blues are building on characteristics long-standing, successful franchises have hallmarked throughout history. However, as Pang stated earlier, the players must also respond to Payne's level of accountability. And there is no better place to start then the Captain; Eric Brewer.
Time to beat the dead horse. Controversy and question marks hang over Brewer's head like the thunderstorms that hung over St. Louis when we all sloshed our way to Scottrade Center in September. Brewer was not wanted. Not by fans. Not by the media.
However, when it came to the most important people in his life? His teammates and coaches? The wagons circled and a unified voice that rang out. Brewer is to be captain and we will follow him.
Last season saw a wave of injuries that never allowed Brewer the opportunity to show his full potential on the ice or take command of the leadership role as captain. Make no mistake; with such a young core of players, leadership can take this team over the edge of victory or most serious treachery. Pang is particularly impressed with how a very delicate situation has been so well addressed.
"I like that (the team) has had discussions with Eric Brewer," Pang said. "(The team) knows what to expect from him because ... his play has to step up and his health is better. I think expectations are high for Eric. Most people forget that even when he did play, he played injured for most of the year. I don't think last year was a fair assessment of him. This year will be a more legitimate assessment in terms of how he plays."
All captains should be held to rigorous demands above and beyond other players. However, Brewer is being watched for his play, leadership and ability to handle all the recent changes. With the media and city watching, he'll have to maintain the same level of composure off the ice, as he does on it.
"It is also about how (Brewer) deals with everything off the ice. There is going to be a lot more accountability and I know Payne has already established that with his leadership," Payne concluded.
Leadership is now set. From the president down to the captain, the philosophy has been determined and communicated to players, media, an entire city and the NHL. Logic dictates that from this strong foundation, the Blues’ overall personality will emerge.
"The (Blues) will be a team that comes at you in waves; in your face all night long," Pang said, with a smile. "I think the 'D' is going to be a lot more active now, with the coaching staff really encouraging this group. Roman Polak has always been a shut-down guy, but I think Davis would like to see Polak get up the ice a little more and be more activated."
As Pang visualizes the Blues on the ice, in his mind, he becomes more animated. Slowly, but surely, body language increases to show where lines and players might be best suited and Pang clearly put the season into perspective, a very enjoyable perspective.
A bullet train of defensive and offensive attacks through small tweaks and variations begin to shift in my mind.
"I like (Perron) in front of the net, not so much from the wall and running the powerplay from there," Pang said. "Erik Johnson can move into the middle and he has Steen who has a great one-timer on the right-side, with a left-hand shot."
For a moment, Pang stops in thought for a moment. Choosing his words carefully, he comes down to what the Blues' are about: "They'll be a difficult team to play against. You have four lines that can really go, which makes it a high-tempo team."
With the final piece intact, the Blues puzzle is a kaleidoscope.
On the ice, their personality is aggressive, young and high-tempo, led by Payne, who has a kick for the competitive side.
In the front office, you have a take-charge general manager/vice president and a steady and patient president. Leadership is a tricky and undesirable position for any one person.
The Blues have found a knack for splitting it up, throughout the organization, based on the qualities needed and the strengths of each individual.
For anyone living in St. Louis and needing career advice, I offer the following: become a dentist. I foresee an explosion of cavities by January. Like Pang, the Blues are going to have everyone feeling like kids in a candy store.
Susan Crosby covers the St. Louis Blues for TheFourthPeriod.com