ST. LOUIS -- Who goes to the Riviera Maya in Mexico for a week, soaks up the sun and soft breezes, sips on exotic drinks . . . and doesn't enjoy it?
Seriously, -- with apologies to David Backes -- who does that?
Hockey-ardent David Perron, that's who. OK, it's an overstatement to say No. 57 did not enjoy a number of days in Mexico, absorbing the Caribbean-baked environment, one which the native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, had never experienced before. But he couldn't escape a sinking feeling he was in the wrong place.
"I went for a week," Perron said. "It was the first time I was ever in hot weather like that. But the most frustrating part about the trip was there was a sports bar there, and they would show the (playoff) hockey games. I mean, I'm sitting in Mexico by the beach, but it was really frustrating I wasn't playing. We're going to fix that this year."
Perron put down a deposit on that promise during the rest of his summer, changing his diet, increasing his training and tunneling his vision. A low handicapper when he plays golf, he pretty much abandoned the game and most other leisure activities while he worked on and off the ice.
Part of a maturing process? Perhaps. At the still impressionable age of 22, the kid who donned white skates during his first training camp -- cue the Backes commercial -- is now starting his fourth season with the Blues. Only a handful of players on the roster have been in St. Louis longer.
Yet, some might interpret 2010-2011 as a fresh beginning for Perron in that it begins with Davis Payne as the Blues head coach, not Andy Murray. The fact Murray and Perron were on different pages at times is no secret. Perron sometimes exasperated Murray, who perceived Perron to have moments of undisciplined, selfish play.
The relationship was never on a Kim Basinger-Alec Baldwin contention level, but it was no tiptoe through the tulips either. Murray was relieved of his duties in January. But if you suggest that was especially significant or liberating for Perron, don't expect him to ride along.
Give Perron an opportunity to criticize Murray, and he'll take an opportunity to compliment him. If this is a young player who needs seasoning, he certainly has a sophisticated, stylish way of showing it.
"Hockey is hockey," Perron said. "Whatever you have to go through in life, or in your career, that's going to make you a better player. For me, it's a new season and it's a new season for everybody. I'm not going to say it's a fresh start."
The correspondent tried a different approach, asking if his relationship with the former coach had been career-advancing or sometimes career-stifling to his development. Perron stayed the course on a high road.
"Like I said, everything you go through in life . . . Perron added. "When I was 14 years old, I didn't play for a full season in junior hockey and, by the time I was 19, I was in the NHL. Everything makes you better. Every person you meet in your life, you're going to take something from them. And hopefully you use it, in hockey, or life or in anything you do. So that's how I take it, and I was really glad to have Andy as my first (NHL) coach."
The integrity Perron shows, the sincerity and wisdom in his answers is impressive and unmistakable. The left winger with the slick moves scored an unforgettable, highlight-reel goal last season. He also had his first hat trick and a 20-goal total that broke new ground. But he is not the least bit satisfied.
If the Blues are going to graduate from a playoff question mark to a full-fledged contender, it will be because two or three of their young players shed the training wheels and squeeze the accelerator. With veterans such as Paul Kariya, Keith Tkachuk and Chris Mason no longer in the room, the Blues have openings at the top for stars and leaders. Perron is determined to apply.
"It's my fourth season in the league and I'm looking forward to making the next step, and hopefully making a big one, making a real impact this year," he said. "The main goal is to improve every year as a player and to win more hockey games as a team."
When the Blues beat the Minnesota Wild, 5-1, on Wednesday, Perron offered some illustration. He assisted on Alex Steen's goal to give the Blues a 3-1 lead in the first period, then he snapped a wrist shot for a goal that made it 4-1 in the second. A goal, an assist, a two-point game -- yeah, those make an impact.
Fresh start, no. Metamorphosis, yes. His past episodes in time-out notwithstanding, the more one talks to "DP -- 57" -- Perron's Twitter name -- the more one realizes his dynamic skills are just part of the package.
As he starts his fourth season of wearing the Note, Perron wants to win. He wants to score more goals, collect more points, make more plays. He wants to be a presence in the locker room, a blueprint to follow. He wants to lead.
"The great thing is, you want to be that guy," said Perron, who had 47 points last season. "You want to be in the group that's leading the pack, and you want the other guys to follow you. That's the mind-set of Davis -- get up and do it yourself and let the other guys follow you. And if everyone in here has that attitude, then it will be a fun season.
"I want to show the example on the ice, I want to show it in practices, I want to show it off the ice in the way I train and other things. We have some real good leaders in this room, even if we lost some guys, and I want to be one of the guys who steps up and does that, as well."
Let's be honest, here. David Perron had a good time in Mexico last spring. But he would have a better time playing hockey, soaking up the playoffs, helping this franchise make waves.