Last Word On Hockey brings our Team of the Decade series. We will dive into the best player at each position this decade for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments in franchise history. Here is the St. Louis Blues decade lineup.
St. Louis Blues Decade Team
This past decade of St. Louis Blues play was, simply put, the most successful in team history. They made the playoffs in all but two years and were held to just the first round only twice. Of course, they then capped off the decade with the first Stanley Cup win in the team’s history. It was a decade that saw the Blues truly come into their own. The emergence of players like Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Tarasenko brought the team a truly elite identity that they hadn’t had since Brett Hull left the lineup in 1998.
The St. Louis Blues decade team is composed of these figure-heads: players that built the team into a truly magnificent franchise, one that is now viewed as arguably the best team in the league. Even names that have since left the team spent their time in St. Louis building the confidence and determination of the entire city, something that mounted in their ultimate Cup win.
Left-Wing: Alex Steen
The first piece of the lineup is likely going to be the most controversial. The Blues had a lot of very good, but not very great, talent at left-wing through the decade. Andy McDonald called his career quits only 120 games into the decade but still managed 93 points in that span, a very admirable number considering the injuries that plagued the latter parts of his career.
Jaden Schwartz also managed to bloom into a top-line winger over the 10-year span. He was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft and was a star by the midway point of the 2013-14 season. Excluding the years before this breakout, Schwartz has managed a very admirable 291 points in 397 games, good for an average of roughly 49 points-per-season. While this is a slightly skewed average, thanks to his absence from all but 33 games in 2015-16, it still earns him a spot as one of the best Blues left-wingers in recent memory.
Nobody can beat Alex Steen, though. He was once one of the most reliable players on the Blues lineup despite now being seen as simply extra baggage. He was a force on offense, tallying over 50 points in five seasons. This includes two 60+ point years. Steen also managed at least 20 goals three times, including a team-leading 33 in 2013-14. He also had a clean 30 points in 57 playoff games through the decade, excluding last season’s Cup run.
Before the emergence of stars like Schwartz and Tarasenko, the Blues had Steen. He matched his offensive production with a tremendous effort in the defensive zone, making him one of the best, albeit most underappreciated, two-way forwards of the decade. His spot on this list is well-earned, after over 10-years of impeccably hard work.
Centre: David Backes
David Backes was the heart of the Blues for most of the decade. His grinder personality would eventually embody the Blues entire playing style after Backes was named captain ahead of the 2011-12 season. He’d then go on to outwork the opposition in every game, tallying four over-50-point seasons and one 48 point season this decade.
He matched his offence with terrific defence, ultimately becoming one of the best Blues players of the decade, not just the best centre. At the centre position, he is almost entirely unmatched in his ranking. Only Ryan O’Reilly could even be considered to top Backes but O’Reilly’s very recent addition to the team makes this ‘Decade Best’ ranking shaky at best. Still, O’Reilly has led all Blues players this decade in points-per-game and all forwards in average time on ice. His impact on the team was one of the driving factors to their Cup win and a Conn Smythe win of his own.
O’Reilly has served as a sort-of upgraded version of Backes, who unceremoniously left the team in the summer of 2016, but hasn’t spent enough time with the team to dethrone the former Blues captain of five years. Instead, Backes keeps his title, having ranked fifth on the team in total scoring through the decade and easily serving as one of the best defensive players to ever wear the Blue Note.
Right Wing: Vladimir Tarasenko
This is an absolute no-brainer. The Blues have been plagued with an oddly shallow pool of right-wingers this decade. Only T.J. Oshie and the occasional right-wing Backes have really been the only ones of note. That is, except for the incredible Tarasenko. Tarasenko made his debut with the Blues in 2013 and had an immediate positive impact on the lineup. He netted two goals in his NHL debut and would go on to score eight goals and 19 points in 38 games that year.
The next year, though, Tarasenko had a fairytale breakout, netting 21 goals and 43 points. Ultimately, he would go on to score over 30 goals five times since joining the team in 2012, a number he was sure to add to before being injured at the beginning of this season; an injury that would go on to hold him out of the entire season.
Between Tarasenko’s NHL debut on January 19, 2013, and his last game this season, on October 24, 2019, he has scored the ninth-most goals of any player in the NHL. This is despite the winger playing in the second-fewest games of anyone in the top-10. This includes ranking fourth in even-strength goals in the same stretch.
Tarasenko managed to establish his worth as one of the best goal-scorers in the league despite not joining the league until three years into the decade. He is now being spoken of in the same conversation as players like Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane. His inclusion on this list is, frankly, obvious. If he can continue to grow his talents in years to come, he could become the new era’s Brett Hull; something all Blues fans surely expect from him.
Left Defence: Kevin Shattenkirk
Listing Kevin Shattenkirk as the decade’s best left-defenceman may come as a bit of surprise but the right-handed shooting Shattenkirk actually spent a healthy amount of time on the left side. In total 43 percent (2535 minutes, 52 seconds) of his ice time was spent on left-defence, looking at even strength numbers between 2010 and when Shattenkirk left St. Louis in 2016. This doesn’t even include the Blues power-play totals, where Shattenkirk was the favourite of all left-D options.
And while Shattenkirk’s time may have been split between the positions, his production still adamantly earns him this spot. Shattenkirk managed five seasons of over 40 points and three of double-digit goals despite being on the blue-line. He had the second-most goals, assists, and points of any Blues defenceman through the decade.
There simply aren’t any players to challenge Shattenkirk’s title here. Jay Bouwmeester was a crucial part of the Blues lineup through the latter half of the decade but always played a second-fiddle role behind Shattenkirk. The same can be said for Barret Jackman, who retired in 2015. Ultimately, Shattenkirk provided unrelenting reliability that, combined with Pietrangelo’s amazing abilities, gave the Blues a tremendous confidence boost. His work on special teams, mixed with a strong track record at even-strength, inks Shattenkirk as the obvious choice here.
Right Defence: Alex Pietrangelo
Like Tarasenko, Pietrangelo’s selection is no surprise. In the same way that Tarasenko has become the leader of the team’s offence, Pietrangelo has become the star on defence. The former first-round pick Pietrangelo spent nearly the entire decade in a Blues jersey. He was even named captain after Backes left. In over 700 games with the Blues this decade, Pietrangelo leads all defencemen in goals, assists, and points. In fact, he ranks first among any skater in assists and third in points through the decade.
Pietrangelo spent the decade becoming one of the best Blues defencemen in history; an exciting accolade considering he’s still only 30-years-old. He currently ranks second in points for a defenceman in Blues franchise history; only two points behind Hall of Famer Al MacInnis. He has also tallied the most assists, and second-most goals, of any Blues defenceman.
Pietrangelo’s cause doesn’t need any support. He has not only been the best right defenceman of the past decade but arguably the best Blues player. His role as captain, and emergence into a league-best defenceman in the last few years, has coincided with the Blues rise to power. There is no doubt in any fans’ mind that one day Pietrangelo’s #27 will be hanging in the team’s rafters. But for now, he’s simply the best right defenceman to play for St. Louis in the last decade.
Goalie: Brian Elliott
Brian Elliott spent five seasons with the Blues, from 2011 to 2016. And then in a wave of smoke, he was gone. Despite tallying some truly dazzling numbers during his time with the Blues, Elliott is scarcely remembered by any fans. His incredible tenure has instead become a bleak memory, particularly in light of his current struggles with the Philadelphia Flyers.
But Elliott made an incredible impact on the Blues after just one season. In his first year in St. Louis, Elliott tallied an incredible .940 save percentage and 1.56 goals-against-average. This was the highest single-season save percentage and lowest GAA of any goaltender this decade, with at least 30 games played, and Elliott amazed it in his first year with St. Louis. While he would never match it, – and how could anyone expect him to – he would continue to play at an incredible level for the Blues. He tallied save percentages of .904, .922, .917, and .930 in his other four years with the team respectfully. This was by-and-large good enough to give the Blues the faith they needed to tinker with their lineup. His reliability in net was amazing. It is what allowed the team to take chances on young rookie defencemen like Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, and Joel Edmundson.
To say Elliott walked so the Blues could run would be an understatement. His service as the starter led the way to the shaping of the team’s defence, the growth of the backup Jake Allen, and nearly single-handedly provided the young team with the playoff experience needed to get them where they are now. While many choose to leave his memory in the past, Elliott deserves recognition as one of the best Blues goalies ever.
Elliott’s leading the Blues in all-time goals-against average, save percentage, and shutouts reflect this. He did this all in only five years with the club, adding even more merit to his name. Ultimately, there is no doubt of his place on this list.