Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
The St. Louis Blues may be the best franchise not to have won the Stanley Cup. They began as one of the 1967-68 NHL expansion teams. They established themselves quickly as a disciplined defensive team with strong leadership and went to represent the West in the first three National Hockey League finals, losing each one. Since, there have been both high and low points, but there always seems to be some electricity in the air when the team takes the ice.
The Blues made a habit of acquiring well established veteran players early in their history. The first season saw them lure Hall of Famer Dickie Moore out of retirement to come and lead the team. Other stars the team signed as seasoned veterans include Glenn Hall, one of the best goaltenders of all time, Doug Harvey, easily one of the top defensemen to ever lace up the skates, Jacques Plante, another top goaltender, Dale Hawerchuk, Peter Stastny, Grant Fuhr and even Wayne Gretzky.
The list of star players is extensive, but one player who is associated with the Blues that stands out from the rest is Brett Hull. After obtaining Hull from the Calgary Flames in what would turn out to be one of the most, if not the most, lop-sided trades in NHL history, Hull went on to score goals in such volume that only Gretzky rivaled. Hull, undeservedly, retained a reputation of being a lazy or uninspired player that didn’t put forth his full effort: an underachiever. Looking at his career though, it’s difficult to label anyone who could attain such numbers as someone who ever underachieved.
Further star players to shine in St. Louis included: Barclay and Bob Plager; Red Berenson; Garry Unger; Bernie Federko; Brian Sutter; Mike Liut; Wayne Babych; Doug Gilmour; Joe Mullen; Adam Oates; Curtis Joseph; Scott Stevens; Brendan Shanahan; Phil Housley; Al MacInnis; Chris Pronger; Pierre Turgeon, Pavol Demitra, Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight.
Another name that needs to be mentioned when speaking about the Blues is Scotty Bowman. Bowman established the team and himself early and his stay with the team jump-started his career as a superstar coach – almost unrivaled. Bowman’s genius remains the envy of anyone associated with the game of hockey.
Retired St. Louis Blues numbers include: number 2 for Al MacInnis; number 3 for Bob Gassoff; number 8 for Barclay Plager; number 11 for Brian Sutter; number 16 for Brett Hull; and number 24 for Bernie Federko.
With young up-comers such as Lee Stempniak and Brad Boyes, along with veterans like Doug Weight, Paul Kariya and defensemen Barret Jackman and Eric Brewer the Blues hope to build a foundation that will, once again, make them rise to the top of the league standings. If history is any indication, it’s difficult to say this won’t happen.