As an original NHL expansion team, the St. Louis Blues have been picking players at the draft since 1968. And they’ve done a very good job over the years, developing a prospect-rich pipeline that helped the team make the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons from 1980 through 2004.
On the other hand, St. Louis has only selected two Hall of Famers in 50-plus years at the draft, and they advanced past the second round only twice during their 25-season playoff streak (losing in the third round both times).
There’s a fine line between very good and great – a line the franchise finally crossed last spring when they won the Stanley Cup for the first time – and the Blues’ all-time all-drafted team reflects their long time running as a very good team, but not necessarily a great one.
At least, that’s the perspective from this vantage point. What do you think of the Blues’ all-time all-drafted team?
Let’s get into it.
On the first line, it’s centre Doug Gilmour – who made it into the Hall of Fame after being a seventh-round pick in 1982 – between current Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko and muscleman winger Rod Brind’Amour. It’s a highly potent offensive unit, and Gilmour and Brind’Amour also offer unparalleled leadership and intangibles, plus a boost to the special teams as well. If Tarasenko can’t score 50 with these guys, he’s never going to score 50.
Bernie Federko, the first Blues star to enter the Hall of Fame, plays pivot on the second line between T.J. Oshie and Jaden Schwartz. Federko was the best passer this side of Wayne Gretzky during his ’80s heyday, Oshie is the trigger man on this unit, while the savvy Schwartz plays off his two talented teammates.
The third line stands as the checking unit, but it packs an offensive punch as well. Michal Handzus handles defensive duties as a big and mobile two-way centre, with David Backes and Brian Sutter delivering goals and hits at every opportunity. All three will be in the penalty-killing mix, with Backes and Sutter pushing for power-play time, too. The fourth line is basically a first line in disguise, with shifty Cliff Ronning skating between scoring wingers Paul MacLean and David Perron.
Alex Pietrangelo and Erik Johnson form the first defence pairing, bringing an elite blend of size, skating and skill. Johnson also has some snarl and Pietrangelo isn’t shy, either. This duo is the first one over the boards in any critical situation and on special teams. The second pairing matches Bret Hedican’s smooth-skating offensive inclinations with hard-rock Barrett Jackman’s stay-at-home approach. Jackman is the rare defensive defenceman to win the Calder Trophy, being named the NHL’s top rookie in 2003. Big-bodied, big-shooting Colton Parayko gets an undersized PP specialist for a partner on the third pairing, with Risto Siltanen – one of the first Finnish players to make a mark on the NHL in the early 1980s – giving this Blues squad yet another power-play weapon.
In net, there’s a handful of goalies who rated consideration and it’s a true battle for the No. 1 spot. In the end, it’s St. Louis native Ben Bishop holding down the starting job, with one-time Pearson Award winner Mike Liut as the backup who’s more than ready to step in. (The Pearson Award was renamed the Ted Lindsay Award in 2010 and goes to the NHL MVP as voted by the players.) You’ll notice a glaring omission: no Jordan Binnington, despite the fact he was key to the Blues’ first championship. He just needs a bigger body of work, that’s all.
Here are other players who were considered for the Blues’ all-time all-drafted team. At centre: Jochen Hecht (49th, 1995), Lars Eller (13th, 2007), Wayne Merrick (ninth, 1972), Patrik Berglund (25th, 2006), Ian Laperriere (158th, 1992), Tony Hrkac (32nd, 1984), Curt Bennett (16th, 1968) and Igor Korolev (38th, 1992). At right wing: Wayne Babych (third, 1978), Lee Stempniak (148th, 2003), Nelson Emerson (44th, 1985), Mike Grier (219th, 1993), Ladislav Nagy (177th, 1997) and Jamal Mayers (89th, 1993). At left wing: Perry Turnbull (second, 1979), Craig Johnson (33rd, 1990) and Jocelyn Lemieux (10th, 1986). On defence: Ian Cole (18th, 2007), Roman Polak (180th, 2004), Steve Staios (27th, 1991), Brian Benning (26th, 1984) and Jack Brownschidle (99th, 1975). In net: Binnington (88th, 2011), Guy Hebert (159th, 1987), Jake Allen (34th, 2008), Gary Edwards (sixth, 1968), Bob Froese (160th, 1978) and John Davidson (fifth, 1973).
Here’s a look at St. Louis’ all-time all-drafted team. The 20-player lineup is based on players’ entire NHL body of work.
Doug Gilmour (134th, 1982)
Bernie Federko (7th, 1976)
Michal Handzus (101st, 1995)
Cliff Ronning (134th, 1984)
Vladimir Tarasenko (16th, 2010)
T.J. Oshie (24th, 2005)
David Backes (62nd, 2003)
Paul MacLean (109th, 1978)
Rod Brind’Amour (9th, 1988)
Jaden Schwartz (14th, 2010)
Brian Sutter (20th, 1976)
David Perron (26th, 2007)
Alex Pietrangelo (4th, 2008)
Erik Johnson (1st, 2006)
Bret Hedican (198th, 1988)
Barrett Jackman (17th, 1999)
Colton Parayko (86th, 2012)
Risto Siltanen (173rd, 1978)
Ben Bishop (85th, 2005)
Mike Liut (56th, 1976)