St. Louis Blues: David Backes and the 10 Best Captains in Blues History

Jacob BornContributor IIIOctober 10, 2012

St. Louis Blues: David Backes and the 10 Best Captains in Blues History

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    Hockey is the ultimate team sport. The most successful teams, as per Herb Brooks, uses a system that take the individuals talents and uses it for the betterment of the team. Every team also needs a leader to head that system.

    That leader is the captain of the team. The captain should be one of, if not the, best players on the team. He will be able to contribute in high pressure situations, while also being willing to sacrifice his body for the team.

    David Backes, the current captain for the Blues, does all of these things, but he is not the first. The Blues have had 19 captains in their 45 year history. Some have been captain for a single year, while others have been captain for nine. Some have been instrumental to the success of the Blues' team, while others have just been there.

    These are the 10 best captains in Blues history. 

10. Al Arbour

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    The Blues came into existence as part of the Expansion Six, and played their first season in 1967-1968 with Al Arbour becoming the very first captain for the Blues. 

    Arbour was drafted by the Blues in the fifth round of the 1967 Expansion Draft from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The left defenseman was not much of an offensive force, only putting up 23 points in St. Louis, and only 70 in his 13-year career.  

    While his offensive stats may leave something to be desired, Arbour did leave his mark on the team. He was a solid defenseman for the Blues, the first of many for the team.

    Because of his leadership, the Blues were able to make it to the Stanley Cup finals in 1968, 1969, and 1970, but was unable to lead the team to a win, let alone a Stanley Cup win. The Blues have not made it back to the Stanley Cup Finals since.

    The Blues are arguably the best franchise to never win a Stanley Cup. Al Arbour started that tradition when he became the first captain in history.  

9. Chris Pronger

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    Chris Pronger came to the Blues in the 1995-1996 season after they traded Brendan Shanahan to the Hartford Whalers. Pronger was a part of the Blues' organization for nine seasons, and was captain of the team for seven of those years. 

    Pronger took over the captaincy to fill the hole Wayne Gretzky left when he signed with the New York Rangers. It seemed like an odd pick for the Blues to name Pronger the captain when both Brett Hull and Al MacInnis were a part of the team. However, Pronger could still handle his own business.

    During his captaincy, Pronger led the Blues to the playoffs every single season, finishing off what would come to be 25 straight playoff appearances. Pronger was the captain during the 1999-2000 season when the Blues won the President's Trophy, and he earned himself the Hart Memorial Trophy that same season.

    Pronger saw a lot of success while captain of the Blues. However, there were other players probably more suited for the captaincy during his reign, and he was unable to lead the Blues deep into the playoffs when they were playing their best hockey in history. 

8. Scott Stevens

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    Many people forget that Scott Stevens was a Blue. But for all of one season, Stevens was a Blue, wearing the "C" for the club. 

    Stevens signed a four-year, $5 million contract, making him the highest-paid defenseman in the league at the time. Stevens put up 49 points for the club, putting him fifth on the team. He continued his physical play, and was a spark plug for the entire team.

    Stevens, despite only playing a single season, makes it onto the list because of the legacy he left. Stevens is one of the hardest-hitting defensemen in the history of the game. He is a Hall of Famer, and was able to lead the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cup Finals.

    The Blues made a terrible decision to sign Brendan Shanahan, and the Devils received Stevens as compensation. Stevens was determined to end his career as a Blue, but was unable to because of legal reasons.

    Stevens was a good enough leader to take the Blues to a Stanley Cup if he had been given the chance, but a poor managerial decision cost him the opportunity.  

7. Barclay Plager

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    Barclay Plager originally was not part of the St. Louis Blues after the Expansion Draft in 1967, but seven weeks into the 1967-1968 season, Plager was traded to the Blues from the Rangers. The deal turned out to be one of the most successful in Blues history.

    Plager was a part of the Blues' defense that allowed the fewest goals in 1969, second-fewest in 1970, and third-fewest in 1971. Because of his leadership on the blueline during these three years of stingy defense, Plager was named captain in 1972. 

    Plager would captain the Blues for the next five seasons. Plager would play all of his seasons with the Blues, scoring 231 points in 614 games for the club. He was known as a hard-hitting defenseman who would use his average size to the best of his ability. He would get in front of shots, and wasn't afraid to drop the gloves. 

    Plager was a gritty defender that could get it done on the score sheet. He was seen as a spark plug for the early Blues, and has his number hanging from the rafters because of his contributions to the Blues. 

6. David Backes

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    Current caption David Backes has been relatively unproven with his captaincy. He has only been at the helm for a year, but shows potential to be one of the best captains in Blues history.

    Backes was drafted by the Blues in the 2003 draft, and debuted for the Blues in 2006. He saw his playing time and point totals increase each year, and became a core part of the Blues offense by 2010. In 2011, he was named captain after the departure of Eric Brewer.

    Backes plays a complete game of hockey, which is what ranks him so high on the list for such a short time as captain.

    Backes will put the puck in the net, pass it off to his teammates, yet be one of the first ones on the back check. He will stick up for his teammates, putting up big hits and, if he needs to, throwing fists.

    Backes is the eldest member of the Blues' "young core." He is a lead-by-example captain, and looks to be the next great captain for the Blues.  

5. Bernie Federko

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    Bernie Federko is one of the best players ever to wear the Bluenote. He spent nearly every year in the NHL is a Blues sweater, and still is a fan-favorite today.

    Federko was captain for only one year, in the 1988-1989 season, which would be his last season in a Blues sweater.

    That season, Federko put up 67 points, and continue to add to his 1000-plus point totals. But his leadership extends further than just his single season as a captain.

    Federko, like many of the other captains on this list, was a spark plug for his team. He had the ability to make every one of his teammates better.

    He was known as one of the most underrated talents in the NHL, as he would put up 100-point seasons multiple times in his career. Federko even went as far as to be part of the reason why the Blues were able to be successful after a near relocation to Saskatoon.

    Federko has some of the best numbers in Blues history, and was a leader for the team. He could have been the best if he had been captain for a longer period of time. 

4. Red Berenson

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    Red Berenson was the first legitimate offensive star for the St. Louis Blues, and was rewarded with the captaincy. But he wasn't just captain once, but three different times. 

    Berenson first became captain for the 1970-1971 season, which was the first season that the Blues failed to make the Stanley Cup Finals. Berenson seemed to be falling off in point totals, so despite his leadership, the Blues traded him to the Detroit Red Wings.

    Bereson returned to the Blues in the 1974-1975 season, and would become captain for the end of the 1976 season. His trade back to the Blues gave him new life, and he would put up the numbers he was expected to first time around. Berenson became the offensive spark plug when the team needed him, continuing his ability to score clutch goals. 

    Berenson would become captain one final time in the 1977-1978 season, the last of his career. Bereson's nomination came as a tribute to the star who would be one of the best offensive players in the early years for the Blues. His three reigns as captain earns him a high slot on this list. 

3. Al MacInnis

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    Al MacInnis is another Blues legend that received the captaincy in the last year of his illustrious career. However, he was the team leader, regardless if he was actually wearing the "C" or not. 

    MacInnis was one of the most feared defensemen in his era. He had the hardest snapshot of his time, yet could make beautiful passes and play defense. During his time with the Blues, he earned his first and only Norris Trophy, he played in his 1,000th career game, and he holds the Blues' scoring record for a defenseman. 

    MacInnis was also a major influence in the community as well as off the ice. He had sons playing in a youth hockey organization in the St. Louis area, resulting in more organizations forming to handle the amount of kids signing up to play hockey. 

    MacInnis was seen as one of the undisputed leaders in the locker room and out on the ice. He led by example and came up big when needed. He was respected by every single one of his teammates, and is one of the best captains in Blues history. 

2. Brian Sutter

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    Brian Sutter is a name that is synonymous with the Blues' organization. He spent his entire 12-year career in St. Louis, and is remembered as being one of the best players to lace up their skates for the Blues. 

    Sutter was drafted by the Blues in the 1976 draft, and spent a few years in the minor leagues before being called up. But when he got to St. Louis, he never left. 

    Sutter was named captain in the 1979-1980 season, and became the longest-tenured captain in Blues history.

    Not only did he put up some of the best numbers of his career while being captain, but he started an unprecedented standard in St. Louis. Sutter was the captain that started the Blues' 25 consecutive playoff appearances streak. 

    Sutter was named captain early in his career for a reason. The Blues saw potential in Sutter's ability, and he rose to the occasion. He is arguably the best captain in Blues history, but there is one player that was better. 

1. Brett Hull

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    Brett Hull is arguably the best player to ever wear a Blues uniform. He played the majority of his career with the Blues, leading them to postseason after postseason, and was named captain early on. 

    Hull came over to the Blues from the Calgary Flames in a trade in just his second NHL season. With the Blues, he started to put up ridiculous numbers.

    In his first full season with the club, he put up 84 points, following up with a 113-point campaign the next year. In 1991, paired up with Adam Oates, Hull put up an astounding 131 points, scored 50 goals in 50 games, and his 86 goals is the third-highest regular-season total in NHL history. 

    The Blues rewarded Hull with the captaincy for four years. Hull, despite sometimes being unenthusiastic about the defensive aspects of the game, always came up big for the club. He was the go-to player on the ice, and could easily change the course of a game with just one shift.

    Much like MacInnins, Hull was also instrumental in the youth hockey movement in St. Louis. Hull is credited with making hockey popular among the younger generation, and allowed hockey to be one of the city's favorite sports.

    Hull was a leader on the stat sheet, on the ice, and in the community. He was the definition of a captain, and is the best in Blues history.