The Top Ten St. Louis Blues of All Time
As we take a look at the Top 10 Blues of all time, I had to think carefully about what my criteria would be.
First, I wouldn't look at any previous all-time, Top-10 Blues lists. There would be obvious duplicates, but I wanted to determine my own order.
Second, the top 10 Blues players would be considered some of the great players in NHL history. Certain players have special places in our hearts as "favorite" Blues, like Chaser and Twist, Butcher, and Drake, or even the Cavallini brothers, but aren't all-time "top-ranked" Blues.
Third, they couldn't be great players who just passed through. Even though players like Grant Fuhr, Brendan Shanahan, Doug Weight, Joe Mullen, Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates, Jaques Plante, Scott Stevens, and the great one, Wayne Gretzky, played in St. Louis, and had varying impacts on the Blues, they won't be included on this list. Ideally members of this list played six or more seasons as a Blue.
And lastly, the players should have had an impact outside of some good numbers. They should have performed at critical moments or were an influential member of the team in the locker room or community.
10. Keith Tkachuk - LW/C
In his prime, Tkachuk was one of the premier power forwards of the game. He still plays a valuable, though reduced role for the Blues today. He is second all time among U.S. born players in goals with 535, and is fifth in points with 1,057.
Acquired late in the 2000-01 season, Tkachuk was an integral part of the successful Blues teams coached by Joel Quennville.
He scored 38, 31, and 33 goals in his first three full seasons as a Blue. He also played a critical role in the Blues unexpected, late-season push into the playoffs last year.
Tkachuk has been knocked for his lack of production in playoff series the Blues have lost, but hasn't always been alone in those struggles. And this season, he has taken some heat for not providing better veteran leadership during the Blues disappointing first half.
Overall though has had a great career. He is fifth in Blues history in goals (206) and seventh in points (422). He's played in five all-star games and is a six-time member of Team USA.
Tkachuk's contract expires at the end of this season, and it's very possible he will retire. If he doesn't retire, it's unlikely the Blues will attempt to resign him, as the team continues to develop it's younger players.
9. Curtis Joseph - G
Known throughout the NHL as CuJo, Joseph is second in Blues history in wins (137), playoff wins (16) and in games played (280). His .907 save percentage as a Blue trails only current goal tenders Chris Mason and Ty Conklin, who have yet to play 120 games combined in St. Louis.
Fans loved Joseph's acrobatic saves, and teammates would feed off of those sprawling stops. He would steal games for the Blues, and enjoyed being busy. He performed at his best when peppered with shots, as he faced almost 2,500 more shots than any other goalie in Blues history.
CuJo appeared to be the answer in goal for a franchise that had longed for a net minder that could take them to the next level.
However, Mike Keenan traded Joseph, along with prospect Mike Grier, to Edmonton for two first round picks—picks the Blues had previously sent to the Oilers in a trade for Shayne Corson—opting instead to go with veteran Grant Fuhr.
Joseph continued to have a successful career after St. Louis, recently announcing his retirement after 19 seasons in the NHL. He played in three all-star games and in six tournaments with team Canada, winning a Gold medal in 2002.
8. Barclay Plager - D
An original St. Louis Blue, Barclay Plager played his entire 614-game career in St. Louis. The truest stay-at-home defender on the list, he was a one of the fiercest hitters of his time.
Barclay held the franchise record for penalty minutes until it was later broken by Brian Sutter. He's still third all-time for the Blues with 1,115 PIM to go along with 231 points, fifth amongst defensemen in Blues history.
A favorite of coach Scotty Bowman's, he once said of Barclay, “As far as I was concerned, nobody hit any harder than Barclay for his size and strength.”
A four-time all star, Barclay and his brother Bob would continue to be lifetime Blues. Barclay coached in the Blues farm system and was head coach in 1979. His No. 8 jersey was retired in 1981.
He served as an assistant coach with the Blues from 1981 until his death from a brain cancer-related aneurysm in 1988.
7. Mike Liut - G
The Blues all-time leader in wins (151) and games played (347), Mike Liut won the Lester B. Pearson award as the NHL's most outstanding player for the 1980-81 season, and was runner up to Wayne Gretzky for the Hart trophy.
At 6' 2" and 195 lbs, Liut was big for a goaltender in his time. He led the league in games played and minutes in 1981-82 and 1982-83. Liut led the NHL in wins in 1979-80.
He is the franchise's career leader in playoff games played (39) and is tied in wins (17).
Liut's star burned brightly with the Blues, but would eventually fade—as often happens with goaltenders.
Liut's status dropped a bit after an 8-1 loss with Team Canada in the final of the Canadian Cup against Russia. That combined with the Blues' budget issues lead to him being dealt to Hartford in 1985.
He would go on to play eight more seasons in the NHL, including a second place finish for the Vezina trophy in 1987 with Hartford. After three seasons with the Capitals, back problems lead to his retirement in 1992.
6. Garry Unger - C
Garry Unger came to the Blues from the Red Wings as part of a trade for Red Berenson (who barely missed this list) in 1971, primarily due to Unger refusing to get a crew cut.
He would go on to play 662 straight games for the Blues, en route to setting the NHL record at the time for regular season games played in a row at 914. It's still the second-longest streak in NHL history, to Doug Jarvis' 964.
The Blues iron man admitted there were many times he should have sat out, but never complained.
Unger's sister couldn't walk due to Polio, and he said she, "Could be so peaceful and happy with her life despite the fact that she couldn’t walk.” It made his aches and pains seem very minor to him.
In his eight, full seasons as a St. Louis Blue, he never scored less than 30 goals. He lead the team in goals in six of those eight seasons, and ranks fourth in Blues history in goals (292) and points (575).
Unger would go on to the Atlanta Flames for one season before getting to finish his 16-year NHL career in his home town of Edmonton. There he would tutor the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey.
5. Chris Pronger - D
The Blues acquired Chris Pronger in 1995 when Mike Keenan sent beloved forward Brendan Shanahan to the Hartford whalers for the young defender.
Shananhan was a vet in his prime, while Pronger was still considered a project, leading to high expectations from Blues fans.
Pronger didn't take long to develop, becoming an all star at age 23. He was a stalwart on the Blues' defense, winning both the Norris and Hart trophies in 2000.
He led the league in +/- rating in 1997-98 and 1999-00, and is first in Blues history in +/- rating (+140).
He also did his share of scoring, and is 9th in Blues history in points (356), all while amassing 931 penalty minutes, good for fourth in Blues history.
Pronger anchored a top defensive line with hall of famer, Al MacInnis, that won a presidents trophy in 1999-00, and qualified for the Playoffs every season he was in St. Louis.
He was consistent performer in the playoffs too, though he would occasionally take a bad penalty. He ranks third in Blues playoff history in games played (85), fifth in points (51), and is second in penalty minutes (210).
After nine seasons as a Blue, the Chris Pronger era in St. Louis ended too soon. After the 2004-05 lockout, owners Bill and Nancy Laurie wanted to cut costs before selling the team. They dealt Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers for Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, and Doug Lynch.
Pronger would go on to make two Stanley Cup Final appearances. He advanced to the finals in his one seaons with the Oilers, and won Lord Stanley's Cup in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks.
He's played in five all-star games, and is a three-time Olympian, winning the gold medal in 2002 with team Canada. He is currently in his first season with the Philadelphia Flyers, and ranks fourth all-time among active players in +/- rating (+170).
4. Al MacInnis - D
Known for his wicked slap shot, Al MacInnis is one of the greatest all-around defensemen in NHL history.
His shot was notorious, winning the "hardest shot" seven times at the NHL skills competition.
He kept it low and had an uncanny knack for getting it through traffic.
Even when his shots were stopped, they were effective. I will always remember MacInnis firing a slap shot from the right point in a playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 that caused goaltender Patrick Roy to double over after making the save with his body.
But MacInnis was far more than his 100+ mph slap shot. He had already won a Stanley Cup in 1989 and the Con Smythe award as the MVP of the Playoffs when he was acquired along with a fourth round pick in 1994 for Phil Housley and two second rounders from Calgary.
MacInnis was a team leader, and a big influence on his fellow defensemen Chris Pronger. He was always one of the smartest players on the ice and played both ends of the rink.
He is sixth in Blues history in points (452), first among defensemen, and second in +/- rating (+132). He is first amongst defensemen and third overall in playoff points (58) in Blues playoff history.
MacInnis played in six all star games as a Blue, 12 overall, and won the Norris trophy in 1998-99. He is a five-time member of team Canada, winning a gold medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics.
MacInnis' playing career officially ended with the Bues when he announced his retirement in September of 2005. An eye injury suffered just three games into the 2003-04 season was truly the end for MacInnis though, and the 2004-05 lockout made it even less likely he would come back.
After 23 seasons as a player, MacInnis had his No. 2 jersey retired in St. Louis in April of 2006. Later that year he was hired as the Blues' Vice President of Hockey operations, a position he still holds. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November of 2007. He is third all-time amongst NHL defensemen in goals, points, and assists.
3. Brian Sutter - LW
There was some serious consideration in making Brian Sutter the No. 1 player on my list. But No. 3 is where he will be due to the gaudy numbers the two gentlemen above him posted.
Brian Sutter was the first of six Sutter brothers to play in the NHL, and thus the first to carve that Sutter niche. He wasn't the most talented hockey player, nor the biggest at 5' 11" and roughly 170 lbs, but he may have been one of the hardest working and toughest players in the NHL during his career.
From juniors, to the CHL, to his first season in St. Louis, Sutter established himself as a fighter. It would be his way of getting whatever ice time he could in his first couple years as a Blue before having a breakout season in 1978-79, scoring 41 goals and 39 assists for 80 points.
From 1978-79 to 1984-85, Sutter would average 36 goals and 74 points, setting a career high with 46 goals in 1982-83 and a career high in points with 83 in 1983-84.
This offensive output was still accompanied by Sutter's scrappy style, averaging 190 penalty minutes during that same seven-season stretch, including a career high 254 PIM in 1982-83, the same season of his career high in goals.
Injuries would slow Sutter down over the next two seasons, playing just 44 games in 1985-86, and only 14 in 1986-87. But he would rebound for one more season, playing 76 games on the checking line in 1987-88 and tallying another 147 PIM.
Sutter played all 12 of his NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues and was team captain for nine of them. He was the glue that held them together during some rough financial times for the franchise as other stars around him were sold off.
He is third all time in Blues history in goals (303) assists (333) and points (636), and he is also third in Blues playoff history in goals with 21. Sutter is still the Blues all-time leader in penalty minutes with 1,786.
After the 1987-88 season, Sutter's contract was up, as was his coach's, Jacques Demers, who left for Detroit. The Blues eventually talked Sutter into retiring and becoming the head coach, a position he would hold for the next four seasons. The Blues retired his No. 11 during his first season as head coach in December of 1988.
The Blues never advanced past the second round of the playoffs with Sutter at the helm, but he did win the Jack Adams award for coach of the year in 1991. He is also credited with tapping the potential of a young Brett Hull, who would go on to be the Blues all-time leading goal scorer. Sutter would go on to coach nine more seasons in the NHL with Boston, Calgary, and Chicago.
2. Bernie Federko - C
Another player who could easily be listed at number one, Bernie Federko was selected with the seventh overall pick of the 1976 NHL draft by the Blues.
After 42 games in his first season in the CHL with the Kansas City Blues, Federko was called up to the big club. He had three hat tricks in the 31 games he played in the NHL that season, and the rest is history.
In his third full season in the NHL, Federko scored 95 points. He would clear 90 points in a season seven times in his career and would top 100 points three times. He was the first player in NHL history to record 50 assists in 10 consecutive seasons.
He is first in Blues history in points (1,073), assists (721), games played (927), and second in goals with 352.
Federko is second in Blues playoff history in goals (35), points (101), games played (91), and he is tops in St. Louis playoff history in assists with 66.
Federko was often overlooked nationally. This lead to him playing in only two All-Star games due to the dearth of play-making centers in the NHL at the time, and the fact that he played in a small market. But he was a star in St. Louis. Federko possessed amazing balance, puck control, and a great wrist shot.
He was traded to the Detroit Red Wings after 13 seasons in St. Louis before the 1989-90 season. The Blues sent Federko and Tony McKegney to Detroit for Paul MacLean and Adam Oates.
Federko was very disappointed by the trade. He loved St. Louis and played a reduced role on a non-playoff team in Detroit. He played his 1,000th game in his final game in Detroit, and it would be the last game of his career.
On Mar. 16, 1991, the Blues retired Federko's No. 24. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002 and is currently an analyst and commentator for the Blues during their television broadcasts.
1. Brett Hull - RW
The "Golden Brett," Brett Hull, is first in Blues history in goals scored (527) and second in points (936). He ranks first in Blues playoff goals (67), points (117) and games played (102), and is third all-time in NHL history in goals scored with a career total of 741.
Hull is fourth all-time behind Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Jari Kurri with 103 playoff goals. His 24 game-winning playoff goals are tied with Gretzky for the most in NHL history. He's played in eight all-star games, and is a five-time member of Team USA.
At the trade deadline of the 1987-88 season, the Blues sent defensemen Rob Ramage and goalie Rick Wamsley to the Calgary Flames for Steve Bozek and Brett Hull, son of the "Golden Jet," Bobby Hull.
At the time, Hull was a chunky, choppy skater, deemed a loafer by his coach Terry Crisp, whom Hull did not get along with.
Given the ice time he could not get on Calgary's deep team, he scored 41 goals in his first full season as a Blue.
In their end-of-the year meeting, head coach Brian Sutter told Hull he was wasting his talent, and that he needed to work harder.
Hull scored 70 or more goals over the next three seasons, leading the league each time. He scored 86 goals in 1990-91, setting the record for a right winger, and it's the third-highest, single-season total in NHL history, behind Wayne Gretzky's 87 and 92-goal seasons.
In 1990-91 and 1991-92, Hull scored 50 goals in 50 games, becoming only the 5th player in NHL history to accomplish the feat, and only the second player to do it twice, joining Gretzky. He won the Lady Bing trophy in 1990 and the Hart and Lester B. Pearson awards in 1991.
Hull's numbers would come down a bit, after losing his favorite centers in Peter Zezel and Adam Oates, and when the style of play began to change in the NHL. He still finished in or near the top 10 in goals the next five seasons.
The gregarious and opinionated Hull would engage in a very public feud with Mike Keenan during Keenan's tenure as head coach and GM of the Blues. Hull didn't like Keenan's methods, and was offended by the way he alienated his teammates and dealt key players away.
Keenan didn't understand Hull's style, which would often be to drift away from a play and lose his defender before re-entering the scoring area—something he learned from his hall-of-fame father.
After outlasting Keenan and becoming the two-way player management wanted Hull to become, they then refused to offer him a no-trade clause in his next contract. Hull didn't accept the Blues offer, and left for the Dallas Stars before the 1998-99 season.
Hull would go on to win two Stanley Cups, one in Dallas in 1999 and one with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002. He attempted a post-lock out, comeback with the Phoenix Coyotes that lasted only five games before retiring.
After Dave Checketts bought the Blues and made John Davidson President of Hockey Operations, they made a concerted effort to bring Hull back into the Blues family after his unceremonious exit. They named the street in front of Scottrade Center "Brett Hull Way," and retired his No. 16 jersey in 2006.
The jersey retirement made Brett and his father, Bobby, the only father-son combo to have their jerseys retired. Hull was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009, making he and his father the only father-son combo in the Hall of Fame as well.