Author: Joe Yerdon

Brett Hull

Fanspeak: Brett Hull voted greatest Blue in franchise history


This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.

St. Louis Blues

1. Brett Hull — 1,099 votes

2. Al MacInnis — 267 votes

3. Wayne Gretzky — 175 votes

4. T.J. Oshie — 93 votes

It’s probably not a shock that The Golden Brett came away with the victory here.

Hull is the franchise’s all-time leader in goals with 527, third in games played and second in points behind fellow Hall of Famer Bernie Federko.

Curiously enough, Federko didn’t even make Top 4 on the vote even though he was the franchise’s all-time leader in scoring. He also netted the Blues the centerman that helped lead Hull to three consecutive 70-plus goal seasons, including 86 in 1990-91, in Adam Oates as he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for the young upstart pivot. The combination of Hull and Oates helped give the Blues some of the most prolific offense the franchise has ever seen in the early 90s.

Now that he’s back with the team as an executive vice president, Hull’s place with the franchise is solidified.

MacInnis checking in second in our vote shows the mark he left in St. Louis. Originally a Calgary Flame, he brought his wicked slap shot and leadership to a Blues team that had a young Chris Pronger that needed some guidance. Incredibly, he played 10 seasons with the Blues after spending 13 with Calgary and won the Norris Trophy in 1999.

We’re assuming you guys were joking around with all the votes for Gretzky. His 31 total games with the Blues (regular season and playoffs) in 1995-96 couldn’t have been that impressive.

Blues need Paul Stastny to be their key to a Stanley Cup

Paul Stastny

When the St. Louis Blues signed Paul Stastny to a four-year, $28 million deal on July 1, many believed it to be the best signing of free agency. After all, who else can say they bagged a No. 1 center just by plunking down money?

The Blues have tried to keep the hype down regarding the 28-year-old former Colorado Avalanche pivot saying they don’t want him to be “Superman”, but when you look back the Blues’ recent playoff failures the pressure to do well offensively is plain to see.

Check out how the Blues offense has ranked out in goals per-game in the postseason the past three seasons:

2013-14: 2.33 (14th out of 16 teams)

2012-13: 1.67 (15th)

2011-12: 2.22 (7th)

Safe to say 2011-12 was an odd year if scoring just over two goals per game was good, but the point here is St. Louis’ offense has not gotten it done. Part of the blame there is thanks to Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings for the two times they bumped out the Blues. Corey Crawford looked to be very beatable in the most recent playoffs for Chicago, but Ryan Miller managed to be worse.

Call it excuses or point at other issues that have come up in recent years, but there’s no doubt adding Stastny to the lineup should help alleviate some of the goal production questions.

In his last three full seasons (lockout-shortened season excepted), he’s been a 70+ point per-season player. He’s good for 20-30 goals on his own and sets up others. That should work great for St. Louis’ goal scorers Alex Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko, and David Backes.

In last season’s playoffs, Stastny was a beast for the Avalanche with 10 points in the seven game series loss to the Minnesota Wild. While facing Ilya Bryzgalov is a bit different than facing Quick or Crawford, the Blues would be giddy to see that kind of performance in the playoffs. At $7 million per season, they’re counting on it.

Under pressure: Ken Hitchcock

Ken Hitchcock

We don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but things haven’t gone all that great in the playoffs for the St. Louis Blues.

Three years in a row the Blues have had huge regular-season performances, and all they have to show for it are two first-round losses and one second-round exit. A single series win over the San Jose Sharks isn’t anything to hang a banner over, and that’s something coach Ken Hitchcock knows.

What’s done in the Blues has been a mix of two things: Shoddy goaltending and a lack of offensive punch. St. Louis will look to answer those issues with a netminding tandem of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, and an offense that added Paul Stastny. They also hotly pursued Jason Spezza in an effort to further boost goal production, but Stastny’s addition was what helped make the Blues winners on paper in free agency.

We know the Western Conference is difficult and the Blues’ division got a lot more difficult last season with the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and Minnesota Wild all finding their way. Throw them into the mix with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Central Division is a bloodbath waiting to happen. Just what the Blues needed, right?

That’s why there’s so much pressure on Hitchcock.  Should the Blues make the playoffs and suffer another early exit, it will certainly lead to questions about his work behind the bench, as well as for the players on the ice. But as we’ve seen in the past, those kinds of battles usually result in the coach losing first.