Tuesdays With Hildy: History Lesson - Which Blues Team Was The Best?

After games like last night, it helps to fixate on the good stuff. Like alcohol, and fried foods. And the fact that the Blues have a storied history with all sorts of teams that were Cup-worthy.

Ok, that last part might not help, since the fickle finger of fate decreed over and over again that regardless of how good a squad the Blues put together, they'd not win. Weird stuff happened every year, decade in and decade out, to keep the Blues away from the Stanley cup. You know, weird things like Wayne Gretzky being incapable of maintaining puck possession.

Anywho, in this week's Tuesdays With Hildy, I'm going to look at the "best" Blues teams iced, one a decade (ok, 2 for the 90s), and then let you guys duke it out as to what year's was the finest. There's nothing more fun than looking at the past and what the possibilities were, then remembering what the outcome was, is there?

No? Then let's get wallowing in the past! I'm a history teacher, after all. This is my bag.

1968-1969 St. Louis Blues - 37-25-14, 88 points; 224 Goals For, 157 Goals Against, 838 PIM

Coached by Scotty Bowman, this was the second Blues team in as many years to make it to the Stanley Cup finals. Unfortunately, this was also the team that was swept in four games by the Montreal Canadiens for the second year in a row. The fact that an upstart expansion team duked it out with Original Six teams for three straight years for the Stanley Cup gave fans hope for the new young team; no franchise has gotten off to a more successful start in league history - making the fact that the Blues have never won the Cup that much more frustrating.  Highlights of this season include Red Berenson's 35 goals and 82 points, including scoring six goals in one game against Philadelphia on November 11th. It also includes the shared Vezina Trophy for the goaltending tandem of Jacques Plante and Glen Hall (with Hall being named a first team All-Star for the Campbell Conference that season). Also, veteran defenseman Doug Harvey retired after this season.

1974-1975 St. Louis Blues - 35-31-14, 84 points; 269 Goals For, 267 Goals Against, 1275 PIM  

The Blues finished second in the Smythe Division behind the Vancouver Canucks this year, coached by both Lou Angotti and Gary Young, who replaced Angotti after a 2-5-2-1 start. This season's team saw the return of Red Berenson from the Detroit Red Wings and John Davidson in goal with a not so wonderful 3.66 GAA - even for the small-pad era. This team was the best of the 1970s record wise, but spend most of the season below .500 before making it into the playoffs to lose in round one to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

1980-1981 St. Louis Blues - 45-18-17, 107 points; 352 Goals For, 281 Goals Against, 1657 PIM

The first team of the 1980s was coached by fan favorite and resident legend Red Berenson, who was rewarded with the Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year. The team dominated during the regular season, led by Lester B. Pearson winner Mike Luit, who won 33 games that season. Hall of famer Bernie Federko racked up 104 points, and the leading goal scorer, Wayne Babych, scored 54 goals in 78 games - along with 93 PIM. Speaking of penalty minutes, it was a hallmark of this team to rough up opponents - Brian Sutter wound up with 232 PIM, Perry Turnbull got called for 209, and Bryan Maxwell heard the whistle for 137 PIM.

1990-1991 St. Louis Blues - 47-22-11, 105 points; 310 Goals For, 250 Goals Against, 1987 PIM

Three hundred and ten goals - gee.  Wonder who was responsible for a good chunk of those? Can we say Hull and Oates? The last season the dynamic duo was together saw Hull score a record 86 goals and 131 points, and Oates net 90 assists and 115 points. Former Blue turned coach Brian Sutter was rewarded with the Jack Adams, and Hull was rewarded with the Hart and Lester B. Pearson trophies. The team, though, was rewarded for an excellent season with a second round playoff loss to the Minnesota North Stars in six games. Also, Scott Stevens managed to get 150 PIM and 49 points, while Dave Lowery gained 168 PIM and 40 points. All in all, eight members of the team compiled more than 100 PIM that year.

1997-1998 St. Louis Blues - 45-29-8, 98 points; 256 Goals For, 204 Goals Against, 1414 PIM

One of the last years the Blues' benefited from Brett Hull's scoring touch, he let himself be outscored by four goals by Geoff Courtnall. His focus shifted from goal scoring to assists, getting credit for 45 helpers, good for the team lead in points yet again at 72. Coach Q got the Blues to the second round of the playoffs, losing in seven painful games to the eventual Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Sadly, the next season saw the end of Grant Fuhr's tenure with the Blues, but in 1997-1998, Fuhr won 29 games, putting a 2.53GAA and .0898 SV% in the books.

2000-2001 St. Louis Blues - 43-22-12-5, 103 points; 249 Goals For, 195 Goals Against, 1139 PIM

I didn't include the 1999-2000 Blues in here, because while they won the President's Trophy, they also managed to lose in the first round to the 8th seeded San Jose Sharks. This year's line up came up just short in the Prez race, but Coach Q managed to get the Blues to the Western Conference finals. Yes, the Blues lost to the eventual Cup champion Avalanche in five games, making it to the Conference finals for the first time since 1986. This accomplishment was completed by the surprisingly successful goaltending duo of Roman Turek and Brent Johnson, who had a 2.28 and 2.17 GAA, respectively.

 

*resources for this article include The Hockey DB and Wikipedia - totally legit to use for research, BTW. Swear.

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