This is the next in a series of stories ranking the 24 most important players on the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues.
No. 20 Scott Nichol
You get what you pay for. And in today's NHL, $600,000 will get you a short forward with a career high of 10 goals that turns 37 during the season. Scott Nichol, we have low expectations.
The man is 5 feet, 8 inches tall. That's half an inch taller than my wife if he's honest about his height on his bio. And if he has to lie to get to that height, he should start wearing taller skates.
Over the course of his career he's played with five teams before arriving in St. Louis as an unrestricted free agent this summer. He spent significant parts of seven seasons in the minor leagues. He's scored more than five goals in a season only three times. He's hit double digits in assists twice. He's not an offensive dynamo.
Nichol has a reputation as a defensive player, penalty killer and faceoff specialist. Last season he won the draw 59.4 percent of the time. He had the highest win percentage on the Sharks, but three other centers had hundreds more faceoffs. Hundreds. But if you go back two seasons, Nichol won 60.6 percent of his faceoffs and saw the second most draws behind only Joe Thornton (a noted asshole). My biggest worry is that 2009-10 may have been his last hurrah. Turning 37 in the NHL is pretty damn rare. And he's damaged goods.
The midget center was limited to 56 regular season games last season because of a shoulder injury. He came back for the Sharks' annual playoff collapse, but he needed surgery in the offseason to repair a torn labrum. He missed the first half of the Blues' preseason games recovering from that surgery.
Ok, I get it. Every team needs role players and Nichol will embrace that role with veteran fervor. He knows he doesn't have much time left in the league. He will provide an experienced voice in the dressing room (along with the two other old guys they signed this summer; we'll get to them). But when you say a guy is a faceoff specialist, I immediately think of Mike Eastwood. That guy hung around two or three seasons after he was actually useful based on just his inability to consistently win faceoffs...the entire justification for having him on the roster. Winning the faceoff is one thing. It's another to do something after the draw - either with the puck or defensively.
And it also scares me when a guy in his late 30s is going to be counted on to be a prime penalty killer. Veteran savvy and experience will only take you so far. Your legs have to do the rest.
What Nichol is in position to provide this team will never be on the score sheet. So ranking him this low is possibly unfair. But come on, the guy is making almost half of what B.J. Crombeen signed for this summer. He's not going to win many games this season on offense or defense. Therefore, the ranking.
Maybe he should have been 24th. That's the second time I've written that in the rankings so far. I'm sure that won't be a problem.
Keeping up on your reading? Better hurry up. Lots more words coming. So many words.