Alexander Steen has a nose for the net. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
This is the next in a series of stories ranking the 24 most important players on the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues.
I'm not sure why Alexander Steen hates the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he surely does. When he wore the leaf on his chest, he was one of the most inconsistent yet promising prospects of the decade. The former first round pick could not find confidence or consistency. That should be a hockey term combining the two: confistency maybe. Anyway, it's obvious he hates the Leafs. And most Leafs fans hate him too because he finally realized what kind of NHL player he can be here in St. Louis and not there.
The fact that Steen was packaged with Carlo Colaiacovo for just Lee Stempniak tells you what Steen's reputation was at the time of his trade to St. Louis. He had scored 15 goals in his second season in the league and 15 again in his third. And then 20 games into his fourth season, he had but two scores. The smell of failure and shattered expectations must have filled his oversized nostrils.
Even at the end of that first season in St. Louis where he played 61 games post-trade, Steen was not a good player. He scored just six goals over that time span and looked lost at times on the ice. The only way to describe it is that he never looked comfortable. He fumbled the puck, he made poor passes. He didn't have a good shot. His whole game was a mess.
And then in the 2009-10 season, something clicked. I don't know if it was being fully removed from the Toronto experience or realizing his second chance in the league here in St. Louis could be his last or if he just matured a little bit and calmed down. Whatever it was that happened, fans may not even remember how shitty he was just a few seasons ago.
The past two years he's scored a combined 44 goals and 54 assists. He plays on the power play. He can chip in on the penalty kill when needed. He can move back to the point. Even though he's listed at center, he only took 106 faceoffs last year - seventh on the team. Somehow Adam Cracknell who only played 26 games took more faceoffs than Steen. I have no explanation for that anomaly. So there's one area to improve.
If you're reading this, you have to be a big Blues fan. Or you hate the Leafs. Maybe you love the Leafs and hate Steen but feel like you have to read about him anyway. Whatever. But it means you probably talk a lot of hockey with folks. Anyone who says Steen is one of their favorite players pays attention to the little things during a game. They like a little defense, nifty passes and all-around play. He probably will never be a star, but teams that win championships always, always, always have players like Steen.
Heading towards the top of the list as we get closer to the dawn. Put some coffee on.