This is the next in a series of stories ranking the 24 most important players on the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues.
No. 6 Andy McDonald
I did a ranking very similar to this project a few years ago. Andy McDonald earned the No. 1 spot on that poll. Not everyone agreed and I accepted that. Even though I've bumped him down, he's still a key cog to the offense and often drives the tempo of the power play. My biggest criticism of him is almost completely out of his control: serious injuries.
In the 2008-09 season, McDonald crashed feet first into the boards at a high rate of speed against the Canadiens. The broken leg he suffered in the crash limited him to 46 games that season. He managed 44 points in those games
Last year in overtime at Edmonton, he was skating hard through the neutral zone, took a spill head first and crashed his head into the skates of an Oiler player. Symptoms after his concussion limited him to 58 games. He still scored 50 points. In the two seasons in his career he played 82 games (they came back to back in Anaheim), he scored 85 and 78 points.
Both of those freak injuries cost the Blues a skilled forward who is capable of putting up a point almost every single night. Maybe if he was a little taller (listed as 5 feet, 11 inches) or was a little thicker (listed at 190 pounds) or maybe skated a little slower (kind of the opposite than what you want in most hockey players, right?) he might be a little more durable. And now he has officially entered the twilight of his career after turning 34 in August. That honestly can't help him avoid getting hurt.
He does have a playoff pedigree. When the Ducks won the Stanley Cup (that's still hard to type), he scored 10 goals and 14 points in 21 playoff games that year. In the Blues' last playoff appearance he scored a goal and three assists in the four-game loss to Vancouver. I say the league would have called the series off after three games if it were not for McDonald.
I feel like I'm failing in describing how important McDonald is to the Blues, but shouldn't it be obvious the value the sixth most important player brings to the rink every night? I don't think there is a better pure passer on the Blues. He has aggressive instincts and takes chances. He's kind of like a slightly smaller, more polished and unconcussed David Perron. They both have the innate skill to see the wrinkle in the defense, skate into it and create chaos in the offensive zone. That stuff is hard to teach, it's more of an innate sense of what's happening around you. TV guys talk about goal scorers finding the quiet areas of the ice to take quality shots. McDonald is the type of player who creates a distraction and draws the defense's attention so that quiet ice can open up.
McDonald also finished the season with one of the largest helmets on the team in proportion to his body. Hopefully it will protect his brain and not make him too top heavy. The Blues don't need him to fall down any more.
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