As fans, we find ways to like the players on our favorite teams. Even back when the Blues were terrible we loved Scott Young and Lee Stempniak and Jeff Hoggan. Okay, we didn't love Jeff Hoggan. But, still, we found ways to make the most of what we had on the roster. During those days we still had players we didn't like. Brad Lee used to write an annual Least Favorite Player column about which guy on the roster he did not care for (to put it nicely).
These days I can't really name a Least Favorite Player. In fact, I'm finding ways to really like everyone who wears the Note. The trade deadline is coming up, but general manager Doug Armstrong is saying that he thinks the team may not make any moves. Considering that I like the players we have, I'm good with no big shakeups. I don't really believe Armstrong's public statement though, so I thought I'd run through the roster with a little thought on why I like each player.
Vladimir Sobotka: "That little Russian guy," as Bobby Plager called him in the post-game broadcast Friday night has been the embodiment of the player every team hates to play against but would love on their team. The little Czech (really, Bobby) is tenacious on every puck, hard on every shift and a goddamn nightmare for opposing players who are unfamiliar with the reverse check move.
Barret Jackman: Speaking of players other teams hate to play against, Jackman is a hockey warrior. If you're one of these people who constantly complain about him, I'm just going to assume you don't watch hockey enough and that we probably can't be friends.
Kevin Shattenkirk: Come on, man, what's not to love? Even when he's not scoring goals or adding assists, he's dangerous as anyone on the ice and as confident and responsible in his own zone as any defender on the roster. Other teams think it's not fair that the Blues have Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo on the same roster. Those other teams are right.
Alex Pietrangelo: Did you see Erik Johnson last night? Yeah, there's a reason the Blues kept Pietrangelo and moved EJ. Solid in all three zones, the Blues no-doubt top defenseman and he's 21 years old. Franchise defenseman? Franchise defenseman.
David Backes: Some guys are named Captain of their teams and they wilt under the pressure. Their offensive game struggles, they try too hard to do everything and they spread themselves too thin. Backes is the opposite of all of that. The guy was born to be the captain of the Blues. He's big, he's fast, he's tough, he scores, he leads the team in every way and he's tough.
David Perron: You know how some guys just seem to have a fire in them? Perron plays like he has a fire in him. A bonafide rink rat, he loves the game and loves to score. That fire is going to make him better and better.
T.J. Oshie: "Our little baby is all growns up. Our little boy is all growns up tonight. You know what, big boy? You're all grown up! You're grown up! Yeah! You're growns up and you're growns up and you're growns up!" So, yeah, our little furnace face has matured right before our eyes and is playing the game the Blues have needed from him for the last couple years.
Carlo Colaiacovo: He's gotten past all the Toronto baggage and has settled into a good two-way role. Nothing too flashy, but nothing too dangerous, either. He's a veteran now and he plays like one.
Alex Steen: What's not to love from the guy who plays hard both ways on every shift. Underrated around the NHL, Steen has the offensive skills that got him drafted in the first round all those years ago, but his defensive skills and tenacity set the example for everyone else.
Scott Nichol: It's not easy to stick around the NHL for 600-plus games when you're undersized and underskilled. But Nichol has done it by being a pain in the ass of everyone on the other team. Every team needs a guy like this - I'm glad he's on ours.
Andy McDonald: This concussion is frustrating to all involved, but if the Human Happy Meal gets back on the ice tonight, it's not crazy to think he'll wind up with two assists by the time it's over. On a team full of shooters, McDonald has the opportunity to make a huge impact on the offense when he gets back.
Jason Arnott: I may not have been a big believer in the "great leadership signing" propaganda this summer when Arnott was brought in, but I am now. I don't think it's a coincidence that his locker is right next to Oshie's and I don't think it's a coincidence that all the young players are now being described as being more mature professionals this year.
Jamie Langenbrunner: See above. I was even more skeptical of the Langenbrunner signing - visions of the Mike Keene Experiment kept running through my head - but I don't think it's coincidence that the youth are playing better this year and the stories of off-ice shenanigans have dropped off as well.
B.J. Crombeen: Hit, skate, slam, hit, skate, fight, check, skate, smile a missing-tooth grin on the bench. All in a day's work for Mr. Hustle.
Matt D'Agostini: His 20 goals last year were an unexpected bonus and he's way off pace this year, but he's the opposite of Brad Boyes: when he's not scoring, he does other things to help the team. He plays well defensively and his speed backs off the other team and makes them have to play more conservatively. Plus, he still has that sweet shot, he's just not getting as much icetime and getting fewer chances to use it.
Chris Porter: This guy is a good citizen of Blues nation. No complaining when he's sitting out, no bitching about lack of icetime, just all hustle and tenacity when he is out there. Plus, that goal against Nashville was nasty.
Roman Polak: I wish he'd get that shot off more, but big, fast, nasty and fast and nasty, he's the perfect defensive defenseman to build this core group around.
Kris Russell: It's pretty apparent why Hitchcock wanted to bring this guy with him from Columbus. He has nice complementary offensive instincts with a left-handed shot, but he proves that size isn't everything in playing good defense.
Kent Huskins: I hear he cares.
Jaroslav Halak/Brian Elliott: I put them together because I think they are best as a tandem. Elliott pushes Halak to be his best and is a great compliment, style-wise, to the flashier Halak. We've complained that the Blues haven't had game-changing goaltending in decades, if ever. Not any more.
Chris Stewart/Patrik Berglund: These guys are lumped together because their seasons are tracking similarly. It's too soon to give up on either and both have the skills to be break-out players. Better here than some other NHL town. Which I think Armstrong knows.
-Sean "now I have to buy 20 jerseys" Gallagher