This is the next in a series of stories ranking the 24 most important players on the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues.
No. 19 Brian Elliott
The only reason the backup goaltender for the St. Louis Blues is ranked as high as 19th is his potential to ruin the season not his ability to improve it. And he could only do that if Jaroslav Halak gets injured/kidnapped/run over by a bus. Brian Elliott could sabotage decent plans for this year because he's maybe just an average goaltender when he plays behind even a good team.
And you might say, "Mr. Lee, but the Blues ARE a good team." Remains to be seen, Sparky. They haven't played a single minute in my scorebook. We don't know anything yet. Except that Elliott, 26, got off to a good start in his career and has gotten progressively worse.
In 2008-09, a season split between the Ottawa Senators in the NHL and the Binghamton Senators in the AHL (what a fucking unoriginal name that is), the at the time 22-year-old was 16-8-4 with a 2.77 goals-against average while stopping 90.2 percent of the shots he faced. For a young guy at a position that takes years to master where the prime age is closer to 30 than 20, that's a great rookie year.
His second season, his minutes played jumped from 1,600 to more than 3,000. His save percentage ticked up slightly at 90.9 percent (am I a dick for not rounding up?) his GAA dropped to 2.57 per game and he still had a respectable won-loss record of 29-18-9 in 55 games. That's "Maybe I Should Invest In This Guy's Rookie Card" territory at age 23. That year the Senators made the playoffs and Elliott played in four games. Suddenly, his numbers fall off a cliff. He stopped only 85.3 percent of the shots on goal and he allowed 4.14 goals a game. Sure, four games is a small sample size, but the dude was rock solid for 55 games that year and choked in the playoffs. And then the bad time started for Mr. Elliott.
At the beginning of last season he was a fine member of the Senators. And then he went 13-19-9, stopped only 89.4 percent of shots allowed and gave up 3.19 goals a game. It was enough to get him shipped to Colorado. There, he went 2-8-1 (his two wins were against Columbus and Edmonton), saw his save percentage drop slightly to 89.1 percent while he allowed 3.83 goals a game. He was rewarded for his efforts last season by the Blues with a one-year, two-way contract.
So what happened? It could be a couple of factors. Maybe he got rattled by playoff pressure and went all Rick Ankiel (baseball reference). Maybe teams scouted him better. Maybe he partied too much. And maybe the teams in front of him got worse making him look less and less like a good goaltender.
When it was announced that the Avalanche weren't even going to make him a contract offer, the fine folks who love Snoopy at Mile High Hockey wrote a eulogy for Elliott's Colorado career. They "affectionately" called him a tank as the Avs came close to qualifying for the best odds for the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Brian Elliott was a superb leader of the Avalanche First Tank Battalion - even though his GAA went down from the 5 the first night, he still manage to maintain an impressive 3.34 and let in at least a soft goal or two a night. He was also one of the most reliable players during that time. Even though the rest of the team struggled to score, we could always count on Elliott for three goals a night. Consistency like that is hard to find these days, especially in the NHL.
So why is Elliott on the Blues and Ben Bishop down at Peoria? It has to be the longstanding rule that you play your best goaltender, put your second best in the minors for seasoning and have the third best as your NHL backup.
That, or Bishop needs to think about taking up basketball or something.