Blue collar. Work ethic. "They don't just come here to play, they come here to work."
The Blues are not a finesse team; they're the type of team that wears their opposition down, forces them to make mistakes, and capitalizes on them. They have a good number of players who are talented at doing that: David Backes, Brenden Morrow, Maxim Lapierre, Ryan Reaves, Vladimir Sobotka, Barret Jackman, and Roman Polak all are really difficult opponents to play against. They're not all one-trick ponies either, with Backes' scoring ability, Jackman and Polak's shut-down smarts, and Sobotka's face off percentage.
Steve Ott also adds toughness. Like him or loathe him, that's something you can't deny. In his career, he has 1318 penalty minutes to go along with his 264 points (103 goals, 161 assists). You can file him in with the "non-one trick" guys, but his second trick isn't what the Blues are lacking.
Yes, his nine goals this year place him above Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Maxim Lapierre, and Magnus Pääjarvi. And yes, it's hard to judge his performance this year because he's been on a team that's awful on an historical level. In Dallas he was a 40 point a year guy on average; the Blues have more than enough of those to spare right now.
The excitement about Ott's grit shows how much Blues fans and media value that as a trait in their players. Bernie Miklaz' column about the trade for Ott and Ryan Miller shows as much.
I haven't talked about Ott coming here.
There's only two words for it, really: love it.
The dude is certifiably nuts on the ice – but in a good way of course. Here's a quick stat for you to chew on...
Since the the start of the 2008-2009 season, here are the top two NHL centers for most hits delivered:
1. Steve Ott … 1,382.
2. David Backes … 1,257.
The Blues just got a little tougher, a little bolder, and a little more painful to play against. In the Stanley Cup playoffs The West is a hard land, and you need scarred, dead-eyed men to carve out a path and take you over it, through it, and maybe even under it.
That's well and good, really. I have always valued the Blues' tendency of being a very difficult team to play against. It's a hallmark that's been with the team from the first day that they took the ice. I love tough checking hockey; I love good Western Conference Hockey.
I also think that I would really love to the Western Conference Finals again at some point.
If the Blues wind up playing Los Angeles or Anaheim for the Western Conference title, which is a very strong possibility, all of the tough checking and banging and crashing won't do a damn bit of good. We've seen that two postseasons in a row with Los Angeles, who are just as rough and tumble as the Blues are. They used the Blues' tricks against them, kept them from scoring, and knocked them out two years in a row.
The Anaheim Ducks are just as capable as the Kings are of doing the same thing to the Blues.
The Western Conference title will go to the team that manages to score more. Defense wins championships and all, but when you have two teams who both clamp down, the championship will go to the team who manages to just get one or two more goals past the other team's goaltender.
Is Steve Ott the guy to do that?
I won't hold my breath.