Hockey is, obviously, a team sport. I am not one to place a team's success or failure directly on the shoulders of any one player in particular - regardless of how much they get paid, how much of a "face of the franchise" they are, or whatever other arguments get trotted out this time of year.
The Blues, as a team, were surprisingly resilient this season. Injuries plagued the team throughout the season, and it the injuries tended to be to the team's key players. Here, from Fox Sports, is the Blues' injury list for the regular season:
10/29/15 Scottie Upshall RW Undisclosed injury
11/17/15 Colton Parayko D Lower-body injury
12/22/15 Carl Gunnarsson D Upper-body injury
12/31/15 Vladimir Tarasenko RW Illness
1/9/16 Jay Bouwmeester D Upper-body injury
1/9/16 Paul Stastny C Upper-body injury
1/18/16 Robert Bortuzzo D Lower-body injury
1/20/16 Colton Parayko D Illness
3/26/16 Carl Gunnarsson D Lower-body injury
4/1/16 Robby Fabbri C Lower body injury
4/4/16 David Backes C Lower-body injury
4/4/16 Jake Allen G Lower-body injury
This list, oddly enough, omits Patrik Berglund (who missed time due to shoulder surgery and did not return to the team until January 3rd) and Steve Ott, who tore his hamstrings and then had issues with colitis and wasn't cleared to return to the line-up until the start of the playoffs. It also omits Alexander Steen, who was sidelined after a hit on February 20th and missed 15 games.
You could argue easily that the players who stepped up and carried the load while players such as Bouwmeester and Steen were injured are the MVPs, but the point of this post is to ask you, the fans, who you feel the team's overall most effective player is. Obviously, this is not based on point totals alone. Players contribute in different ways according to their skill sets. Submitted for your debate is the following list (and it's just my contenders, so, you know, your opinions may vary.
The captain this year stepped up his game, especially in the playoffs. He was less riled by the opposition, more focused, and it showed. His 45 points in 79 games (21 G, 24 A) wasn't a career high, but he did turn the dial up to 11 in the playoffs with seven goals and seven assists in 20 games. In the past, Backes has been accused of pulling a post-season vanishing act, or of not being leadershippy enough, or (and this is a valid complaint) of allowing himself to get too frustrated. Not this year.
Let's tune out the one round of the playoffs that Tarasenko didn't produce in thanks to a a stifling San Jose defense. Tarasenko had an outstanding series against the Blackhawks (when he was allowed to play) and a solid one against Dallas. During the regular season he potted 40 goals. Forty. That's good for fourth in the league. The last time the Blues had someone who could manage 40 goals in a season, many of you reading this post were in pre-school.
Fun fact: as of this writing Tarasenko's nine playoff goals has him 4th out of all playoff skaters.
The Blues had two outstanding rookies this year: Fabbri and Colton Parayko. Fabbri had 18 goals and 19 assists in the regular season, and four goals with 11 assists in the post-season. Was he overall the "best" player on the team this year? Probably not, depending on what you consider "best," but during the playoffs - and during the regular season - he picked key moments to shine. The Blues have a reliable offensive weapon, who will grow with experience, for the foreseeable future.
Without Brian Elliott's play down the stretch and through the playoffs, the Blues don't reach the Western Conference Finals. That's not a knock on Jake Allen; that's praise for Elliott's goaltending. Elliott put together a 23-8-6-4 record during the regular season with a .930 GAA. His play down the stretch may have solidified his standing as the best goaltender that the Blues have had in years - from February 2nd through the end of the regular season, Elliott had four shutouts (including three in a row from March 19th through March 25th) and was credited with a regulation loss just twice.
A 26-15-3-6 record helps Allen's case, as does a .920 save percentage. It's difficult to choose between the Blues' two goalies; both were excellent this year. If you're going intangibles as a way to judge, it may be argued that Allen played in lower pressure situations, as Elliott was leaned on heavily down the stretch. Still, discount Jake Allen at your own risk.
Pietrangelo was the Blues' best playoff defenseman, hands down. He was probably the Blues' best regular-season defenseman too, but playing with Jay Bouwmeester (who hasn't looked right since injuries ended his iron man streak) potentially held him back this year. Regardless, seven goals and 30 assists from a defenseman is good. It's not as showy as Kevin Shattenkirk's 14 goals and 30 assists, but Pietrangelo had a better season defensively and had a much better playoff showing than Shatty.
I'll just put this tweet by Travis Yost right here:
Man Colton Parayko is freaking amazing. pic.twitter.com/3HavbvMP9l— Travis Yost (@travisyost) June 6, 2016
Steen's time out for injury reasons (and not-optimal playoff play, which was also injury related) might hinder his consideration for team MVP - let's call him a "what if MVP." Despite all of the missed time, Steen was still second on the team in scoring, with 17 goals and 35 assists.
Much like Alexander Steen, Schwartz could also be considered a "what if MVP." He missed a lot of time, but when he played he was one of the most effective players on the ice. With a shooting percentage of over 12% and 1.79 points per 60 minutes played, Schwartz reinforced the perception that he is one of the Blues' most offensive weapons. It's small wonder that Doug Armstrong is focused this off-season on signing him. Twenty-two points in 33 games played is a good scoring clip. At that rate, if Schwartz played the full season, he easily could've cleared 55 points.