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The Triumph Of Futility

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Playing in every game in an NHL season is hard. For some players, so is scoring points.

Marc Bergevin #4

Making it through a full NHL season without missing any time is an incredibly difficult task. It’s a long season that comes with bumps, bruises, coughs, colds, and the regular challenges of a personal life that can interfere with a player’s ability to make it on the ice on any given night. Usually, missing at least a game or two is unavoidable.

In fact, in the 49 completed seasons in the history of the St. Louis Blues, the franchise features exactly 100 instances of a player playing in every game in a season. Three players - Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, and Colton Parayko - have an opportunity to add to that total this year.

The total is also burnished by lockouts; seven players accomplished the feat in the shortened 2012-13 season. Still, at an average of slightly over two players per year, the rarity can be appreciated. On average, more than 90% of the players who appear for the Blues in a given season will fail to appear in every game.

One usual consequence of frequency is production. The best season of any player to play in every game for the Blues belongs to Brett Hull. His 72 goals and 41 assists in the 80-game 1989-90 season come to a points per game total of 1.4125. Red Berenson, Garry Unger, Blake Dunlop, Joe Mullen, Bernie Federko, Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates, Craig Janney, and Pavol Demitra also all recorded at least one point per game in seasons where they missed no time.

Thirty goals and sixty points aren’t rare. Even players who played third and fourth line roles are bound to accumulate numbers given enough opportunity. Simply by virtue of being on the ice, a player is likely to rack up some statistics. The astonishing numbers, then, come in the least productive seasons.

It takes remarkably bad luck to put up minimal numbers over the course of a full season. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the five least productive seasons for Blues players who didn’t miss a game all came from defensemen, but even still, touching the puck should create opportunities. A point shot can be deflected. A dump in can be tracked down and turn into a goal. A player might find himself on an unexpected two on one and in position to bury a tally. For these five players, however, the opportunities were few and far between.

5. Bob Gassoff (1975-76): 80 games played, 1 goal, 12 assists, .1625 points per game

In his second-to-last season before tragically dying in a motorcycle accident, Bob Gassoff struggled to put up points thanks to extenuating circumstances. It’s hard to score when you’re not on the ice, and Gassoff’s 306 penalty minutes meant that he spent a large amount of time nursing his hands in the box rather than training them to deliver the puck to his teammates.

4. Al Arbour (1967-68): 74 games played, 1 goal, 10 assists, .1486 points per game

Al Arbour was 35 years old and had played a total of 14 NHL games in the six years before he dressed for the inaugural team iced by the St. Louis Blues. His single goal that year accounted for half of his career total with the Blues, and yet he managed to finish in fifth in Norris Trophy voting in the next season thanks to his prowess on the back end and the respect given to him around the league.

3. Murray Baron (1995-96): 82 games played, 2 goals, 9 assists, .1341 points per game

Murray Baron was the prototypical stay-at-home defenseman. In an NHL career that spanned 988 games stretched over 15 seasons, he never exceed 16 points in any year - his first full season, with the Philadelphia Flyers, in 1990-91. Baron’s 95-96 ended in a way that etched him in the memories of long-tortured Blues fans; it was his screen of Jon Casey that contributed to Steve Yzerman’s series winning goal mercilessly heading bar down in Detroit.

2. Roman Polak (2012-13): 48 games played, 1 goal, 5 assists, .125 points per game

Polak is the only player on the list who’s still active and the only one to notch his achievement in a shortened season. Clearly built for another era, his numbers weren’t helped by the low-scoring team around him. Chris Stewart led the Blues in scoring that season with only 36 points in 48 games. The Blues’ defense was remarkably consistent in the short year; Polak and Kevin Shattenkirk played in all 48 games, Alex Pietrangelo missed only one, and Barret Jackman played in all but two.

1. Marc Bergevin (1996-97): 82 games played, 0 goals, 4 assists, .0488 points per game

Marc Bergevin’s numbers in 1996-97 are utterly remarkable. He’s the only player in Blues history to play every game in a season without scoring a goal. His four assists are also the fewest; Polak, as mentioned above, had 5 in a shortened season, and Craig Cameron recorded six (with 14 goals) in 1970-71. Bergevin’s 328 games with the Blues were his most with any team, and he scored only 5 goals in St. Louis. While he had some seasons shortened by injury and some where faced assignment to the minors, Bergevin recorded 10 seasons where he played in the NHL for the majority of the year and scored less than 10 points.

Marc Bergevin’s most famous goal, in fact, was not off his stick or into an opponent’s net, but rather thrown behind Roman Turek in game two of the Blues’ crushing loss to San Jose in the 2000 playoffs. That single goal thrown into his own net was equal to the total he scored for the team in 81 games that year.