When Ty Conklin seemed to officially fall off the cliff in the 2010-11 season, it left Jaroslav Halak alone in the St. Louis Blues crease. Desperate to find help, the team managed to reel in one of the best options in what was a fairly bleak 2011 free agent goalie class: the still okay-not-great Brian Elliott.
After a few good years, and two fairly poor ones split between the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche, the 26-year-old Elliott was fairly looked down upon. The Blues signed him to a one-year, two-way deal; a deal that would either have him reliably back up Halak or would give the Blues someone to replace one of Allen or Bishop in the AHL.
Within a year of signing this deal, Elliott proved everyone wrong, stealing Halak’s spotlight and accomplishing something that only the legendary Hall of Famer Jacques Plante managed to top.
A Look Back at Elliott’s Incredible Reign
The 2011-12 Season
Elliott’s first year with the Blues was backed with an incredible amount of hope. He played in over half of the team’s games before the calendar turned over to 2012, setting a 14-5-0 record in 20 appearances through the team’s first 38 games. He was getting every chance to prove his worth and was relishing the opportunity.
Elliott would end the year with an absolutely jaw-dropping .940 save percentage and equally-as-impressive 1.56 goals-against average through 38 games played. These were simply incredible numbers for any goalie, much less an aging goalie that seemed to be on the downswing.
The Historic Performance
In fact, it was a downright historic year. Since the red line was introduced in the 1943-44 season, marking the start of the NHL’s modern era, only one goalie - with at least 35 games played - has managed a higher save percentage. That goalie being Jacques Plante, who tallied a .942 in the 1970-71 season, with Toronto, and a .940 of his own in ‘68-69 with the Blues.
In case Elliott being bested only by one of the greatest players to ever touch ice wasn’t good enough, his goals-against average of 1.56 was the best of any goalie the ever play in the NHL’s modern era. Even in their best years Plante, Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek... no goalie came even close. In fact, none of the 2,000 goalies to play at least 35 games in a season between 1943 and today even set a 1.60 goals-against average. The closest was Calgary Flames “legend” Mikko Kipprusoff’s 1.70 set in 2003-04, in 38 games.
Elliott managed this phenomenal, historic performance right in front of our own eyes. The true awe of the year can’t be understated. Less than a year removed from signing a halfway-pity deal, Elliott had made history with the best one of the best seasons a goalie has ever had.
The Remaining Years
This amazing season earned Elliott a two-year contract extension. In his second year with the Blues, the lockout 2012-13 season, he took a healthy step down, but what isn’t a step down after such a historic season. He netted a modest .907 save percentage and 2.28 goals-against average. It was a glimpse of his pre-Blues self, leading many to worry he may not be as strong as he flaunted in the year prior.
This mediocre 2012-13 season was just a fluke for St. Louis era Brian Elliott. He bounced back with a .922 save percentage the following year, good for 11th in the league. This put him healthily back in his groove, allowing him to set a .917 in 2014-15 and a league-best .930 in 2015-16. In that latter year, his last with the Blues, he also set a 2.07 goals-against average, good for second in the league.
Opening the Door
All-in-all, Elliott’s tenure in St. Louis was phenomenal. He kicked it off by defying all expectations and tallying one of the greatest seasons in league history, only to follow it with four of the most reliable seasons in Blues goaltending history. He wasn’t just a simple starter, he set the groundwork for the modern day Blues. The mid-2010s were riddled with experimentation for the Blues lineup. Elliott’s work as one of the best goalies in the league allowed the Blues to take chances on young defensemen like Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson: two names who came into their own in front of the legendary St. Louis version of Brian Elliott.
The reliability added to the Blues lineup by having one of the best goalies in the league started a domino effect that led to the experimentation of, and ultimate perfecting, of the Blues lineup; something that would, really, directly lead to the Stanley Cup win that shook the league last season.
On top of historic seasons and setting the groundwork for the now league-best Blues roster, Elliott also notched a few Blues records in his five years with the team. His 2011-12 season set the single-season records for save percentage, goals-against average, shutouts, and a handful of advanced stats. He also holds the all-time Blues records for shut-outs and GAA.
He managed this all in only five seasons, one being a notorious lockout year, adding an emphatic layer of oomph to the already impressive records.
In the End
Elliott’s name faded from Blues fans’ minds seemingly minutes after he was traded to Calgary in June of 2016 in a deal that would give the Blues the pick used to acquire Jordan Kyrou. Ever since, he’s simply been an afterthought. This is largely thanks to the struggles he’s had in recent years with the Philadelphia Flyers, helping to tarnish a truly incredible career.
But Elliott’s time in St. Louis needs to hit home in every Blues fan’s heart. He wasn’t just another starting goalie, filling the crease before Jordan Binnington’s debut. Elliott was a historic goalie, shattering franchise records and putting the young and experimental Blues roster on his back.
Brian Elliott had five of the best seasons of any goalie in Blues history. Each of his five seasons were filled with incredible performances, inking his worth as one of the greatest goaltenders in franchise history. Seriously. He deserves to be spoken of in the same conversation as players like Curtis Joseph and Mike Liut. Or in other words, goalies behind Elliott in the record books.