Sports teams always have a player that fans love to hate. For the Blues, this seems to’ve started in earnest in 2005 after the trade that sent Chris Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka. It would’ve been a bit lopsided for fans to dislike Woywitka seeing as how he was very clearly one of those extra pieces included in the deal to make it palatable (Lynch never played an NHL game after the trade).
No, Blues fans went for Eric Brewer. The pile-on was near constant from the second Brewer arrived in St. Louis to two and a half years later, when they named him team captain, to the trade that saw him head to Tampa Bay in exchange for Brock Beukeboom and a 2011 third-round pick.
Sure, the deal that sent Pronger to Edmonton and eventually Brewer to Tampa Bay brought Jordan Binnington - and arguable the Stanley Cup - to St. Louis, but no one knew that was going to happen at the time. They were just displeased that an exciting personality and generational talent such as Pronger was traded for BrewerBot. That was fair.
After Brewer, the fan whipping boy mantle drifted. Some seasons, while he was here, David Perron got blasted on social media for his poorly-timed offensive zone penalties. Patrik Berglund was a frequent target for having the gall to not live up to a very hefty contract that Doug Armstrong signed him to after a solid season in 2010-2011. Brad Boyes was occasionally roasted as well.
Post-Brewer, though, the biggest target of fan consternation, especially as he aged, was Barret Jackman. Jackman, the former Calder Trophy winner and wearer of number five through the blessings of Bobby Plager, suddenly had a target on his back. The sport was changing and becoming faster, and a stay at home, rough around the edges defenseman like Jackman was aging out of the sport. Before he left in free agency to spend his final year with the Predators, fans seemed to have a love/hate relationship with Sir Jaxx.
Jackman left, and fans’ attention shifted back to the forward corps, especially Dmitrij Jaskin’s underperformance. After Jaskin’s departure following the 2017-2018 season, things calmed down - after all, it was tough to hate on someone from a championship winning team - and then Joel Edmundson was shipped to Carolina for Justin Faulk.
Thankfully Faulk’s time as defensive whipping boy du jour was just a blip on the radar as he recovered in his second season with the Blues. Torey Krug got some heat for basically not being Alex Pietrangelo, but that phase passed.
Blues fans needed someone else. They landed on, and continue to land on, Marco Scandella.
Scandella’s last two seasons with the team saw him drop off after a strong introduction post-trade from Montreal. Last year especially Scandella’s play in his own zone and many defensive choices lead to turnovers and scoring chances - or worse - for the opposition. Injury hampered him in spots, and he was only able to play four playoff games, but his post-season performance didn’t inspire confidence for this season.
When you factor in his current contract, which has two more years left at $3,275,000, it doesn’t look too bad until you realize that a) he will be 34 when he’s a UFA and b) no other team wants to spend that price on an older third-pairing defenseman. Scandella’s going to be here to stay.
He’s not a bad defenseman - clearly you don’t hang around the NHL as long as he has without talent. Injuries also have made his play a bit more difficult to evaluate than it should be normally. When a team picks a whipping boy, none of that matters. There’s not a lot that’s rational about focusing your ire on one player, but odds are high that Scandella will be anointed the team’s whipping boy for another year unless another player - probably a defenseman - decides to pick up that mantle.