When the St. Louis Blues are discussed outside the local media, rarely are guys like Alex Steen mentioned. Instead, players such as David Backes and Jaroslav Halak are discussed along with the younger talents such as Alex Pietrangelo, TJ Oshie and David Perron. Steen lacks the “big name” appeal that other players carry and he lacks the flashy plays that draw attention to other members of the organization.
Before going much further it’s important to add a disclaimer to this article. If you’re a big follower of the Blues or if you watch the club’s games on a regular basis, then you’re well aware of Alex Steen and the talent he possesses. If you’re neither of those things, read on and learn about potentially one of the most underrated skaters in the NHL today.
Drafted in the first round, 24th overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Steen has skated in the NHL since the 2005-06 season. He skated in 253 games for Toronto, tallying 50 goals and 76 assists. During the 2008-09 campaign, Toronto looked to shake things up and dealt Steen along with Carlo Colaiacovo to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for forward Lee Stempniak.
Steen joined the Blues mid-year and had a fairly quiet debut by notching 24 points in 61 games with his new club. These numbers weren’t very disappointing as Steen produced at a similar clip during his time with the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t until his second season with the Blues that it became clear which side got the better end of the deal.
Steen’s first full season with the Blues (2009-10) was his breakout year at the NHL level. The left winger flashed his never-ending speed, his determined work ethic and, to some people’s surprise, his ability to bury the puck into the back of the net. He ended the year with a new career-high in goals, 24, helping the Blues climb into the playoffs for the first time since the NHL lockout. Steen’s contributions were timely, often coming when the Blues needed a goal the most or needed a spark to get their legs moving.
The 2010-11 season was a disappointing season for the Blues but another statistically solid one for Steen. He lit the lamp 20 times and added 31 assists for his current career-high in points, 51. This season saw Steen place himself firmly in the middle of the St. Louis offense, contributing in just about every situation imaginable. The Blues needed a big goal? There was Steen. The Blues needed a big block and someone to clear the zone? Steen to the rescue.
Where attention fell on other skaters in the lineup, Steen finished the year third in total scoring for the Blues, behind only David Backes and Patrik Berglund. Where David Backes received immense praise for his work in the intangible aspects of the game, Steen was a close second if not level with his teammate.
That brings us to the present day.
The 2011-12 season is still extremely young and already Steen is proving his worth and making the original trade with Toronto look all the more lopsided. Through nine games, Steen leads the Blues with five goals and is tied for the most points with eight. However, it’s the other aspects of Steen’s game away from the numbers you see in the boxscore that have made him a truly valuable skater. Steen currently has the most blocked shots of any St. Louis forward through the team’s first nine games. Consistently, he throws himself in the way of shots and opponents to disrupt the other team’s offense. He has been the exact definition of a solid and reliable two-way forward.
Over the past couple years plenty of other names in St. Louis have received attention, whether it was David Backes and his mission to dismantle Team Canada one skater at a time or David Perron and his long road to recovery. Today however, if you take one thing away from this article, is that Alex Steen is truly a joy to watch each time the Blues have a game. There haven’t been many certainties from the St. Louis Blues in recent years but one thing you can always count on is Steen giving his absolute best and hardest effort each and every shift.
Given his hot start to the 2011-12 season, there’s really no telling what Steen’s offensive numbers might look like at year’s end. We can’t predict how many goals he will score or how many assists he will contribute but we can guarantee he will lead the Blues in hustle, determination, and numerous other intangibles when the season closes.
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