The St. Louis Blues have quickly made a name for themselves this year, being considered among the top NHL teams before the season even started, then stalling out of the gate, before finally rising back to the top through dynamic play-making (we’re looking at you ‘STL’ line) and opportunistic wins. And what’s great is that we’re only in late-November. Here we take a look at each Blues player on their depth chart, and why they fit into the system so well to help all St. Louis fans better understand their boys in Blue. It’s like the late, great Herb Brooks said, “We’re not looking for the best players, we’re looking for the right ones.”
This is Part 2 of 3 for this series, where we dive in to the defensive crew that make up the Notes team, and see why they will shut down most opposition throughout the season.
Blues’ Depth Chart
Here. We. Go again, fans.
Because you can’t spell success without defense. (Wait, what!?…)
— st louis blues (@stlouis_blues) November 24, 2014
Alex Pietrangelo– Arguably one of the best in the league at his position, Alex Pietrangelo hasn’t been as relevant offensively this season and has had some troubles in his own zone as well, though he has been better as of late (he has a 2 multi-assist game point streak currently). What shows you exactly how good he is however, is that through these early and unexpected problems he’s still managed to record 11 points (1 G, 10A), has averaged 25:43 minutes of ice a game, and has blocked 40 shots (9 against Washington alone) this season. That shows he’s still a great leader for the team, and is battling through adversity as best as fans can hope. He’ll continue to turn around his numbers as the season move on, and he’s still providing excellent direction to his teammates (which is almost just as important as on-ice production, from your leaders at least). He’s great because: He’s one of the best positional defensemen in the game, and he has a knack for setting up (and breaking up) plays.
Jay Bouwmeester– JBouw has been paired with Pietro this season, as has been the case for the majority of his time with the Blues. What makes the #2 D-man on the team’s depth chart superb is his size, and ability to cover massive amounts of ice in a few quick strides. He’s able to find open men at a moment’s notice to aid the transitional play of the club, and he silently leads by example. Add in that he had played in 737 consecutive regular season games before the injury he’s currently sustaining (which was the longest active streak in all of pro sports), and you can see why he’s so loved on and off the ice. He’s consistent, and provides solid support on both defense, and offense alike. He’s great because: His smooth stride covers so much ice it provides a Chara-esque advantage for the Notes team.
Kevin Shattenkirk– The ex-Boston University Terrier captain has a reputation for being the most offensively minded defenseman the Blues have, and for good reason. He’s already had 5 multi-point games this season (he only had 6 all of last year) and has proven to contribute in timely situations since joining the club in early 2011. He can shoot through screens, crash the net, score in the shootout, and play solid defense on the back end which is why he’s a mainstay on the St. Louis blue-line.
He’s great because: He likes the quick transition game the Blues play now, and keeps his head up to find open men and to shoot through screens effectively.
Carl Gunnarsson has 4 points (1G,3A) in 12 gp and is a +5 for the Blues this year. Polak has 5 points 3G,2A) in 20 gp and is a -5. #TMLtalk
— Rocky Lozier (@RockyLozier) November 21, 2014
Carl Gunnarsson– The addition of Carl Gunnarsson has been greeted with mixed reviews around the area, but all chatter about the lengthy D-man should be positive. He was brought in to help the transition from a grinding out offense to an opportunistic quick transitioning one, and he has shined since his first game on 10/28/14 against Dallas. C-Gunns is great at getting the puck out of his own zone without hesitation, and can follow the play for the full 200 feet, to make plays in the opponent’s end. He’s a really nice guy off the ice too, which helps the team’s overall cohesiveness (an under-rated part of being successful in the NHL). He’s great because: He has a great sense of urgency in his own end, and that translates well to the team’s offense.
Ian Cole– While Cole may have been drafted ahead of some of the biggest names in the game today (Subban, Simmonds, and Pacioretty to name a few), he’s still developing into who he will be as an NHL defenseman. However, he has shown great growth and versatility this season, and being paired with Barret Jackman has helped him stay at home and play defense more. If he can keep this trend up he will be our true shutdown D-man in the future, and will still put up points as well. Fans who are upset about his costly in-zone turnovers will have less and less to harp on as the season moves on.
He’s great because: He has great offensive instincts and will go to the feisty areas for a battle with anyone. Positionally he’s not too shabby either.
Barret Jackman– Besides the fact that he’s played in more games as a member of a St. Louis sports team than any other active member (744 GP, all with the Blues), he’s also been devoted to being a true tough guy and stalwart defender over that time as well. He’s the gritty grinder of the D-core and he doesn’t take crap from anyone. His shot blocking prowess is well known, but he has also been known to score big time goals (or get big time assists) as well. He may fumble the puck every so often, but he usually gets back to make up for it. If you don’t believe that sentence just look at his career plus/minus; he’s a plus-52 on his NHL career, and that includes being a key component of the Blues’ rebuilding years that saw them consistently among the worst teams in the league. He’s a calming veteran presence in the locker room and on the ice, and he embodies what Blues hockey is all about, plus sometimes he goes all ‘JAX JAX JAX‘ on people.
He’s great because: He’s consistently in the plus column, and he eases the load of the goalies by blocking shots, and actively filling passing lanes.
Chris Butler– The move to bring Butler in, and to replace Leopold with him may be very underestimated for some time, but make no mistake, Chris Butler can play some defense. Though he has only dressed for the Blues once so far this season, he’s back in his hometown and if he can he’ll be wheeling, making plays, and laying opposing players out to earn another chance in front of friends and family. He brings more grit to the team, but is also offensively minded and can generate quick transitions for scoring opportunities as well. He had 9 points (1 G, 8 A) in 14 games with the Chicago Wolves this season, and is a great depth chart move for the team.
He’s great because: He’s back in his home town and with something to prove. That’s a dangerous combo to unleash, and should aid his efforts in becoming a regular on the team in the future.
Petteri Lindbohm– About 4 or 5 months ago almost every single fan reading this would’ve gone, “Who???” Well not any longer. The young 21 year-old Finn made waves through training camp and even cracked the opening night roster due to injury. He showed he’s a big body that can still pull off finesse moves in tight, and who can find open men and get pucks through screens like you read about. He certainly has a bright future with the club, and is getting the proper time to develop in Chicago this season. It’s a long run each year in the NHL so we may not be done seeing him just yet.
He’s great because: He hasn’t been scared of any challenge that’s come his way and is adapting to the North American game beautifully. In a couple more years he could even be a more stay-at-home version of P.K. Subban.
There you have it folks, all you need to know about the Blues-liners for this season. They will continue to prove why we have one of the best depth charts in terms of defense, and will help bail out our goalies as needed. Though they may make mistakes in quick transitions since they are still learning that playing style, everything will be sorted out and as near perfect as possible come April.
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Mike has covered the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning in depth for The Hockey Writers since 2013. He is also a contributing writer for KSDK News Channel 5, the St. Louis area NBC affiliate, and has been a credentialed media member of the Blues since 2014. Follow him on Twitter @pep30.