When looking at the best defensemen in NHL history, only a few donned the Blue Note. Not known as a defensive team in their 53-year history, the St. Louis Blues have produced few elite, notable D-men.
The ‘Over 400-Point’ Club – MacInnis and Pietrangelo
Only two defensive players have scored over 400 points in their career with the Blues – Al MacInnis and Alex Pietrangelo.
MacInnis is a legend in Blues’ history as their best defenseman. He had one of the hardest slapshots for defensemen of all time, registering at 100.4 miles per hour.
In his 10 seasons with the club (1993-94 through 2003-04), he scored 452 points in 613 games played. The one and only Norris Trophy MacInnis won in his career came during his time with the Blues in the 1998-99 season.
MacInnis announced his retirement on Sept. 9, 2005. At the time of his retirement, MacInnis had climbed to 17th place on the all-time games played list with 1,416, notched 1,274 points and was twelfth on the all-time assists list with 934.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, his number has been retired by the Blues and a bronze statue stands in his honor outside the Enterprise Center.
Although he didn’t play his entire career with the Blues, he retired as one. He never won a Stanley Cup with them as a player, but did so last season as part of the front office.
He has been part of the Blues management team since the 2006-07 season and is currently the Senior Advisor to the General Manager.
One of the most notable draft picks since MacInnis took a position in the front office is Pietrangelo. As the fourth-overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Pietrangelo is on pace to break MacInnis’s record as highest-scoring Blues defenseman.
Pietrangelo has tallied 450 points thus far in his career, just two behind MacInnis. He reached that number in 758 games, which is 145 games more than MacInnis. However, Pietrangelo is only 30 years old and will undoubtedly become the highest-scoring defenseman in team history.
Pietrangelo has worn the ‘C’ for the last four seasons and is one of the most effective and successful captains the Blues have ever had. Although they won the Stanley Cup as a team, every team needs a leader and Pietrangelo is one of the best.
Third Place – Pronger
In a memorable trade for fan-favorite Brendan Shanahan, Chris Pronger came to the Blues organization from the Hartford Whalers in July 1995.
In 598 games played for the Blues (1995-96 through 2003-04), Pronger is the third-highest-scoring defenseman to wear a Blue Note with 356 points scored. Recently, the Blues announced that his No. 44 would be retired and lifted to the rafters of the Enterprise Center in the 2020-21 season.
Pronger brought size (6-foot-6, 220 pounds), skill and speed to the more offensive-minded Blues team. He was gritty but understood the game well and knew how to get the puck to or in the net. Pronger’s presence in the locker room earned him the esteemed title of captain for five seasons. But he was a different beast on the ice.
“Of course Pronger was a big force out on the ice, a real presence,” Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Murphy said. “Very intimidating and single-handedly could strike fear into the opposition.”
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Although he never officially retired, Pronger finished his career with 698 points and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. Technically, his contract expired following the 2016-17 season officially marking the end of his playing career.
During his time with the Blues, he won the Norris and Hart trophies and an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada. Pronger is currently the Senior Advisor for Hockey Operations for the Florida Panthers after accepting the position following the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Defensemen of the Past, Present and Future
Barclay Plager played for the Blues from 1967 to 1976. He sits in the seventh spot for most points scored by a Blues defenseman and was a star player. In his 614 games played, he scored 44 goals and assisted on 187.
During an era of offensive style hockey, he was a better defender than a scorer. He was a leader on and off the ice and wore the ‘C’ for the second-longest time in Blues history. He died from a brain hemorrhage in 1988 but his brother Bob, whom he played with for 11 seasons, is still an intricate part of the Blues organization as an ambassador for the team.
Related: Bob Plager – An Original Blue
Not too far in the past, Barret Jackman was drafted by the Blues in 1999 and played with the organization through to the 2014-15 season. In his time wearing a Blues sweater, he tallied 181 points in 803 games. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2003 and was also a member of Team Canada when they won gold at the 2007 IIHF World Championships.
He finished his career in Nashville but in order to retire as a member of the Blues, Jackman signed a one-day contract with the club and officially retired on Oct. 4, 2016.
In his seven seasons with the Blues, Kevin Shattenkirk scored 258 points in 425 games. In his first full season with the Blues, he and Alex Pietrangelo each scored 40 or more points, becoming the fourth set of defensemen in Blues history to do so in the same season.
In the 2014-15 season, Shattenkirk led the Blues with eight points in six playoff games. In 2015-16 he led the Blues with 20 power-play assists in the regular season and tallied six points in the playoffs to help the team reach the Western Conference Final.
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He won an NCAA Championship with Boston University in 2008-09, led all defenseman in scoring with nine points for Team USA in the 2009 World Junior Championships and represented his country in the 2011 World Championships and 2014 Winter Olympics.
Shattenkirk currently plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning and has a career total of 383 points.
At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, Colton Parayko is easily comparable to Pronger in style and size and MacInnis in power and presence. He registered a 104 mile-per-hour slapper at a Blues skills competition prior to the One Nation Classic closing ceremonies following the Winter Classic played at Busch Stadium in January 2017.
Parayko was drafted 86th overall by the Blues in 2012. Now in his fifth season, he’s tallied 159 points in 386 games played with the team.
He joined Team Canada at the World Championship after the Blues were eliminated from the playoffs in 2017. He scored three goals and four assists and was named an All-Star in the tournament.
Parayko is only 26 years old and will continue to climb his way up the list of best Blues defensemen if he stays with the team and remains healthy.
The Blues have an impressive shortlist of former D-men. However, their current defenders are already breaking records and setting the stage for an edited list of best defensemen in the team’s history.
With a Mass Communications and Journalism degree from Florida International University, I completed internships with the Florida Panthers Hockey Club and Sports Illustrated. I’ve published several articles for various outlets, including one in ESPN Magazine and one on espn.com.