Since I’ve already taken a look at the best St. Louis Blues’ centers by decade, it’s time to take a took at the best defensemen by decade for this 53-year-old franchise.
There are plenty of Hall of Fame defenders to wear the blue note, from Al MacInnis to Chris Pronger and others. This is going to be a list full of excellent players who left their mark on the sport.
The 1960s: Barclay Plager (1967-1977)
The Plager family is a legendary part of the Blues’ history and Barclay is a huge part of that. A big impact on the birth of the franchise and what it has become today. He epitomizes what it is to be a Blue.
Plager was a rock-solid defender during the very early years of the team, spending his entire 10-season career in St. Louis. From 1967-1970, he played in 185 games and scored 82 points, 15 of those being goals.
During those first three seasons, he tallied 401 penalty minutes and he wasn’t afraid to get fired up for his team. He was known as one of the great competitors in the history of the franchise.
He became an ambassador of hockey in the city up until he died in 1988. He is a franchise legend and will always be a part of the long history of the Blues.
The 1970s: Bob Plager (1967-1978)
It seems only fitting that within the first two decades of the franchise, the Plager brothers represent as the best defensemen in each. Bob Plager was on the ice a lot as he played over 600 games in his 11 seasons with the Blues.
Plager has his #5 retired in the Blues’ franchise — that was done in February of 2017 — as he joined his late brother Barclay in the rafters. That further engraved the Plager family’s role in the Blues organization, being some of the most important people in building hockey up in St. Louis.
Plager was the ultimate teammate, sticking up for any of them in situations where they were targeted. He tallied 760 penalty minutes (PIM) in 616 games over 11 seasons — pretty impressive.
While he only recorded two seasons with over 20 points, his impact on the blue line was much bigger than that. He didn’t have the offense that his brother had, but he is still 12th all-time in franchise history for points scored by a defenseman. His impact on the city and franchise is massive.
The 1980s: Rob Ramage (1982-1988)
For the 1980s, it has to be 1979 first-overall pick, Rob Ramage. Despite only spending six seasons in St. Louis, he left his mark on the 1980s Blues, a weird decade for the club.
Ramage was not afraid to scrap with opponents, and while doing that, he still had some very good offensive seasons. After being dealt from the New Jersey Devils to St. Louis in 1982, he scored 51 points in 78 games while boasting 193 PIM.
He followed that season up with a better one, scoring 60 points and nearly 20 goals in 80 games. His offense fell off in 1984-85 but rebounded the next season when he scored 66 points.
He played another season and a half with the Blues, but was traded to the Calgary Flames during the 1988 season. As I mentioned, he left his mark on the franchise, piling up 296 points over 441 games, he’s fourth all-time in club history for points by a defenseman.
The 1990s: Al MacInnis (1994-2004)
As close as Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger are for the 1990s, there’s a slight edge for MacInnis with this one. He helped revolutionize the blue line in St. Louis after being dealt from Calgary.
In 1994-95, his first season in St. Louis, he played in just 32 games, scoring 28 points. He picked it up the next season, scoring 61 points in a full 82 games and making an All-Star appearance.
He made five straight All-Star Games from 1996 to 2000, all of those being a representative from the Blues. He won his first and only Norris Trophy in the 1998-99 season, where he tallied 62 points and 20 goals. In that same season, he had a plus-minus of plus-33 and finished 10th in Hart Trophy voting.
He continued his dominance for most of the rest of his career, which ended in 2005. During the 1990s with the Blues, he played in 400 games, scoring 88 goals and 194 assists for 282 points with a plus-85. He is first all-time in points scored by a Blues’ defenseman, with current captain Alex Pietrangelo breathing down his neck, just two points behind (450). MacInnis works in the Blues’ front office now and remains an integral part of the organization.
The 2000s: Chris Pronger (1995-2004)
Chris Pronger was a tough choice here, as he played under 300 games in the 2000s for the Blues, but he beats Barret Jackman in a close one here. Jackman was a great Blue and played in a lot of games for the club, but did not have the overall impact of Pronger.
Pronger was a huge piece of the blue line for the club through the mid-1990s and early 2000s. He was paired with MacInnis for many seasons and they remained as one of the best pairs in the league.
He opened up part of the decade in the 1999-2000 season winning a Hart Trophy and a Norris Trophy, being the first defenseman to do that since Bobby Orr. In that season, he tallied 62 points and was a plus-52 overall — a completely dominant season.
He scored 47 points in each of the two seasons after 2000 and then had injury issues in the next. His last season in St. Louis, which was in 2003-04, he scored 54 points and finished third in Norris Trophy voting. He was traded to the Edmonton Oilers after the 2003-04 season and finished out his career in 2012. He also won a Stanley Cup in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks.
He is one of the best defensemen to ever play for the Blues and will have his #44 retired shortly into the rafters of the Enterprise Center.
The 2010s: Alex Pietrangelo (2008-Present)
After being the fourth-overall pick in a loaded 2008 draft class, Pietrangelo has lived up to the hype. Now 758 games later and he’s still the most important defenseman on the team and the biggest leader with the “C” on his sweater.
Despite never winning a Norris Trophy, he’s been a steady defenseman with ability in all three zones. His first full season in 2010-11, he scored 43 points in 79 games. He got better from there.
He’s scored more than 40 points in 8 of his 10 full seasons and was at a great pace in 2019-20, scoring 52 points and a career-high 16 goals in 70 games. He’s finished top 10 in Norris Trophy voting three times and is likely to finish within the top 10 after the 2020 season is completed.
After becoming the captain in 2016-17, he’s stepped up as a leader on good teams and was a huge part of capturing the first Stanley Cup in club history in 2019. He’s just the leader they need and fans hope he can re-sign after this season and be a Blue for life.
There are many excellent defensemen in franchise history that weren’t mentioned, but many deserve to be. Jeff Brown, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jack Brownschilde, Colton Parayko, and more were worthy of mentions. The history of this franchise is only going to get better with the current roster.