Throughout the 50-plus year history of the St. Louis Blues, they’ve had a large number of great forwards, especially centers. From Adam Oates to Ryan O’Reilly and others, the history of centers in St. Louis is rich.
With there being six decades worth of Blues hockey, we can pick the best center for the club, in each decade of its existence. Many franchise legends will be on this list, and some could be left off.
The 1960s: Red Berenson (1967-1971)
The Blues were born in 1967, so there are only three full seasons in the 1960s for them. Red Berenson played 55 games in the first season of the franchise, and there was not any competition for him as the best center of the 1960s for the Blues.
In 1968-69, after an 82-point season, he finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting. He followed that season up with a 72-point season, where he finished third in Hart Trophy voting.
He was the top center on three Stanley Cup runner-up teams in St. Louis — he tallied 19 goals over 46 games during those three runs. He was a simple choice here, given his statistics and overall run in the early days of the franchise.
The 1970s: Garry Unger (1971-1979)
Another easy choice, as Garry Unger has been called “The Blues’ First Star Player.” Ironically enough, the club acquired Unger in a deal for Berenson with the Detroit Red Wings in 1971.
Unger played over 600 games during 1971-1979 with the Blues. In his team career, he tallied 575 points, 292 of those being goals. He’s fourth all-time in club history in goals.
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In his playoff career with the Blues, he scored 25 points in 31 games — they didn’t win much, but he played well. Overall, he was a fantastic goal-scoring center with the club. He tallied 30-plus goals in all eight of his full seasons. In three of those seasons, he scored over 80 points, and 60 points or more in two other seasons.
The 1980s: Bernie Federko (1976-1989)
For the 1980s, it has to be Bernie Federko, who was an all-time franchise great. Year after year, he was a consistent performer for the club, scoring well over a point per game in his career with the Blues. Not only is he in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but he also has his #24 retired with the Blues.
Federko had over 100 points in four seasons during the 1980s, as well as four other seasons with over 80 points. He was a productive player in an era where everyone was — the 1980s was goal heavy.
He also had two Hart Trophy finishes in the top 15, as well as being a constant contender for the Lady Byng Trophy. He made it to two All-Star Games in 1980 and 1981.
Over the decade, he played in 750 games and scored 914 points. He was an assist man, with 624 of them over this time. He is one of the best to ever play in St. Louis, a consistent performer.
The 1990s: Adam Oates (1989-1992)
This is an odd one because we only saw Adam Oates play 195 games over two and a half seasons before being dealt to the Boston Bruins. I must say that Pierre Turgeon is a close second, as he was an incredible player in St. Louis.
Oates helped to revolutionize the Blues’ offense and he is one of the greatest passers in the history of hockey. His chemistry with Brett Hull was special and it’s a shame that it didn’t last long in St. Louis.
In his first season with the Blues, he scored 23 goals and 79 assists for 102 points. He got better in 1990-91, playing just 61 games while scoring 115 points, 90 of those being assists.
Before the trade in the 1991-92 season, he played in 54 games and scored 69 points. He tallied 59 assists in the 1991-92 season as well, another tremendous season with assist numbers. He was in St. Louis for a short period but left his mark on the city and the franchise.
The 2000s: Doug Weight (2001-2006)
For the 2000s, it’s Doug Weight. He played 364 games for the club from 2001 to 2006. He was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 in his free agency year. The Blues picked him back up in the 2006 offseason. He played 29 more games in St. Louis before being traded again, this time to the Anaheim Ducks.
Weight scored 49 points in 61 games in his first season with the Blues. He picked his game up the next two seasons, where he scored a combined 132 points in 145 games. He made an All-Star Game appearance in 2003 for the Blues.
During his time in St. Louis, Weight was a tremendous two-way forward and veteran leader for the club. He finished 34th in Selke Trophy voting in 2003-04, as well as 32nd in Lady Byng Trophy voting in that same year.
Despite being traded twice by the Blues, he tallied 75 goals and 220 assists over parts of six seasons. He is a somewhat forgotten player for the Blues and their history, but I think he was the most consistently productive forward for them in the 2000s.
The 2010s: David Backes (2006-2016)
For the final decade on the list, the pick is former Blues’ captain David Backes, who spent 10 seasons with the club. As much as I was tempted to choose Patrik Berglund or Ryan O’Reilly, I had to go with a player who meant so much to the Blues for a long period.
Despite never being able to win the Stanley Cup with St. Louis, Backes was a major part of the team during his decade of play. One of the best two-way forwards in the league for a while, he had five finishes in the top 10 for Selke Trophy voting.
He consistently scored over 50 points, doing so in four of his six seasons in the 2010s. His faceoff percentage by season wasn’t great, but it got better with his age, finishing over 50% in four seasons consecutively.
His leadership qualities were top-notch, and he meant a lot to the city and team before leaving in 2016, signing with the Boston Bruins. He will still be remembered as one of the best captains in Blues’ history when it’s all said and done.
With this being the list for all decades of Blues’ hockey, who’s next? Will Robert Thomas emerge and be the top center of the 2020s for the club? Maybe O’Reilly has a few more excellent seasons to boost his chances. This is set up to be a stellar decade of Blues’ hockey.