While I am a bit late to this party, which is usually the case since most of my posts happen while I am at work. Being a father of two in itself is a full time job, I think it should be noted that the Blues have a chance to take home a lot of hardware this year.
Just a few days ago our self proclaimed Captain America David Backes was elected as a finalist for the Selke award along with Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings, and Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins. The Selke is given to the forward that best exemplifies the defensive aspect of the game.
Backes led the team in points and goals this year along with average ice time per game for forwards. He finished the year +15 as well, seeing a lot of his time against the other teams best lines, on the penalty kill, and power play as well. The real big knock for Backes is his penalty minutes at 101 minutes. The plus’ however were he led the team in hits 226 hits, 72 blocked shots, and 50 takeaways. He had also taken the most faceoffs on the Blues only winning at a 48% clip.
Bergeron had more points the Backes, finished with the league lead in +/- and won more faceoffs percentage wise. Datsyuk who is the perennial favorite for the award finished with more points, and takaways then both Backes and Bergeron. Datsyuk is easily the favorite in this group once again this year, but a case can be made about the other 2.
The case for Backes is he is the teams leader, he set the tone for everyone else on team night in and out. It is very easy for me to say that without the Captain of the Blues, this team is not even close to the record they finished with let alone the 2nd seed in the Western Conference. His role on the Penalty Kill was just as important as Alex Pietrangelo’s who seemed like he was on the ice for the entire kill each time.
On to some other news it was announced that Doug Armstrong is also a finalist for GM of the year along with Preds GM Poile, and Panthers GM Tallon. I think it is a close race between Army and Tallon only because how far each team went from the bottom to the top this year with both teams winning their respective divisions. While what Tallon did with his spending spree in the offseason signing key role players, that stepped up big this year, I do not think their success will sustain itself for the next few years.
Poile on the other hand has made some questionable transactions that have paid off for him, while only making a few moves. The Bulk of the Pred’s team has been there for a few seasons and the additions made just helped the team get over the edge. Riding on the big shoulders of Rinne all season also certainly does not hurt.
Armstrong is my favorite to take it this year. On a shoestring budget and young talent to boot, Army’s decisions to go with Elliott over Bishop, who had the better preseason, is what basically saved the Blues this year with Halak starting out cold. Armstrong also had the guts to pull the trigger on Davis Payne and get Hitchcock behind the bench, the stats before and after Hitchcock are just staggering. The offseason moves for the vets Langenbrunner and Arnott have also paid dividends for this team in the Lou. Armstrong has led his team to the highest seed and record out of the 3 teams, while also spending less then Florida and slightly more the Nashville.
One last note, I have noticed a lot of fans clamoring about no Blues goalies being nominated for the Vezina. The reason for that is because of the split time between the two netminders in St Louis. While a little disappointed that the darkhorse candidate Brian Elliott didn’t get a sniff. I thought he might because of his shutouts this season and league leading GAA at 1.56 this year.
The great thing about having to outstanding goalies his they were recognized with the Jennings Trophy, which is given to the best tandem in hockey with the fewest goals allowed. Instead of one being recognized as the best individual in the NHL, both were recognized as the best goalies in the NHL.
The Blues have a shot at winning alot of hardware none more important the Lord Stanley’s Cup. Which is the best and most important prize.