St. Louis Sports Franchises: St. Louis Blues
February 23, 2011 Leave a comment
Stanley Cups: None
Retired Numbers: #2 Al MacInnis, #3 Bob Gassoff, #8, Barclay Plager, #11 Brian Sutter, #16 Brett Hull, #24 Bernie Federko, #99 Wayne Gretzky (retired league-wide)
Rivals: Chicago Blackhawks
The Blues were one of the six teams added to the NHL in the 1967 expansion from six teams to twelve. St. Louis was chosen over Baltimore as the last expansion team to gain entry into the league at the insistence of the Chicago Blackhawks, who were owned by the then-owners of the decrepit St. Louis Arena. Pushing for the expansion of the Blues helped to realize their attempts at unloading the team and the arena.
Despite the fact that the league’s rules effectively kept star players playing for the Original Six, the Blues managed to make a stand for themselves in the lowly Western Division. Taking advantage of a playoff format that required an expansion team to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Blues reached the final round each of their first three seasons, before being swept by the Canadiens twice in 1968 and 1969, and then by the Bruins in the 1970 season.
Such second-rate successes in the late ‘60s did not continue, however, as the 1970’s began to roll around. It was at this time that the Blackhawks moved into the Western Division, heating up the rivalry between the two, in which the Blues had trouble keeping up, despite their star center Garry Unger, who ultimately scored 30 goals in eight consecutive season which breaking the NHL’s record for consecutive games played. Lacking a strong defense, the Blackhawks and Flyers began to overtake and overpower the division.
Financial crises within the franchise required that the team was sold to St. Louis-based pet food guru Ralston Purina in 1977. Only a year after finishing with a franchise record low 18 wins, the team turned around, making the playoffs in 1980, beginning a chain of 25 consecutive post-season appearances. In 1981, hopes were even higher, as the Blues finished with 45 wins and 107 points, the second-best record in the league, before being eliminated by the Rangers in the second round of the playoffs.
St. Louis kept chugging along through the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, bolstering its efforts with the acquisitions of forwards Brett Hull, Adam Oates and Brendan Shanahan, defenseman Al MacInnis, and goalie Grant Fuhr. This new Blues team attracted attention from a number of businessmen interested in owning a share of the team, and helping to dig the franchise out of its financial hole, including the construction of a new home for the team, now known as the Scottrade Center.
Although things started to take shape in the front office, the team struggled to pull through on the ice, winning playoff spots, but failing to pass the second round of playoffs. This was an interesting thing, considering the fact that the team was being led by Brett Hull, one of the league’s top superstars and scoring sensation, tallying 86 goals in 1990-91. Despite years of mediocrity and the identity of never being able to “take the next step,” the Blues were constantly a playoff presence from 1980-2004, the third longest streak in North American pro sports history. Playing amidst ownership quarrels, the Blues finished the 2005-06 season with their worst record in 27 years, missing the playoffs for the fourth time in franchise history.
Following the disappointing season, the new management focused on rebuilding a usually perennially consistent team in the NHL. However, they found that they had to combat sluggish fan support and an injury-laden roster. The 2007 ended in playoff-less disappointment, but some important moves in the offseason brought a large number of talented players, including the former Bruin Brad Boyes and Paul Kariya to St. Louis to don the blue, gold, and white.
After spending the first half of the 2008-09 season at or near the bottom of the Western Conference, the Blues began to turn things around behind the solid goaltending of Chris Mason. After a miraculous run in the second half of the season, the Blues made the playoffs in 2009, clinching the 6th seed in the Western Conference. Their playoff run ended quickly, however, as the Blues fell to the #3 seeded Canucks in a quick 4-game first round sweep.
After a mid-season coaching change from Andy Murray to current coach Davis Payne, the 2009-10 season ended in another disappointment, as the Blues finished 9th in the Western Division, just one place out of reach of playoff contention. Currently, the 2010-11 season has the Blues with a 27-22 record, placing them in 13th place in the Western Conference. Stay tuned tomorrow as we discuss the pulse of current day Blues news!