The Most Storied NHL Franchise Never To Win A Stanley Cup
The St. Louis Blues are the most storied NHL franchise never to win a Stanley Cup. The Blues were part of the 1967 NHL franchise expansionâ€"one of six teams known as the Expansion Six. The team went to the Stanley Cup Finals in its first three seasons, but was swept in all three series. The Blues went on a streak of 25 straight playoff appearances, but have nothing to show for it.
The most successful teams, as per Herb Brooks, uses a system that take the individuals talents and uses it for the betterment of the team. Every team also needs a leader to head that system. That leader is the captain of the team. The captain should be one of, if not the, best players on the team. He will be able to contribute in high pressure situations, while also being willing to sacrifice his body for the team.
Doug Gilmour initially had difficulty reaching a contract with the Blues, who remained concerned that he was too small for the NHL game of the 1980s. Two weeks before the 1983â€"84 NHL season began, Gilmour and the Blues agreed on a contract and he joined the team in time for the start of the season. A rash of injuries and the trust of Blues coach Jaques Demers provided Gilmour with the opportunity to play as the team's fourth line center, and he quickly became a defensive specialist. Teammate Brian Sutter nicknamed Gilmour "Killer" in part due to his on-ice intensity, but also because of Gilmour's resemblance to convicted serial killer Charles Manson.
During his first three seasons with the Blues, Gilmour was a consistent defensive presence, averaging a solid 50 points a season. During the 1986 playoffs, Gilmour broke out and scored 21 points in 19 games (tied with Bernie Federko's 21 points in 19 games), as the Blues lost in the Campbell Conference finals. Gilmour's dynamic two-way play lead him to becoming one of the only players in history to lead in post-season scoring without making it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Prior to the 1988â€"89 season, Gilmour was traded to the Calgary Flames along with Mark Hunter, Steve Bozek, and Michael Dark for Mike Bullard, Craig Coxe and Tim Cokery. The Blues traded Gilmour after he was named in a civil suit alleging sexual improprieties with a minor. Gilmour denied that the incident occurred, and a grand jury did not find enough evidence to indict him. The Blues failed to admit publicly that the trade was a result of the pending lawsuit against Gilmour, but Gilmour was convinced it was the reason: "I didn't want to leave St. Louis but from what has happened the past week, on our part and on the St. Louis Blues' part, it was our best solution."
Adam Oates came to St. Louis from the hated Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Hall of Famer Bernie Federko. No one knew that this trade would be one of the most influential in the history of the St. Louis Blues. Oates was the second center in the Red Wings organization behind Steve Yzerman and he came to the Blues with the mindset of being the top center on the team. The Blues felt likewise and teamed him up with Brett Hull which would prove to be one of the best decisions management would make.
In three years with the Blues, Oates tallied 218 assists and helped lead Hull to three of his best seasons ever. Hull notched 72, 86, and 70 goals in the three years with Oates. During the 90-91 seasons, Adam had 90 assists and earned a Second Team All-Star berth. Seeking more money after the season, Oates held out for most of the next year and was eventually traded to Boston for Craig Janney and Stephan Quintal. After the trade Hull never again scored more than 60 goals in a season.
When you think of defensive stars in the league most people can name a handful and in that handful you probably will not find Rob Ramage. But that is where a lot of people will miss out on an underrated star. Ramage was the number one overall pick by the Colorado Rockies in the 1979 Entry Draft. After three seasons and a team move to New Jersey, Ramage was dealt to the St. Louis Blues for a 1st round pick. Ramage was still a raw talent when he arrived in St. Louis but veteran forward Barclay Plager took him under his wing and taught him how to play defense. Ramage credits Plager for his transformation into an elite defensemen.
In his career with St. Louis, Ramage recorded 67 goals and 229 assists with a career best 56 assists and 66 points in the 1985-86 season. Ramage was a steadying force on the blue line for the Blues throughout the 80's and it was that play that lead him to being a hot commodity to other teams. Ramage was part of one of the biggest trades in Blues history. On March 7, 1988 Ramage and Rick Wamsley were traded to the Calgary Flames for Steve Bozek and a fat, spoiled kid named Brett Hull. Little did people know what that trade would do for not only Hull but the city of St. Louis. Ramage will not be in most people's list of top defensmen in the league, he is a large part of the history of the St. Louis Blues and the reason the 90's went the way the did.
The St. Louis Blues got on the ground floor of Joe Mullen's career by signing him away from the opportunity to play for the 1980 US Olympic team. Mullen was coveted by Herb Brooks for the team but due to Mullen's fathers health he chose the salary over the chance to play in the Olympics. Mullen would spend his first two years in the CHL playing for the Salt Lake Golden Eagles and would claim the Rookie of the Year award in 1980-81. He would appear in one Stanley Cup playoff game for the Blues that year but would start the next season back in the minors.
In his first full season with St. Louis, Mullen would record 59 points in just 45 games. Over the next four years Mullen would notch 151 goals and 184 assists, including 50 power play goals. Those power play goals rank him tenth in Blues history even now. Mullen was traded to the Calgary Flames in 1986 with Terry Johnson and Rik Wilson for Eddy Beers, Charles Bourgeois and Gino Cavallini and would go on to have a superstar career. He became the second American born player to score 500 goals in his career behind another Blue, Brett Hull. While most of his success came away from the Blues, Mullen found his scoring touch with St. Louis.
John Davidson was a pretty good goaltender during his career with the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. His spectacular goaltending helped lead the Rangers to an unexpected appearance in the 1979 Stanley Cup Final. But JD's biggest impact on the game came after he retired as a player. He later became one of the most respected and well-connected broadcasters in the sport. Davidson was known for his knowledge of the game both on the ice and behind the scenes.
Later, the former goalie became an executive in the St. Louis Blues organization. It's no coincidence that the Blues finished with the league's third-best record last season as Davidson helped build the club into a winner. After an ownership change in St. Louis, Davidson joined the Columbus Blue Jackets organization earlier this month. We'll see if JD is equal to the challenge of resurrecting the team with the worst record in the NHL last year.
The Blues have had a great history with goaltenders but one man that seems to get forgotten lately is arguably the best the team has ever had. Mike Liut was drafted by the Blues in 1976 but Liut chose to play in the WHA right out of college. After the WHA/NHL merger two years later, the Blues reclaimed Liut's rights and he finally had the Blue Note on his jersey.
In his first two seasons in St. Louis, Liut won 71 games and lost only 37. In the 1980-81 season, Liut went 33-14-13 and placed second in the Hart Trophy race behind Wayne Gretzky. Liut was awarded the Lester B Pearson Trophy as the MVP as voted on by the players that same season. Liut played six seasons in St. Louis and still ranks first in games played, 147; wins, 151; and minutes played, 20,010. Liut was a work horse for the Blues and yet never seemed to get the credit he deserved.
Liut was never able to win a Stanley Cup but continued to find success in Hartford after he was traded to the Whalers in a salary dump. As it seems like with almost every team in Blues history, the year after Liut left was a season that they would probably have won the Cup if they had Liut in goal. Liut will probably always be the forgotten goaltender in Blues history but he should go down as one of the best this team has ever had.
The Blues came into existence as part of the Expansion Six, and played their first season in 1967-1968 with Al Arbour becoming the very first captain for the Blues. Arbour was drafted by the Blues in the fifth round of the 1967 Expansion Draft from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The left defenseman was not much of an offensive force, only putting up 23 points in St. Louis, and only 70 in his 13-year career.
While his offensive stats may leave something to be desired, Arbour did leave his mark on the team. He was a solid defenseman for the Blues, the first of many for the team. Because of his leadership, the Blues were able to make it to the Stanley Cup finals in 1968, 1969, and 1970, but was unable to lead the team to a win, let alone a Stanley Cup win. The Blues have not made it back to the Stanley Cup Finals since. Al Arbour became the first captain in history.
Many people forget that Scott Stevens was a Blue. But for all of one season, Stevens was a Blue, wearing the "C" for the club. Stevens signed a four-year, $5 million contract, making him the highest-paid defenseman in the league at the time. Stevens put up 49 points for the club, putting him fifth on the team. He continued his physical play, and was a spark plug for the entire team.
Stevens, despite only playing a single season, makes it onto the list because of the legacy he left. Stevens is one of the hardest-hitting defensemen in the history of the game. He is a Hall of Famer, and was able to lead the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cup Finals. The Blues made a terrible decision to sign Brendan Shanahan, and the Devils received Stevens as compensation. Stevens was determined to end his career as a Blue, but was unable to because of legal reasons. Stevens was a good enough leader to take the Blues to a Stanley Cup if he had been given the chance, but a poor managerial decision cost him the opportunity.
Bernie Federko is one of the best players ever to wear the Bluenote. He spent nearly every year in the NHL in a Blues sweater, and still is a fan-favorite today. Federko was captain for only one year, in the 1988-1989 season, which would be his last season in a Blues sweater. That season, Federko put up 67 points, and continue to add to his 1000-plus point totals. But his leadership extends further than just his single season as a captain.
Federko was a spark plug for his team. He had the ability to make every one of his teammates better. He was known as one of the most underrated talents in the NHL, as he would put up 100-point seasons multiple times in his career. Federko even went as far as to be part of the reason why the Blues were able to be successful after a near relocation to Saskatoon. Federko has some of the best numbers in Blues history, and was a leader for the team. He could have been the best if he had been captain for a longer period of time.
Brian Sutter is a name that is synonymous with the Blues' organization. He spent his entire 12-year career in St. Louis, and is remembered as being one of the best players to lace up their skates for the Blues. Sutter was drafted by the Blues in the 1976 draft, and spent a few years in the minor leagues before being called up. But when he got to St. Louis, he never left.
Sutter was named captain in the 1979-1980 season, and became the longest-tenured captain in Blues history. Not only did he put up some of the best numbers of his career while being captain, but he started an unprecedented standard in St. Louis. Sutter was the captain that started the Blues' 25 consecutive playoff appearances streak. Sutter was named captain early in his career for a reason. The Blues saw potential in Sutter's ability, and he rose to the occasion. He is arguably the best captain in Blues history.
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