St. Louis Blues:
St. Louis, Missouri heralded in the game of hockey in 1967. The St. Louis Blues were one of the six NHL expansion teams joining the league that year and played at the St. Louis Arena. The franchise's first game was at home against fellow exapnsion foes, the Minnesota North Stars and the teams played to a 2-2 tie. Under the coaching of Scotty Bowman the Blues had a memorable run in their inaugural season. Beating all odds, they defeated the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota North Stars in their first two rounds of the playoffs, to face off against the venerable Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals. The Blues played a close, defensive style of hockey but lost to the powerhouse Canadiens. The next year saw much of the same from the St. Louis Blues. Their hardworking, defensive style of play continued to put them head and shoulders above most expansion teams. Backstopped by the future hall of fame duo of Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall, they were once again making a playoff run and as in the previous year, lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals. Their third year saw them finish first in the Western division and make it to an unprecidented third straight Stanley Cup final. But once again they fell short to an original six opponent, this time the Boston Bruins.
The 1970s were an exercise in coping with change as the Blues went through a multitude of players and coaches. Playoff appearences were still common, but the Blues hit a snag in the mid-1970s and missed the playoffs for three straight seasons. The team also faced financial difficulties until a fresh infusion of cash courtesy of Hal Dean stabilized the books. As the team's on ice performance sputtered, the Blues began a rebuilding effort in the 1976 Amateur Draft. Their general manager Emile Francis selected Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter and Mike Liut, all of whom would go on to become the cornerstones of Blues team in the 1980s. With this core of players, the Blues started off that decade by losing in the first round of the playoffs. In the years that followed, St. Louis would frequently find itself in the division semi-finals or finals. The Blues ownership situation continued to evolve as Harry Ornest bought the team in 1983. Ron Caron was added as the general manager and Jacques Demers took over behind the bench as coach. The Blues excelled under this leadership with players like Federko, Sutter, and Doug Gilmour. The team peaked in the 1986 playoffs defeating the Minnesota North Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs in tough seven game series. But they lost out to the Calgary Flames in yet another tough series. Doug Gilmour and Bernie Federko tied for the playoff lead in points even though they did not make it to the Stanley Cup finals.
The team lost Jacque Demers to the Detroit Red Wings but general manager Ron Caron was back to his old tricks with more trades. The Blues landed Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Scott Stevens, Brendan Shanahan, Al MacInnis and Curtis Joseph into the fold. Brett Hull had long been an enigma in Calgary. A player who supposedly had a lot of potential and certainly possessed the pedigree. In St. Louis, he was paired up with center Adam Oates to form an offensive tandem seldom seen in NHL history. With his deft touch and keen instinct, Oates prooved to be the playmaker Hull had lacked as he went on to set the single season NHL record for scoring. Brett Hull reached the 70-goal plateau in three consecutive seasons, including his Hart Trophy winning campaign of 1990–91 when he scored 86 goals. The Blues struggled to get past the second round of the playoffs, including a memorable 1992 series that pitted them and their goalie Curtis Joseph against former Blue Doug Gilmour and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The mid-1990s saw the Blues move to a new facility, the Kiel Center and hire Mike Keenan as coach and general manager. The hard nosed Keenan rubbed many Blues players the wrong way, but brought a tough, winning style of play. With Brendan Shannahan and Brett Hull in Keenan's dog house, the general manager made a bold move by acquiring Wayne Gretzky for the 1995-96 stretch run. The 'Great One' couldn't do a whole lot during his limited time in St. Louis once goalie Grant Fuhr was hurt in the final game of the regular season. The Blues lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the second round of the playoffs, Gretzky left for the New York Rangers in the off-season, and Mike Keenan was fired by December of the following year. Larry Pleau took over the reins as general manager and hired Joel Quenneville to coach the Blues. The team was soon back on track, buying to Quenneville's defensive style of hockey. They defeated the Los Angeles Kings with a four-game sweep to open the 1997 playoffs but lost to the defending champion Detroit Red Wings in the second round.
Brett Hull ended his tenure with the Blues when he signed with the Dallas Stars as a free agent. The Blues though would continue to perform thanks to the continued continued play of MacInnis, Pronger, and Weight. In the 1999–2000 season the Blues won a franchise record 51 games for 114 points and their first Presidents' Trophy title in club history. But the post season was fraught with disappointment as they lost to the San Jose sharks in a seven game, first round matchup. The following year saw the Blues come back with another solid regular season effort. Their quest for the franchise's first Stanley Cup was again quashed as they lost to their recent playoff nemesis, the Colorado Avalanche. The Blues finished their 35th NHL season with 98 points and their record 23rd staight playoff appearance. They defeated the Chicago Blackhawks but ended up losing in the second round to the Detroit Red Wings in five games.
St. Louis Blues Overview:
Arena: Savvis Center
Stanley Cups won: 0