St. Louis Blues Top Five Captains Of All Time

As the St. Louis Blues enter their 50th Anniversary season, they’ve only had 20 guys to wear the C. So, why not trim that down to the top five?

These sorts of lists always stir up debate and that’s a good thing.  There aren’t any true right or wrong answers, although my choices are of course the best (he said with a wink).

The Blues have had some pretty special players wear their captain’s C on their chest.  While some hold places more dear to many, this list looks at a combination of factors.

Those most important in the choice were longevity wearing the C and team success under the appointed leader.  So, without further ado, here are the top five captains in St. Louis Blues’ history.

5.  Brett Hull

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Nov 21, 2011; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars former player Brett Hull answers questions during a press conference introducing new owner Tom Gaglardi (not pictured) at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As special a player as Brett Hull was, you would think he would be higher up on the list. He is, and may always be (unless Vladimir Tarasenko exceeds even our lofty expectations of him), the leading scorer in team history. He is one of the most important players to ever wear the bluenote.

The Scottrade Center, at least when it was constructed, was known as the house that Hull built. He was that important to the franchise. Why is he not higher on the list then?

Well, surprisingly, he spent a small amount of time as the team’s captain. He was only the captain for the Blues for three seasons, from 1992-95.

For some reason, known only to Mike Keenan (and perhaps not even to him), the Blues made Shayne Corson the team captain when he arrived in 1995. It may have been one of the things that started all the strife between Keenan and Hull.

Regardless, Hull was still an important player when he wore the C. Unfortunately, he could not get the team over the hump when he was the leader.

The Blues never advanced past the second round, and only got past the first round once, with Hull as the captain. While that is not solely his fault, it also falls on his shoulders a bit as well in terms of our list.

Hull will always be one of, if not the best to ever wear the Note. However, for our list, he only ranks at #5.

4.  Al Arbour

Al Arbour was the first captain in the St. Louis Blues’ history. Some might wonder why he gets ranked higher than Hull when Arbour was a captain for the same length of time and produced so much less.

Well, Arbour was a defenseman in a time when they were not asked to produce points. You played your position and your job was to keep pucks out of the net and away from your goaltender as much as possible.

Arbour did just that. He was only a minus player one year during his time in St. Louis and that was when the team was in it’s first year of existence.

Additionally, he gets the nod because the Blues made the Stanley Cup Finals in three straight seasons under his leadership. Now some will argue that the Blues had an easy road because they were playing in a conference almost exclusively made of expansion teams, but you still have to win the games to get there.

Arbour went on to prove his leadership qualities in the coaching ranks. He coached the Blues after playing 22 games in the 1970-71 season. He then went on to coach the New York Islanders for 1500 games (the most of any coach with one team) and won four Stanley Cups.

You can argue Hull over Arbour as a player, but as a leader it’s hard to argue with the success he had both on the ice as the team captain and then behind the bench as well.

3.  David Backes

St. Louis Blues

May 23, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) looks around the screen of St. Louis Blues center David Backes (42) during the first period in game five of the Western Conference Final of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. The Sharks won the game 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Hockey purists will ask how David Backes could possibly be ranked higher than a hockey legend. Well, it’s due to a combination of longevity and where the team came from while he was there.

Backes came in for the Blues during the dark days while they were in full rebuild mode. After being a key part of the team resurgence and return to the playoffs, he was named captain in 2011 after the trade that sent Eric Brewer to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Blues and their fans went through plenty of pain while Backes was the team’s leader, but considering the depths the franchise had to emerge from, they had plenty of success with him as well. They won two division championships, a feat they had not accomplished once in over a decade, and they made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals in his final season as captain, which was something not done in 15 years.

Backes combined leadership with consistent production. He never evolved into the scorer that people wanted or the team needed at times, but he always came up with the same types of numbers.

He averaged just under 20 goals in his 10 seasons in St. Louis. He also averaged 46 points. There were players who produced more and some that came up with the bigger moment, but Backes still managed to always be the kind of player season in and out.

From a leadership standpoint, his shoes will be hard to fill for whichever player wears the C next.

2.  Chris Pronger

Chris Pronger has all the accolades, but for some reason feels underappreciated for his time in St. Louis. Perhaps it could still be a tiny bit of a residual effect of being traded for fan-favorite, Brandan Shanahan. Perhaps it has to do with it being harder to quantify how good a defender is compared to his scoring counterparts if they don’t win the big one.

Regardless, it’s hard to argue against a Hall of Famer being this high on the list. Pronger was named the Blues’ captain in 1997, two seasons after joining the team. Following that, he went on to a fantastic career.

Five of his six All-Star appearances were with the St. Louis Blues. He won two Olympic gold medals, one during his time in St. Louis, won both a Norris Trophy as the the league’s best defenseman and a Hart Trophy as the league’s best player.

As mentioned, he was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2015. The Blues also made the Western Conference Finals under his leadership, falling in five games to the eventual champion Colorado Avalanche.

If he had led the Blues to a championship, he likely would have gone down as the best captain of all time for the club. He could have had a shot at the top spot if the team’s ownership did not have a fire sale. Even so, his five seasons as captain were some of the team’s best and he was a big reason why.

1.  Brian Sutter

Brian Sutter doesn’t have the shine of Hull. He doesn’t have the national recognition of Arbour or Pronger. He isn’t familiar with the younger crowd like Backes. He still outdoes them all in terms of what he accomplished with this team.

Sutter only ever played in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues. Nine of his 12 seasons were spent as the Blues’ captain.

Though nowhere near that level, he was a player much in the mold of Gordie Howe. He played the game hard, did everything with a certain amount of intensity but also had the skill to go along with it.

He averaged 25 goals a season over his career, but that doesn’t show how good of a scorer he actually was. He scored over 40 goals twice in his career and over 30 goals six times. His average is brought down by low totals in his first two seasons and only playing 14 games in his second to last season.

Additionally, he had a knack for getting the most out of his players, both as a captain and a coach. After playing with Hull as a teammate for a season, Sutter took over as the team’s coach.

While Hull was rather pleased with his 41 goals in his first full season with the team, Sutter told him he expected much more out of the Golden Brett. Hull answered Sutter’s bold statement with 72 goals the following season and 80 goals the year after that.

The Blues made the Western Conference Finals, known then as the Campbell Conference, under his leadership wearing the C. The team also had good regular season success as the team’s coach.

In the end, he almost did it all with the Blues. He came as close as any player since the 1970 team to win a championship. If not for a back injury, he might have made the Hall of Fame.

He was still good enough in all aspects to have his number retired, something which the team did only six months after his retirement as a player.

For what he did as a leader, for how he helped elevate other’s games, for how he helped the team win and compete at a consistent level and how he produced as well, he gains the top spot.

There were certainly better players to wear the Blues’ sweater. There were none better to wear the C, though, than Brian Sutter.

So there’s our list. Who would you have picked? Any names left off the list? Let us know below.