Alexander Steen has long been a very good player for the St. Louis Blues. However, he dropped off offensively just when they needed him to step back up.
When the St. Louis Blues gave Alexander Steen a contract extension, there were people on both sides of the fence. Myself, I saw it as a good idea because of the versatility Steen offered as opposed to the team’s other free agents of the time.
He did not exactly provide much to defend that assertion, at least from a goal scoring standpoint. 2016-17 was the lowest output in Steen’s Blues career.
16 goals is not bad, but we had come to expect a little more. In years that he played 60 or more games, he had never scored that few except a couple years in Toronto and one year in St. Louis that he only saw 43 games.
Versatility continued to describe his game though. When he was not scoring, he was becoming more of a setup man.
He had 35 assists in 2016-17, which equaled last year’s output. Again, the numbers are not eye popping, but nobody should scoff at 50-plus points regardless of how they are spread out.
Steen’s main problem was physical. His body was not holding up as well as he or the team had become accustomed to.
Steen only missed six regular season games, but you could tell he was not quite the same player. It was that kind of thing where you can’t chalk it up to just not playing well either.
His numbers went down in faceoff percentage and in hits. Steen has never been a great guy at the dot, but dropping almost five percentage points is a noticeable dip.
His hits dropped by over 20 as well. Again, Steen is not exactly Mr. Physical and has been erratic in that category before, but going from 50 to 33 suggests he just was not himself.
Perhaps part of the problem was one of his numbers that went up. Steen set a career high for blocked shots.
Maybe that should be a good thing, and it is, but it might have played into his physical problems. It certainly did during the playoffs.
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Steen ended up playing the entirety of the 2017 playoffs with a broken bone in his foot. He sustained it blocking a shot in Game 1 against Minnesota. He’d go on to play nine more games with that kind of pain.
Though it did not always feel like it, Steen came up big in the playoffs. He had three goals and seven points in 10 games. Compare that to four goals and 10 points in 20 games when the Blues went to the conference finals.
Again, his hit numbers were down in the playoffs. That’s understandable if you’re worried about recovering position on a broken foot. You don’t want to go for all those corner hits or checks along the boards if you have doubts about staying with the play.
It was just an odd season for him overall. He never seemed quite right even when on his game.
Some of that had to do with the team, of course. Steen’s Corsi For percentage was an all-time low for him (47.7), meaning the Blues had the puck less than their opponent when he was on the ice.
Some of it had to do with coaching. While there are only rumors and hearsay, it is believed he is one of the players most strongly against Ken Hitchcock. It always struck me as odd, since Hitch called Steen their best player in the 2016 playoffs, but it is what it is.
When it came down to it, Steen proved to be the kind of player we all dream of having. Of course you get the nutty fan that wants to say the team would be better with healthy players than ones slogging through.
That would be true if the Blues had anyone with Steen’s abilities just waiting in the wings. At the moment, even a 75% Steen is worth it.
He finally stepped up to his general manager’s challenge too. He played for the crest, or the note, on the chest as opposed to for himself.
Foot injuries can be odd and it would not have been shocking for a normal guy to check himself out. Steen believed in his team and wanted to do everything possible to help them win.
While it did not work out, and like everyone else he disappeared against Nashville, it showed what kind of player his is.
That’s the kind of thing the Blues have been missing in past years. If they don’t have to look outside the organization for that intangible, so much the better.
The Blues still need a bounce-back in production to justify the $5.75 million given to him. Whether that comes or not will be interesting as Steen enters his mid-30’s. For one season, it was decent enough but not what you wanted over the course of 82 games as a whole.