The St. Louis Blues had a lot to live up to after their initial years in the 70’s. It was not all rainbows and sunshine, but it’s a lot better than some remember.
The 1970’s were seen as a darker time for the St. Louis Blues. They never had really bad teams, but they just had too much to live up to by making the finals in their three seasons during the 1960’s.
The 70’s were not great, comparatively. The Blues missed the playoffs three times in the decade and got knocked out in the first round several times as well.
The team was thinned out by further expansion and aging players. Re-distributing the teams in different conferences also hurt, as the Blues were going up against “original six” teams in the playoffs instead of in the final.
Despite the lack of glory in the 70’s, there were surprisingly a lot of really good players on the Blues. They did not have those all-time greats that they got toward the end of their careers, but they had some really fantastic names that forged their own identity as Blues.
This team was easier to build than the 60’s one in some ways and more difficult in others.
Starting at the back, the Blues goaltending situation in the 1970’s might go down as one of the worst in sports history. The Blues literally switched starting goaltenders almost every year. There would be carryover, but the person that played the most games in one year almost never did the following year.
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With that in mind, Ed Staniowski makes the team based on pure longevity. He was rarely THE guy, but he played six seasons with the Blues, which is more than the rest can say.
The other goaltender is Jacques Caron, mainly because he had the best single season out of anyone. In 1971-71, he posted a .912 save percentage and a 2.56 goals against. That’s not great, but it was better than the rest.
The forwards were simple, as long as you don’t pick by position. The top line is technically all centers.
Still, those were the best players throughout the decade. There is an argument to be made to put Frank St. Marseille on the 1960’s team, but the reason he was not is because his best seasons were in the 70’s. From 1970 through 1972, he had three straight 50 point seasons.
Wayne Merrick is the choice that will be scrutinized the most. However, he had two 60-plus point seasons with the Blues and one over 40. He also had 144 points in four seasons, which is not that bad. He gets the nod over some line two players since they came along at the end of the decade. They might have had better careers, but their best years came later, so Merrick’s best came here and gets him in there.
Speaking of the second line, that’s not a bad group to have. Gary Sabourin was at the end of his time during the 70’s but still managed 156 points in the 70’s alone.
Bernie Federko and Brian Sutter had mediocre rookie seasons, but shot out of the canon after that. They combined for 175 points in 1978-79 alone. Their youth in this decade and influence in the 80’s was the only thing keeping them down.
Of course, we cannot forget about Mr. 1970’s, Gary Unger. Unger was a pure home run hitter in part of hockey’s dead ball period, to use an analogy.
He was always a good player, but really came into his own in the 70’s. He ended up scoring 136 goals and 267 points in that decade with St. Louis. Ironically, his stats on a graph would mirror the St. Louis Arch in terms of how they started, bolted upward with the Blues and then fell off after he left.
Last, but not least, the defenders. The Plagers were still too good to leave off this list and anyone would want to see them play together.
Bob Hess is not your household name, but was a good player. He scored over 140 points with the Blues. Bruce Affleck just edged out Jack Brownschidle. Both were good. Brownschidle was much better offensively, but Affleck was a little more solid overall and played for longer with the team.
So, that’s our list for the 1970’s. As always, let us know your thoughts. Who would move up or down between lines and who missed the cut?