St. Louis Blues defender Al MacInnis had a stellar career in two cities. However, he came home with less hardware than he should have.
The St. Louis Blues are somewhat similar to their neighbors to the north, the Chicago Bears, when it comes to defenders. While both team have had some Hall of Fame offensive players, the team’s style and sheer number of good-to-great players has tended to be on the defensive side of things.
Having Al MacInnis on this franchise just helps to prove that point. St. Louis’ other Big Mac quickly vaulted himself toward the top of the list of favorite Blues players almost as soon as he got to town.
MacInnis was never the biggest or fastest. In fact, he was never known purely as a defensive player.
However, compared to today’s players, he was not thought of as an offensive only type of player. MacInnis was simply well rounded and had very few holes in his game.
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Interestingly, he was rarely recognized by the people who vote on the Norris Trophy. Given out to the league’s best defenseman that season, MacInnis came up short most of his career.
Despite being in the conversation more than once, he only won one time after playing over 1400 games across 23 years. By the time he did win, he was in what some considered the twilight of most professional careers.
MacInnis did not win his one and only Norris Trophy until he was 35 years old. It was during his fifth season with the Blues.
There is no doubt, it was a deserving year. He scored 20 goals and 62 points. MacInnis was a whopping plus-33.
Yet, the season he won was not his best. It was the second highest total of points he had with the Blues and surprisingly 10th best season of his career, in terms of points.
Needless to say, MacInnis deserved to win more.
If you base it merely on points, MacInnis had 70-plus points from 1986 through 1992 with the Calgary Flames. In terms of plus/minus, MacInnis had seasons of plus-37, plus-38 and plus-42. Obviously, he did not win in any of those years.
The Norris Trophy is not merely an offensive trophy, though it has become more of that in recent years. Funny enough, MacInnis had 83 points in 1987-88 and did not even register any votes.
MacInnis scored a career high of 28 goals two seasons in a row in 1989-90 and 1990-91. In 1990-91, he had a career best 103 points. He finished second in those years.
His best season with the Blues, purely based on points was when MacInnis was 39 years old. Scoring 68 points, he finished second in the voting in 2002-03.
Unfortunately, MacInnis had two main things going against him. The first was going up against perhaps the greatest collection of defensive talent the league had seen in quite some time.
Some of the names MacInnis was up against, year after year, were Rob Blake, Chris Chelios, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Nicklas Lidstrom, Derian Hatcher, Scott Stevens and Brian Leetch. If that isn’t a murderer’s row of competition, I’m not sure what is.
The other thing going against MacInnis was not getting one early. Like most awards, it’s like a club you have to break into. Once you get one, it’s easier for voters to just put your name atop the list again instead of going for someone new.
For example, those two second place finishes in a row both came behind Borque. In both seasons, MacInnis had more points than Borque and their defensive point shares were almost identical in 1991. MacInnis had a higher overall point share number in 1991 and was fractions of a point away in 1990.
Borque already had two Norris Trophies by the time he beat MacInnis twice. Let’s be honest, having the massive Northeastern media market behind you compared to playing in the perceived wilderness of Calgary, plus having less televised games in those days, did not help MacInnis’ chances.
In 2002-03, Lidstrom had already won two in a row before beating MacInnis out. Perhaps that was justice to some after MacInnis beat out Lidstrom for his lone win in 1998. It was hard to argue that season though.
Beyond the points, which MacInnis had more of, he had a full point better on offensive point shares. He was over two full points better on defensive point shares, giving him three points better on overall point shares.
The point being, MacInnis was quite close in many statistical categories and had more points in several years he lost.
None of this is to take away any credit for the guys that did win. There is no shame in falling short to names like Chelios, Bourque and Lidstrom.
Nevertheless, MacInnis was better than a one-time winner. He deserved more recognition from the league, even though he got plenty from the Blues, Calgary and their fans.