On the tenth day of Bluesmas, our true love gave to us – 10 division titles for the St. Louis Blues.
The St. Louis Blues always felt like they were just above being mediocre. From a fan perspective, they couldn’t even be considered part of that old axiom that says always a bridesmaid, never a bride.
They were at the wedding, but almost never involved. The few times they were a bridesmaid, they were on the very outside of a large wedding party. Ok, enough of that analogy.
For the tenth day of Bluesmas, we look at something the Blues have accomplished that proves they were never quite as bad as we felt. While the Blues only have one, true championship – the Stanley Cup – to their name, they still have other titles. Namely, they have 10 division championships to their credit.
Blues history is littered with interesting oddities. The fact that the Blues have 10 division titles, but only a handful in any one division is somewhat of an anomaly.
St. Louis got bounced around too much to accrue a lot of success in any one division. They started in the West Division upon the league’s initial expansion past the original six.
After that, they moved to the Smythe Division from 1974 through 1981. After that, it was under the banner of the Norris Division until 1993.
The NHL realigned prior to the 1993-94 season. From then on, it was the Blues in what is now known as the Central Division. If you want to get technical, they will return to the “West” division for one season in 2021.
Nevertheless, though the success was spread out, the Blues have had it more than we choose to remember. While fans fall into the human trap of remembering bad things more than good, the Blues had plenty of great seasons and were successful in some very difficult divisions.
Interestingly, the Blues four Central Division titles are the most of any active team in the division. Only Detroit has more overall Central Division titles, with 13. Those are particularly painful since plenty of those 13 came at the expense of some really good Blues teams.
For comparison sake, St. Louis’ other main rival, the Chicago Blackhawks have 16 overall division titles. That might seem like a big gap, but when you consider those franchises have been in existence 40 more years than the Blues, the fact they only have six to nine more titles isn’t as impressive.
The main thing that separates the Blues from the likes of Chicago or Detroit, other than the overall number, is that St. Louis’ division wins came sporadically. Detroit and Chicago won them in chunks and the Blues would sneak in and steal their thunder every now and then.
The Blues would top the division during the 1968–69, 1969–70, 1976–77, 1980–81, 1984–85, 1986–87, 1999–00, 2011–12, 2014–15 and 2019–20 seasons. While there are a few grouped together, only those fist two were consecutive.
Fittingly, those two are the only two when the Blues had success in the postseason. In an amusing twist that fits the Blues to a tee, St. Louis never won a conference championship or made the conference final in a year when they won the division.
Technically, there were no conferences in those early expansion years, so you won the division, took part in divisional playoffs and then the Stanley Cup Final. In later years, the Blues often had poor luck after winning the division.
In fact, the Blues lost immediately in the first round three times when they had won the division. The most embarrassing may have been the 2000 loss to San Jose after finishing with the best record in the entire NHL.
Another oddity of the Blues was that they never won a division title with Brett Hull. Despite being the most well-known Blues player of all time, nationally at least, Hull never experienced a division title with St. Louis.
Even so, the Blues were so often battling against some of the best teams in their conference that winning the division was still an accomplishment if and when it came.
Overall, St. Louis won two West Divisions, two Smythe Divisions, two Norris Divisions and four Central Divisions. They were going up against Detroit and Chicago at their strongest, as well as some really tough Toronto, Winnipeg and Minnesota teams.
So, for the tenth day of Bluesmas, let us remember all those fond memories of winning those divisions. Maybe the seasons did not end with as much joy as we’d have liked, but the journeys were something to remember.