Any team in any sport is often built through the draft. This is especially true in the NBA and NFL, though perhaps less in the NHL and MLB. However, every team needs to hit on a draft here or there to be a winner and the St. Louis Blues are no different.
Think about the team that won the Stanley Cup. Sure, there was a lot of mixed talent in there from other places.
However, Alex Pietrangelo, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ivan Barbashev, Jake Allen, Jordan Binnington, Robert Thomas, Joel Edmundson, Colten Parayko, Vince Dunn and Sammy Blais were all Blues draft picks. Most active rosters have 22-23 players, so half of that championship team was drafted by the front office.
That’s how you build champions more often than not. We all get jealous of franchises like the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers because they can buy whoever they want. It is less true in the NHL due to a hard salary cap, but there’s still the allure of Chicago and New York and L.A. for free agents.
Even then, teams that win win with draft picks. Even the vaunted Blackhawks teams of the early 2010’s were mainly stocked with their homegrown talent.
With all that in mind, it’s actually surprising that the 1990’s Blues were anything resembling good. Their drafts were, quite frankly, garbage.
Before we break it down year by year, think about this. The modern day Blues have won consistently and rarely had a draft pick higher than 14 in the last decade or so. The one top pick they had turned out to be a lemon for the Blues and just a solid NHL defender overall.
St. Louis had a whopping three first-round draft picks in the entire decade from 1990-1999. Only one of those three spent the majority of their career with the Blues. That’s 10 years and only hitting on one first-round pick. I suppose statistically, it’s not that bad when you say one out of three, but it’s still astounding for a 10-year period.
The main problem, as mentioned, was the Blues didn’t even have the opportunity to pick. More often than not, they traded their first-round pick as part of some “blockbuster deal” that occurred at the trade deadline.
Ron Caron was about as entertaining a GM as St. Louis has ever seen, but he also did next to nothing with the farm system. Mike Keenan was Mike Keenan and should have never been in charge of anything except coaching. Larry Pleau rebuilt the inner workings relatively well, but he was also dealing with ownership problems that would lead to an eventual sale in the following decade.
It was all a pretty good mess. How the Blues consistently made the playoffs at all was a wonder, but perhaps a testament to the work those GM’s did at the NHL level, even if their drafts were mediocre. Let’s look at the drafts, with the information taken from Wikipedia.