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Hockey

St. Louis Blues

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | 1998-99 Stats

Sports Illustrated Ranking: 6

By Brian Cazeneuve

 
1998-99 Leaders
Stat Leader No.
Goals
Assists
Points
+/-
Shots
Ice time (F)
Ice time (D)
Faceoff Pct.
Hits
PP Pts.
SH Pts.
Pavol Demitra
Pavol Demitra
Pavol Demitra
Al MacInnis
Al MacInnis
Pavol Demitra
Chris Pronger
Mike Eastwood
Chris Pronger
Al MacInnis
Scott Pellerin
37
52
89
+33
314
20.2
30.6
56.6
132
36
6
Sports Illustrated Blues captain Chris Pronger was in midseason form during one of the team's voluntary scrimmages in late August. After 90 minutes of exhausting four-on-four hockey with only eight players per team, Pronger was campaigning to prolong the game. "We had the ice for a while longer," says Pronger. "We're paying for it, we might as well use it."

The sentiment was nothing new for a man who logged more ice time per game (30:37) than any other player in the league last season. And when Pronger wasn't on the ice, it seemed that Norris Trophy winner Al MacInnis was. At 35, MacInnis had the finest season of his outstanding 16-year career. He led NHL defensemen in scoring with 62 points, averaged more than 29 minutes per game (fourth in the league) and was +33 on a team whose next-highest mark in that category was center Craig Conroy's +14. The problem for the Blues was finding four other defensemen they wanted to put on the ice.

In training camp the Blues were getting ready for the regular-season wars. During intrasquad games MacInnis and Pronger exchanged slashes -- MacInnis called them "love taps" -- and Pronger fought rookie forward Brandon Sugden and had a nasty mid-ice collision with defenseman Jamie Rivers, who was subsequently lost in the waiver draft. That ill-tempered defense will help goalie Roman Turek, who had sparkling numbers (16-3-3, 2.08 goals-against average) as Ed Belfour's backup in Dallas last season. Turek, 29, will get his first crack at being a No. 1 goalie now that Grant Fuhr has been shipped to Calgary. Netminding was a problem for the Blues in 1998-99: St. Louis allowed the fewest shots of any team in the league, but its goals-against average ranked only 14th.

The scoring load will fall to 24-year-old forward Pavol Demitra, who broke out last season and led the team with 37 goals and 89 points. His 10 game-winning goals were one behind league-leader Brett Hull of the Stars. Crafty center Pierre Turgeon had a strong postseason (13 points in 13 games) and a solid training camp. The rookie to watch is 22-year-old forward Jochen Hecht, a German who had two goals in five playoff games after a late-season call-up. He has outstanding size (6'3", 200 pounds) and skill and is versatile enough to play any position up front.

The Blues are a team with a scrappy attitude, a handful of stars -- count 41-year-old coach Joel Quenneville among them -- and a future among the Western Conference's elite teams.

Issue date: October 4, 1999

ALSO:
SI's Scouting Report Main Page
SI's Pierre McGuire Insider Rankings


BRIGHT SPOTS   GRAY AREAS
  • Chris Pronger is poised to become THE defenseman in the NHL, if he's not already.
  • Everybody wondered who would step up to replace Brett Hull's goals and, poof, here comes Pavol Demitra with 37.
  • LW Jochen Hecht is turning heads and should make the team.
  •  
  • Geoff Courtnall missed 58 games with a concussion, but has looked good as new in camp. Still, those head injuries are tricky.
  • Everybody likes Roman Turek's potential.
  • Jury still out on young guns like Michal Handzus, Jamal Mayers, Tyson Nash and Lubos Bartecko.
  • People, Places and Things
    GM: Larry Pleau
    Coach: Joel Quenneville; 3rd season (100-76-28); 3rd overall
    Assistants: Mike Kitchen, Jim Roberts
    Captain: Chris Pronger
    Last year: 37-32-13 (12th overall)
    Playoffs: Def. Phoenix 4-3; lost to Dallas 4-2
    PP: 3rd (20.3%)
    PK: 2nd (87.9%)

    Get The Highlighter
    Sat., Oct. 2: Home opener vs. Phoenix, which, no doubt, is still fuming after last year's playoff collapse.
    Tue., Nov. 9: Brett Hull brings his championship ring to Kiel Arena . . . something he never did as a Blue.

    Notable Number
    .888: The league's worst save percentage put forth by Grant Fuhr, Jamie McLennan, Jim Carey, Brent Johnson and Rich Parent, which may explain why the Blues hovered around .500 despite allowing the fewest shots in the league.

    Quoteworthy
    "I'm not the most knowledgeable person in the world about hockey." -- New owner Bill Laurie



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