Coach promises to place greater emphasis on checking.
Hitchcock says it's a chance for the club to look at young players in a key role.
Training camp kicks off with lots of players back, but competition is there.
Blues hold the leverage over their budding young star — and GM Doug Arnstrong will use it.
The winger remains in a contract dispute with the club.
The NHL has their awards so why can’t the Blues have their own? Instead of competing with all 30 teams, the Blues will be battling within the organization to win these awards.
The names of these awards are named after past great Blues. Obviously, everyone cannot be named after Brett Hull and Bernie Federko, so bear with me.
Bernie Federko Trophy (most points) – David Backes (62)
Garry Unger Trophy (most goals scored) – David Backes (31)
Chris Pronger Award (best plus/minus) – David Backes (+32)
Brian Sutter Award (best coach) – Davis PayneThis really is a no-brainer… not because he was extraordinary, but because there is no other choice. Payne posted a 38-33-11 record as the Blues’ head coach this season, placing the Blues in eleventh place in the Western Conference. The positive? He had a very broken team all season that still showed up to compete most nights. When both David Perron and T.J. Oshie were both out of the lineup (including Andy McDonald, Roman Polak, Barret Jackman and others during the stretch), the Blues still posted a 12-15-4 record. While under .500, it is quite the feet when considering that the Blues became the St. Louis Rivermen for a short while.
Pavol Demitra Trophy (most gentlemanly) – Nikita Nikitin
While this may not be an award that most defensemen would want to win, Nikitin should value his work ethic from the past season. Playing in 41 games for the Blues, Nikitin recorded just ten penalty minutes, none of them being major penalties or misconducts. Nikitin started his NHL career on a relatively weak pace, getting sent to Peoria in December and spending most of the month in the AHL. But Nikitin established himself as NHL talent when returning in February, playing in every game until the end of the season and playing smart hockey all the way through. Nikitin’s calm reserve and cool style has earned him a spot that he has to lose in September.
Honorable Mentions: T.J. Oshie, Carlo Colaiacovo
Blake Dunlop Trophy (most dedicated) – Cam Janssen
The St. Louis native played in 54 games, just two games shy of his career-high. But when only playing in an average of 6:05 per game, your mind can play tricks on you and not let you play your best when you actual take to the ice. Janssen showed no signs of this, playing his game the way that he always has; harder than anyone on the team. Love him or hate him, Janssen did his job when called upon. He tussled some of the toughest guys in the league, despite his small stature. His dedication to the Blues and to his own game even earned him his third career goal and he also tied his career-high in points (4). When a team has a guy that has the go-get-em attitude that Janssen has, it can only be a positive influence on the team.
Honorable Mention: B.J. Crombeen
Garth Butcher Trophy (best leader) – David Backes
Mark Messier doesn’t get to draw the lucky winner of this award. There is no other way of looking at it; David Backes put the team on his back in the latter stages of the season and carried the Blues into a playoff battle. With injuries piling up all season, Backes stayed strong and got the big goals when he needed to. Backes became a force on the penalty-kill, blocking shots and stepping in when the team traded Jay McClement to Colorado. He then turned around and got it done on the power-play, finding teammate Chris Stewart in front of the net more often than not. Backes drove this team every time he touched the ice, no matter what the situation was.
Honorable Mentions: T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo
Rick Meagher Trophy (best defensive forward) – David Backes
As mentioned above, Backes stepped in on the penalty-kill better than anyone when top-killer McClement was sent packing. Backes saw his minutes on the penalty-kill climb late in the season, finishing him seventh on the team in penalty-kill ice-time per game and third for forwards. He led the team in plus/minus as well, recording a +32 rating. Backes always seemed to be in position in the defensive zone, blocking passing lanes and pitching in down low to clear the slot. If Backes can continue to improve his defensive play, he may see himself challenging for the best defensive forward title in all of the NHL.
Honorable Mentions: Vladimir Sobotka, T.J. Oshie
Jorgen Pettersson Trophy (best rookie) – Kevin Shattenkirk
Due to a goofy NHL rule that states that Alex Pietrangelo is a “first-year player” and not a rookie, the trophy gets handed down to the next obvious choice, Kevin Shattenkirk. Acquired just before the trade deadline from the Avalanche, Shattenkirk finished the season first in rookie defenseman scoring and tied for sixth overall (9-34—43). He and his buddy from Colorado, Chris Stewart, seemed to connect very well when coming over in the trade. His long-stretch passes and feisty play in the corners made this a one-man race for rookie of the year.
Glenn Hall Trophy (best goaltender) – Jaroslav Halak
Once again, it's hard to debate this one. Halak got the majority of the starts this season, posting a 2.48 GAA and .910 save percentage. His 7 shutouts tied him for fourth overall in the league and was the most shutouts by a Blues goaltender since Roman Turek in 1999-2000. His play was considered inconsistent but Halak still pulled out some big wins for the Blues. He was an NHL Three Stars of the Week winner twice early in the season.
Al MacInnis Trophy (best defenseman) – Alex Pietrangelo
Pietrangelo, playing in his first season, gave the Blues plenty of comfort in trading their captain Eric Brewer and former first-round pick Erik Johnson late in the season. The young star quickly moved up the defenseman-ranks this season. He was quickly finding himself matched-up with the other teams’ top lines every game, giving Blues GM Doug Armstrong plenty of reason to go ahead and move the two guys that were eating up the minutes that Pietrangelo deserved. His +18 would have tied him for fifth in rookie plus/minus, but he had played in too many games in recent seasons to earn that honor. Pietrangelo was by far the steadiest of defensemen on the Blues roster.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Shattenkirk
Brett Hull Trophy (MVP) – David Backes
In only his fifth NHL season, Backes tied his career-high in assists (31) and earned his career-high in points (62). Backes, much like every other professional season, started the season slow, but as season’s end got closer, Backes got hotter. 25 of Backes’ 62 points came in the final 31 games. His point totals aren’t the only thing that earns him this honor; Backes stepped up defensively, fought when he was needed to and even became an assist-man for line-mate Chris Stewart. Backes brought everything but the kitchen sink this season, earning him top-line minutes on most nights. He was everything that the Blues needed him to be.