(Photo Credit: Bryan Rempel / USA TODAY Sports)
Alexander Steen is underappreciated, we’ve written that story before. He is the active leader for the Blues in career games played with the note on his chest, he’s 7th in career points and he has created some of the most indelible moments for the team, over the last ten years.
Alexander Steen is a modern day great for the St. Louis Blues
Diehard Blues fans will remember, but maybe a short rehash is in order. Alexander Steen was acquired by the Blues with Carlo Colaiacovo for Lee Stempniak. Colaiacovo at the time was the big allure for the Blues, the often injured defenseman was projected as a top 4 who just couldn’t shake the injury bug, and Stempniak was just a year removed from a 27 goal campaign. Steen was an also-ran in the trade, he was the hockey equivalent to the player to be named later.
Steen didn’t exactly thrive on the Blues to start, relegated to a line with Jay McClement and B.J. Crombeen. The years that followed really showed the kind of player Steen could and would be for the Blues.
He flashed brilliance in 09-10 and 10-11, put in 44 goals and scored 98 points in those two years combined. He started to establish his two-way play under Ken Hitchcock and in 2011-2012 he had a +/- of 20 before a concussion shut him down for 39 games. After the lockout, Steen had his best seasons in 2013-14 he put in 33 goals and the Blues quickly signed him to a contract extension that they extended again at the beginning of the 2016 season.
Steen has rewarded the Franchise with countless clutch plays in the playoffs, reliable two-way play, and consistent leadership through 4 coaches.
But he’s getting old.
Why it’s Make or Break
Steen’s roster spot is not as concrete as it once was. He’s a step slower than he was and his two-way game is not the same. Last year Alex Steen was at the best times, rather invisible, he wasn’t offensively bad, but mediocre is an eloquent way to describe his year.
Alexander Steen is entering his age 34 seasons. He is earning 5.5 million this year, and he is coming off of back to back mediocre seasons. The Blues are up against the cap and with only 11 players of the 24 currently on the roster under contract for next year, it stands to reason that the Blues are going to be looking for ways to trim cap space. Steen’s 5.5 million comes with expectations, expectations that he has to meet this year or the Blues will be forced to take a long look at buying out his remaining years.
What makes this a successful year?
It’s too easy to say a cup, but with where the Blues’ roster is headed, it may be Steen’s last hurrah with the Blues. He should have a more efficient year, he is no longer going to be counted on to deliver top 6 points. He should fit nicely on a wing with Bozak and should be on the ice against the other teams 2nd or 3rd defensive pairing. Steen is still capable of putting in goals, and he still has a good hockey IQ that should keep him contributing even on diminished ice time.
With O’Reilly’s arrival, the times of 20 quarterbacking a power play unit from the point are probably a thing of the past. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, his ice time has diminished steadily over the last few years and this is just another way to try and keep the old man fresh for spring and hopefully early summer.
Why it’s okay to buy in
What Steen can really accomplish this year is a return to his two-way form. The Blues cannot have him at a -11 this year and I think a bounce back is in order for a man so synonymous with two-way play. The pressure is off of him to be the secondary scoring threat, and with how the lines are being drawn up there is a good chance that Steen and Bozak will be flanked with a Dimitri Jaskin or Nikita Soshkinov on their wing.
Either one would be a good fit for a high energy, high aggression forechecking line. The kind of line that Steen thrived with when he flanked David Backes and T.J. Oshie in 2013. No, I am not comparing Bozak and Jaskin to Backes and Oshie in terms of talent, but the line should work in similar ways. Get the puck in deep, punish and pester the defense, and get chances off of turnovers.
I’m not expecting Steen to turn back the clock, no one can, but I expect him to clean up the defense, and I expect him to be a calming voice in the locker room. The Blues are going to be full of young prospects that will more than likely rotate in and out of the lineup, Steen can and has in the past shown these youngsters what it is like to be an NHLer (he did this with a broken foot)
— SI NHL (@SI_NHL) May 3, 2017
… and he can teach them how to be a pest to Chris Stewart.
Alex Steen and Chris Stewart get into a bit of a sword fight while Stewart chirps Joel Edmundson. Edge goes to Steen. pic.twitter.com/KYCxw0ovGh
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) October 14, 2016
I want Steen to carry the Cup, we all do, he has given this hockey community his best for 11 years. We don’t appreciate all that he has done, but we have to look to the future and realize Steen isn’t getting younger. Steen’s time is now, and the Blues window is open now, it’s a make or break season for Steen, let’s hope it ends in a party on Market St.