by PuckStopsHere on 03/15/14 at 05:57 PM ET
The St Louis Blues have moved into first place in the NHL. They have a record of 45-21 with seven regulation tie points for 97 points. That gives them a two point lead over any other team in the NHL. Given the late point we are at in the NHL season, it is a reasonable possibility that they could win the Presidents Trophy.
I argue that the St Louis Blues are not the best team in the NHL. I would give that honor to the Chicago Blackhawks. They are the defending Stanley Cup champions and have learned not to over-extend themselves to win in the regular season when the playoffs are what counts.
I would also argue that the St Louis Blues are not an elite team by my definition of an elite team. It is necessary but not sufficient that an elite team has a top goalie and at least three players who are on Hall of Fame tracks. Elite teams must have elite players.
St Louis has a top goalie in Ryan Miller. He is one of the better goalies in the NHL. I would argue that he isn't likely a Hall of fame goalie however. In 2010, he won the Vezina Trophy and had a strong performance in the Olympics. That is the only time he has ever been a serious Vezina Trophy candidate. At age 33, a hall of Fame goalie should have a few Vezina candidate seasons behind him because his NHL time is likely running out. In fact, this season is the second highest saves percentage he has ever posted. Miller might have an outside shot at being the third nominee for the Vezina this year, but he would be a distant third at best.
The only other Blue player I would argue as being on a Hall of Fame track is Alex Pietrangelo. At age 24, he has developed into one of the best defencemen in the game. He looks capable of winning and contending for the Norris Trophy for many years to come. He has yet to have a season at that level but it seems quite possible. This year could be his first Norris nomination if he continues the season at this level. If Pietrangelo can have the career that it looks like he is going to have, he will likely make the Hall of Fame.
No other Blues are likely on Hall of Fame tracks. Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester are good defencemen who have both had Olympic experience. Neither has ever been a Norris candidate, though Bouwmeester comes closer. As Bouwmeester is the older of the two his window for top level player is less likely to continue as long into the future. At forward, the top Blues are Alexander Steen, TJ Oshie and David Backes. None are among the top group of forwards in the NHL today. None look likely to ever jump to that level.
The St Louis Blues do not have a large enough group of elite players to be an elite team. They are one of the best in the NHL today. They may be the eventual Stanley Cup winner. If they win it, this will be yet another year of no elite teams in the NHL.
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