What’s in a 1st Line Center? – A serious look at Cup winning teams and their centers

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“I wonder if I could eat that puck” – Paul Stastny, probably.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled parody content for a serious (mostly) look at what makes a team a true threat for the Cup, and if the Blues are there yet.

For the St. Louis Blues, it always seems that they are just on the verge of transitioning from a great regular season team, to a full fledged Stanley Cup contender.

They have depth, one of the best snipers in the league in Vladimir Tarasenko, star defenseman like Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk.  Jake Allen’s continued to develop into a #1 goalie, and Hitchcock is seemingly willing to play Allen consistently.

What could be missing?

If you look back at what nearly every Stanley Cup winning team in recent history, they all had a superstar scoring 1st line center.

Below are the last 9 teams that won the Cup, their 1st line centers and their point totals:

  • ’06 – ’07 – Ducks – Getzlaf – 17pts in 21 games.
  • ’07 – ’08 – Red Wings – Datsyuk – 23pts in 22 games.
  • ’08 – ’09 – Penguins – Crosby – 31pts in 24 games.
  • ’09 – ’10 – Blackhawks – Toews – 29pts in 22 games.
  • ’10 – ’11 – Bruins – Bergeron – 20pts in 23 games.
  • ’11 – ’12 – Kings – Kopitar – 20pts in 20 games.
  • ’12 – ’13 – Blackhawks – Toews – 14pts in 23 games. (bit of an odd one here. The Blackhawks didn’t have anyone over 19pts, however they did have 7 players with 10+ pts, and were helped by Crawford having a 1.84 GAA and a .932 save percentage.)
  • ’13 – ’14 – Kings – Kopitar – 26pts in 26 games.
  • ’14 – ’15 – Blackhawks – Toews – 21pts in 23 games.

If we’re to believe these stats, to win the Cup, a key component is a center that will average close to, or over a point a game in the Playoffs. Even Bergeron, one of the only defensive centers on this list, had 20pts in 23 games.

For the last 4 years, the Blues have ran with Captain David Backes on the 1st line.  In his Playoff career, Backes has accumulated 13pts in 29 games.

In ’14 – ’15 Backes had 2pts in 6 games, and the year before he had 1 point in 4 games, however that was also the year he was injured by Seabrook in the Playoffs. He was likely playing injured / with a concussion.

“SHOOOOOOOOOOT!”

“HIT SOMEBODY!”

“SKATE! SKATE, DAMN YOU!”

– Blues fan attempting to inspire the boys during the Playoffs.

Our 1st line center this year however, Stastny, is closer to where we need to be, when he was a C1 with the Avalanche, in ’13 – ’14 he had 10pts in 7 games against the Wild. He was centered between MacKinnon and Landeskog.

In the ’14 – ’15 Playoffs, Stastny was on the Blues 3rd line with Berglund and Jaskin, and had only 1 point in 6 games, however I don’t know any center on our team that would have done much better centering two of the least offensively creative players on our team.

Stastny has a better Playoff track record than Backes, however injuries this year have held him to 13 points in 20 games.

“SHUT UP!”

– Ken Hitchcock in response to the above quoted Blues fan.

 

Rumors have been flying around about Steven Stamkos being traded, with the Blues as a potential landing spot, especially since Tampa Bay scouts and even GM Steve Yzerman have been at many recent Blues games.

With Stamkos’ contract about to end, and the Lightning having trouble this season, Tampa Bay could trade Stamkos if they feel they will be unable to re-sign him, to at least get something in return for their superstar center.

A 1st line of Steen – Stamkos – Tarasenko is enough to make Blues fans salivate.  Unless of course you have a saliva deficiency, then you’re on your own.

The price for Stamkos will be high though, and the Blues would need to clear a considerable about of cap space.

The adjusted salary cap for 2015 – 2016 is $74,500,000 for the Blues this year.  They currently sit just $2,200,000 under the cap.  Stamkos comes with a cap hit of $7,500,000.

To wrap it all up, the Blues have someone who in past Playoffs has had over a point a game in Stastny, Backes can fit nicely in the C2 slot, and if GM Doug Armstrong feels the need to get a C1 from outside sources, Steven Stamkos is very likely available, but would be costly to trade for a player who could end up being an expensive rental.

About the Author


Barney Miklasz
Barney Miklasz is our site Admin, in his spare time, he enjoys criticizing Ken Hitchcock's line combinations, as well as skydiving off the St. Louis Arch.