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Stephen Ground The Hockey Writers

Published on Tuesday, July 14, 2020





They Wore It Once: Blues Players and Their Unique Numbers

The St. Louis Blues have had a series of storied sweater numbers in franchise history. From the 34 players that wore number 12 to the number 7, which is honored by the team for four legendary players that wore it (Red Berenson, Joe Mullen, Garry Unger, and Keith Tkachuk are among the 13 players to wear it as a Blue). The franchise has retired seven numbers, and there are even more that some Blues fans believe deserve retirement.

In that history, though, there are numbers that are worn less frequently. 19 numbers have never been worn by a Blues player, those being 52, 60, 66, 67, 69, 76, 81, 83, 84, 85, 87, 88, 89, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, and 98. But an additional 14 digits were worn by just one player in franchise history. Those 14 players are the topic of this article.

The names on this list range from players who played just a handful of minutes for the franchise to true all-time greats and fan favorites. But because of their unique choice of number, they’ve earned a brief mention in this article. Let’s start with the lowest number on the list.

#51: Derrick Pouliot (2020)

The Blues signed Derrick Pouliot to a two-way contract in 2019, just a few weeks after winning their first-ever Stanley Cup. They saw him as a defensive option with NHL experience who they likely didn’t plan to lean on during the ensuing 2019-20 season. And indeed, he spent most of his season with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) San Antonio Rampage, where he scored seven goals and 32 assists in 58 games and earned the honor of being an AHL All-Star.

But Pouliot did get an opportunity to play for the Blues. He played both ends of an away and home back-to-back in Nov. 2019, logging just over 16 minutes between the two contests. The Blues won both games, but he made a minimal impact, with just one shot, two penalty minutes (PIMs), and a minus-one rating. In those two games, he wore the number 51, never-before-worn by a Blues player. After that series, he returned to the AHL, where he stayed until that league’s season was canceled due to COVID-19.

#58: Dan Hinote (2007)

Perhaps the most thematically-named player in Blues history, Dan Hinote had a solid NHL career of 503 games with the Colorado Avalanche and the Blues. In fact, he won a Stanley Cup in his sophomore season with Colorado. He played in 23 games in those playoffs, and despite averaging just over eight minutes, collected two goals and four assists.

In July 2006, he signed as an unrestricted free agent (UFA) with the Blues, but injuries hampered his time there. He played 150 games in St. Louis over three seasons, wearing the number 58 during his first season. After the departure of Bill Guerin via trade in 2007, Hinote switched to Guerin’s abandoned 13, and 58 was never worn by a Blues player again.

#59: Jeff Hoggan (2006)

The Blues signed Jeff Hoggan as a college free agent in 2005. The following season, he wore both number 22 and number 59 in St. Louis. He played 52 games and scored eight points there. Then he signed with the Boston Bruins for the 2006-07 season. All told, he played 107 games with the Blues, the Bruins, and the then-Phoenix Coyotes.

#63: Justin Papineau (2003)

The Blues were not the first team to draft Justin Papineau — the Los Angeles Kings drafted him in 1998 but failed to sign him — but they were the last and the team with which he debuted. He played one game during the 2001-02 season, wearing the number 26. But when he returned the following season, Petr Cajanek was wearing 26, and Papineau switched to 63. He played just 11 more games in St. Louis before the team traded him to the New York Islanders for goaltender Chris Osgood.

#65: Cam Paddock (2009)

The Blues signed Cam Paddock as a free agent for the 2008-09 season six years after he was drafted in 2002. He only played 16 games but scored two goals and one assist in that time, averaging over 10 minutes a game. He spent time in the AHL and in Europe after that, but never returned to the NHL.

#68: Eric Nickulas (2003)

The Blues picked up Eric Nickulas after 45 games with the Bruins, and he played parts of two seasons in St. Louis, wearing the numbers 68 and 20. He played 52 games with the Blues, his most with any team, before moving onto the arch-rival Blackhawks, and later to Germany.

#72: Justin Faulk (2020-Present)

The Blues acquired Justin Faulk from the Carolina Hurricanes in a costly deal before the 2019-20 season. Because Captain Alex Pietrangelo was already wearing the number 27, which Faulk had worn throughout his time in Raleigh, he was forced to choose a different number. It was a simple switch to invert the digits and take 72, which he did, becoming the first Blues player to wear it.

Justin Faulk St. Louis Blues
Justin Faulk, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Faulk had a difficult time transitioning to a new role in St. Louis during his first season (which was ultimately cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic). But he’s with the Blues for the long haul, as he signed a seven-year, $45.5 million contract extension immediately after the team acquired him. With Pietrangelo potentially departing in the offseason, it is possible Faulk will switch back to his original number, though in that situation, he might be better served respecting the departed captain and staying with 72.

#73: Kenny Agostino (2017)

Kenny Agostino has played with a number of teams in the NHL and AHL. But he served with the Blues for seven games in the 2016-17 season, and during that time he wore number 73. He scored a goal and two assists in that period, but what was truly impressive was his performance in the AHL. In 65 games with the Blues’ affiliate (at the time) the Chicago Wolves, he took the league’s scoring title with 24 goals, 59 assists, and 83 points. The AHL named Agostino its MVP, and he signed with the Bruins that offseason.

#75: Ryan Reaves (2011-2017)

One of the two longest-serving players on this list, Ryan Reaves was a fan favorite in St. Louis as he has been with the Vegas Golden Knights in recent seasons. The bruising forward played 419 games with the Blues after they drafted him in the fifth round in 2005, and he collected 27 goals and 24 assists in that time.

Ryan Reaves (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

No Blues fan particularly wanted to see Reaves depart, but when Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford decided muscle was the missing element from their back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning teams, he offered a price too high to refuse. St. Louis traded Reaves to Pittsburgh on the eve of the 2017 NHL Draft and received Oskar Sundqvist and the first-round pick that became Klim Kostin in return. That deal is still reaping benefits for the Blues, and Reaves has found a happy home in Vegas the last few seasons.

#79: Adam Cracknell (2011-2014)

Adam Cracknell was popular with Blues fan for his grinding role on the fourth line during the Ken Hitchcock era of the team. He joined Reaves and Chris Porter on what was affectionately known as the “CPR Line” because it reliably breathed life back into the team. But in the end, Cracknell played just 65 games for St. Louis, with six goals and 10 assists. He remained a valuable player thereafter to many NHL teams, making at least two NHL appearances with some franchise in every season between 2010-11 and 2018-19.

#80: Steve McLaren (2004)

Steve McLaren played his entire career with the Blues, but it was a short career. The Owen Sound, Ontario native played just six games and averaged 2:47 minutes in those games. In the end, he had more penalty minutes (25) than he did time on ice (17). But he got his cup of coffee at the highest level of hockey, and that’s more than most can say. McLaren also played several seasons in the AHL and developed a reputation as one of the toughest men in that league.

#86: Nikita Soshnikov (2019)

The Blues traded a 2019 fourth-round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nikita Soshnikov, a young Russian forward who had shown flashes of brilliance and earned a popular following in Ontario. He played 12 games with the Blues in the 2017-18 season, notching a goal and an assist. But it was during the five games he played the following season when he wore the number 86, the only player in Blues history to wear it. Soshnikov returned to Russia and had a resurgent season in 2019-20 with 48 points in 58 games, and at just 26, it’s possible his NHL career isn’t done.

#91: Vladimir Tarasenko (2013-Present)

The last two players on this list to wear a unique number in Blues history are the two best. The Blues drafted Vladimir Tarasenko 16th overall in 2010, and when he debuted during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season — scoring two goals in his debut performance — he followed many players of his generation in adopting a number that reflected the year in which he was born: 1991.

St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko
St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (AP Photo/Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

Wearing the number 91, Tarasenko has done incredible things with the Blues. He’s played 507 games, scoring precisely 214 goals and 214 points. He scored 40 goals in the 2015-16 season and surpassed 30 each of five consecutive seasons, a streak only broken by a season-ending injury in the 2019-20 season. He even graced the cover of EA Sports’ NL 17. He is fifth in goals and 10th in points in franchise history, and at just 28, he has plenty of time to continue climbing the list.

#99: Wayne Gretzky (1996)

Wayne Gretzky’s resume needs no introduction. “The Great One” was one of just three players to ever wear his number 99, joining the Winnipeg Jets’ Rick Dudley and the Maple Leafs’ Wilf Paiement. But it was Gretzky for whom the league would eventually retire 99 forever. Before that, he played a brief stint with the Blues after being traded from the Kings in the 1995-96 season.

Wayne Gretzky with Brett Hull
1999 Season: Wayne Gretzky with Brett Hull (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Gretzky took the captaincy during his time with the team, and scored 21 points in 18 games. Unfortunately, he is best-remembered by Blues fans for surrendering the puck to Steve Yzerman on what would turn out to be his final play with St. Louis. Uncomfortable with head coach Mike Keenan, Gretzky left for greener pastures in New York. But he will forever be the only Blue to wear 99, and they will be one of the few teams to have had anyone wear that number.

Who Comes Next?

The Blues still have 19 numbers never worn by a single player in their franchise. There’s no telling who will grab one of those digits and be the next to join this list that includes those who played just a few games in St. Louis and some true franchise greats like Tarasenko. But when they do, they’ll doubtlessly be welcomed with open arm by Blues fans. Regardless of the number on their back, as long as it’s a Blue Note on their chest, they’re a fan favorite in St. Louis.

The post They Wore It Once: Blues Players and Their Unique Numbers appeared first on The Hockey Writers.


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