(HockeyStL) - Grading the Blues defense
Coming off of a 43 point 2010-11 season, the 22 year old defenseman picked up where he left off and once again made his mark on the league. Accumulating 51 points during the regular season, Pietrangelo was an offensive threat every time he touched the puck and it didn’t matter whether he was passing, shooting, or simply corralling the puck, he was a player that made opponent coaches cringe when he gained puck possession. ‘Petro’ was in the discussion for the Norris Trophy this season, which is awarded to the NHL’s top defenseman, but failed to be named a finalist. Playing top minutes, often against the opponent’s best lines, Pietrangelo was often the last line of defense, and his +16 rating shows that he did an excellent job shutting down the other team’s offense as well as spark the Blues’ offense. Pietrangelo had 12 goals and a team high 39 assists. His 51 points was third on the Blues’ roster. In the playoffs Pietrangelo registered five assists and was a big reason for the first round success. His importance was shown best when he went down with an injury in round two, and the Blues never recovered. It was another outstanding season for Pietrangelo, and he will have many more to come.
Final grade: A+
The other young, but immensely talented defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk, spent his first full season with the Blues this year after being traded near the trading deadline last season. An All-Star rookie defenseman last season, Shattenkirk had a lot of hype to live up to this year, but that didn’t seem to faze him as he went on to have an identical season compared to last year. Shattenkirk accumulated 43 points (nine goals, 34 assists). Each of these statistical categories are identical to last season. Shattenkirk did play in nine more regular season games this year, but his plus/minus rating (+20) did dramatically improve from last year’s -4. Shattenkirk spent most of his time with defense partner Barret Jackman, and while Shattenkirk made a few defensive lapses, his second NHL season was a huge success.
Final grade: B+
The left-handed defenseman, Carlo Colaiacovo, likely participated in his last season as a member of the Note. Colaiacovo was, and always has been, injury prone, and has trouble making a significant impact over a long stretch of time because of it. Colaiacovo accumulated 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) in 64 games this season, seven points less than he had in the 2010-11 season. Colaiacovo also played in seven of the Blues’ nine playoff games, scoring no goals, but registering three assists. Colaiacovo had a plus/minus rating of +7 in the regular season, and was one of the few Blues to have a positive rating in the playoffs (+2). Regardless, Colaiacovo was a liability on defense many nights, making poor choices on and off the puck. Combine this with his declining stats, and it really hurts his overall grade.
Final grade: C-
A Blue his entire career, Barret Jackman has become near and dear to the hearts of many Blues fans. Jackman is not the most consistent defenseman, but he provides some stability on the back end, and his veteran presence in the locker room is an overlooked attribute at times. Jackman had arguably one of his better seasons wearing the Note, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that just by looking at statistics. Jackman played in 81 games this season, and had 13 points (one goal, 12 assists). His worth isn’t represented by his stats, but by his ability to shut opponents down, and limit scoring chances. Jackman’s plus/minus rating was +20 this season but attribute some of the credit to his defensive partner Kevin Shattenkirk who is one of the better puck moving defensemen in the NHL. Jackman did have his ups and his downs this season, but overall it was a pretty well played season by the veteran. In the playoffs, however, Jackman looked off of his game, and saw his plus/minus rating plummet to a -8. His play in the playoffs negatively affected his overall grade.
Final grade: C