(HockeyStL) -- Looking back on the 2011-2012 Blues defense.
The 6’1” 225 pound defenseman, who was made a fan favorite in the playoffs after pulverizing Sharks’ player Justin Braun in game two of the quarterfinal round, fulfilled his duties once again this season. No, Polak did not have as good of a season as he did in 2010-11, but the statistics don’t tell the whole story. Arguably one of the strongest defensemen in the league, Polak is strictly a shutdown type of defenseman, sent out to eliminate opponent scoring opportunities, and to out-muscle opposing players. Polak will not put up impressive stats, but that’s not what the Blues want out of him. Polak’s consistency makes him a valuable defenseman, one that the Blues opted to lock up for five more seasons by signing him to a contract extension in 2011. Polak had 11 points (11 assists) in 77 games played this season. He was a +6 on the year and once again displayed his consistent and dominating nature. Final grade: B
Acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 11, Russell began making a positive and noticeable impact the moment he logged his first minute of playing time in a Blues uniform. Russell brought much needed speed to the Blues’ defense, along with stellar transition and neutral zone play. Russell, 25, accumulated nine points (four goals, five assists) in 43 games played with the Blues this season. Russell did miss time with concussion symptoms this season, which did affect his stats. Russell will be a big part of the Blues moving forward as he is very good at moving the puck out of his own zone, and getting it deep to start an attack. This season was a good start to Russell’s career in St. Louis. Final grade: B
Signed by the Blues in the offseason, Huskins came in to provide a veteran presence for the young blue-liners that were still trying to establish themselves in the NHL. Huskins got off to a fabulous start, scoring two goals early in the season, and leaving Blues fans wondering if he would bring more that advertised. However, there was some bad luck coming Huskins way very shortly. Huskins went down to block a shot in late October, and a fractured foot kept him out of the lineup until February. Huskins only participated in 25 games this season, and contributed only two goals and five assists. Despite the fact that his job was not to produce, he still was a liability at times, and it’s hard to give him a satisfactory grade. Final grade: C-
Drafted in the first round of the 2007 NHL entry draft, Cole has yet to receive a spot on the Blues’ NHL team. He has been back and forth between the NHL and the Blues’ top AHL affiliate team: the Peoria Rivermen. This season Cole played in 26 NHL games, along with the first two NHL playoff games of his career. Cole, 23, is still in the early stages of his career, and so his role is not yet defined on the team, but he appears to be close to earning a full time spot on the Blues roster. This season Ian Cole had six points (one goal, 5 assists) and had a plus/minus rating of +6. It was a successful season for Cole who wants to prove to the Blues that he is NHL ready, but it’s clear that Cole still has some things to iron out before he can call himself an NHL player. Cole needs to be more aware of who is on the ice and where they are at, he needs to clean up his passing and transition game, and he also needs to be stronger on the puck. This will all come with experience, and it’s hard to give Cole a bad grade considering he only has 52 games of NHL experience. Final grade: B-
*Cade Fairchild played in five NHL games this season with the Blues. He had one point (assist) and a plus/minus rating of -1. Not enough playing time to grade