COMMENTARY | Coaches, players and analysts are asking how the St. Louis Blues are continuing to be so successful. I could go into a long list of their attributes, player stats and training regiments. I won't. It is my belief that the team is steamrolling towards their goal - the Stanley Cup - because of the team working as one unit; they are not a team of superstars. To call them a team of underrated players is not right either. But they are a team whose underrated players have stepped up their game and are making other teams and coaches take notice. The daily guys who do not put up excessive points or use showy moves are the ones propelling the Blues into a whole new realm - the realm of consistent winning. Which players do I consider to be underrated? In my opinion they would be Ryan Reaves, Roman Polak, Ian Cole and Adam Cracknell.
Reaves is beginning to step up and into his role as an enforcer. His sheer size would be intimidating to other teams and enforcers around the league are starting to give him the respect he deserves. Don't count him out as a playmaker, though. Reaves is finding his niche with the Blues at last and is boosting the team with not only his well-timed scuffles and fights, but also with his ability to move up into the play and generate scoring chances. With Reaves being injured in the November 23, 2013 game against the Dallas Stars, he will have to step into the new role of encouraging his teammates from the sidelines.
Polak peaked in performance point-wise during the 2009-2010 season. Since then he has settled into his role of defender and enforcer nicely. The saying, "Don't Open the Roman Polak Door," found on t-shirts throughout the St. Louis area is a fitting description of him as an enforcer. Polak is a quiet player who does not garner much attention but his effectiveness has helped the Blues make exciting playoff runs the past few seasons. This season, I see an adjustment to his style. He is becoming more comfortable moving up into the play and creating opportunities for his team. He works hard during practice to cultivate this new style of play and at each practice I see improvement.
Ian Cole is the type of player that fans do not know much about. He is the player who, while on the ice, seems to fade into the background until he finds an opening and can help create offensive plays. Cole is a defenseman who understands his role well and gets into the play to protect his goaltender and keep the other team from getting in close. He is not considered to be an enforcer, but he also does not back down from an opponent. He will step into a check and give as good as he gets. Cole's ability to pick himself up and get back into the play is commendable.
Cracknell's appearance on the Blues last year brought electricity to the ice and he worked hard creating scoring chances and encouraging teammates. His position on the CPR line - Adam Cracknell-Chris Porter-Ryan Reaves - brought excitement to the game and created excellent scoring chances. This season, he is stepping back into a more comfortable role and it appears that he is fading away. But in my opinion, he is learning as he goes and is a solid player. Once he finds his groove, I believe Cracknell will be a player to watch.
The true success of the St. Louis Blues is not resting on the shoulders of a few superstar players, it is a team effort. It is the underrated players who have been out there night after night making the magic happen. Will the success continue throughout the entire season? It is still too early to tell. The season is too young to determine if their momentum will catapult them forward and into the playoffs. Players such as Reaves, Polak, Cole and Cracknell need to keep their focus and not let up on their opponents. It is these players and others like them that make the team viable for a long run through the season and the playoffs. Their commitment on and off the ice seems to be noticeable to only the true fans who live and die with the team. I commend all of the players who are underrated, but the most impressive players on the Blues are Ryan Reaves, Roman Polak, Ian Cole and Adam Cracknell.
Micki Holley lives in St. Louis and has been following the Blues for 13 years. Micki is a steady presence at Blues' practices, games and fund-raising events. She has been published on multiple websites, blogs and print.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Adam Cracknell
- Roman Polak
- Ryan Reaves
- Ian Cole