The St. Louis Blues, fourth in the Western Conference and the NHL's best team at home, have become the surprise of the season in the NHL. Their turnaround after hiring Ken Hitchcock has been nothing short of remarkable, as he's been able to spark an underachieving but talented team into finally realizing their potential.
What hasn't been talked about much is how important Jamie Langenbrunner has been to the team's success as well. Run out of New Jersey last season and traded to the Dallas Stars for a draft pick, Langenbrunner had suffered through a few frustrating seasons before landing in St. Louis in the offseason.
With Langenbrunner out for at least the next four weeks with a broken foot, his leadership and worth ethic will be sorely missed on a team with high expectations for the playoffs.
"He probably doesn't get all the accolades he deserves," Blues forward Scott Nichol said. "He does all the little things that makes a team win and that's why he's been successful his whole career. It's a voice in the locker room, and it's the way he carries himself professionally. It's going to be a huge loss. We're going to miss his gray hair and old jokes around here. But if they say 4-6 (weeks), knowing him, he'll be back a lot sooner."
Hitchcock acknowledged just how important Langenbrunner has been:
"Lags' play has meant everything," Hitchcock said. "He's been good with whomever he plays with. If we need the line to either increase its competitiveness or increase its composure, we put him there.