WHAT’S LEFT IN THE TANK: THE ST. LOUIS DILEMMA
When Martin St. Louis demanded a trade to the New York Rangers something happened that he was not accustomed to. St. Louis was hated. The undersized forward to that point had only been loved by most hockey fans for his tenacity and heart that propelled him to elite status in the NHL ranks. He had appeared a prima donna that no longer wanted to play for Steve Yzerman. This came to be after Yzerman, VP and General Manager for Tampa Bay, left his then captain off the Team Canada roster for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Marty, it seemed, had an ego as large as his heart. In hindsight the lingering effects of the trade may have benefited both sides as they have exchanged the Prince of Wales trophy in consecutive years.
Pride, not ego, it seems may have been St. Louis’ motivation. After a lifetime of being told he wasn’t good enough he may have finally decided to say enough is enough. Even as a Midget hockey standout in Québec, Marty was left off all-star teams beginning the fire to prove his doubters wrong. Undeterred he played a year of Junior College before landing at Vermont Catamounts University. While there he racked up honors including; 3 time all-star in the East Coast Athletic Conference, ECAC Player of the year 1995, 2 time Hobey Baker Award finalist for top male athlete and J. Edward Donnelly Award Winner in 1997 for top Male Senior Athlete. Despite all he accomplished and people he impressed, Marty felt the burn again from his critics going undrafted.
Roadblocks and obstacles continued to appear for the future Hall of Famer, as he was signed and cut by Ottawa. Despite this he continued to rise above the challenges signing with the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League where for two years he dominated as he does. This earned him a contract with the Calgary Flames and they assigned him to their AHL affiliate in St. Johns. Again, Marty led by example sniping and assisting pushing his team to a Calder Trophy appearance. He impressed the team so much he soon found himself on the big team and on the top line with Theo Fleury.
The honeymoon was soon over as he struggled to find his way and was demoted to the 4th line and finally Calgary chose to move on and did not resign Marty. This time, though he was not without many suitors, landing in Tampa Bay with the Lighting. It seemed at long last he had found a home where his size was not an issue. St. Louis rewarded the franchise with years of overachieving and leadership; 6 all-star appearances, 3 Lady Byng Awards, 2 Art Ross Trophies, a Lester B. Pearson Award and one magical season in 2003-2004 he brought them a Stanley Cup. Until the Olympic snub no one believed his storybook ending would take place away from Tampa.
The fallout seemed odd especially since St. Louis did play in the Olympics as a substitute for an injured Steven Stamkos. The damage was done. The irreconcilable differences in the relationship led to a trade to the only team Marty would allow, the New York Rangers. The effects of the messy divorce lingered throughout the rest of the regular season until soon Marty found another mountain to climb. On May 8th, 2014 Martin St. Louis’ lost his mother abruptly to a heart attack while trailing the Pittsburg Penguins 3-1 in the conference semi-finals. Amidst tragedy, like Atlas before him, Martin wore the weight of the world resurrecting his team from the ashes leading them in goals (8) and finishing with 15 points. Unfortunately, his team fell short losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.
Now St. Louis aging and diminished from the star he was and is trying to overcome his greatest obstacle. This past season he spent time on the third line, had long, goalless droughts including in the playoffs where he watched his former team bounce his Rangers on their way to the Cup Final. Leaving a decision on the table for the forward. Does he sign somewhere else and contribute what he has left in leadership and grit? Does he resign with New York for peanuts in order to chase down Lord Stanley’s Cup one last time for a true contender? Should he retire?
Martin St. Louis turned 40 on Thursday and has little if anything left to prove. He reached the 1,000 point plateau validation of a great career, made even greater considering how many experts never thought it could happen. It becomes clear demanding the trade was more about demanding the respect he had clearly earned. A trade for Ryan Callahan and 3 draft picks for two seasons of on ice struggles seems foolish but for St. Louis he needed to put his foot down. Saying I will no longer be left off or out of the conversation. Now he is an unrestricted free agent. Mostly, Martin St. Louis is right where he wants to be. Counted out and dismissed.
* Photo by Getty Images
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