In his ‘exit interview’ series for the Tampa Bay Times, Damian Cristodero is speaking with various members of the Lightining, trying to make sense of a season gone wrong.
The Bolts faltered badly this year after coming within a game of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference while posting a horrific road record (13-22-6).
For alternate captain Martin St. Louis, it was a disappointing year on a personal level as well. He had his ironman streak snapped at 499 games and posted his lowest goal, assist and point totals since the lockout.
That said, he still thinks the future is bright.
“We’re not that far away. I totally believe that,” he told The Times. “Even this year, it’s five wins [short of making the playoffs.] With all the injuries we had, it’s five wins.
“It’s easy to look back and think of five games you should have won, but we had a tough start, our schedule wasn’t easy at the beginning. It’s a lot harder to win on the road and we just couldn’t catch our breath. We couldn’t feel good about ourselves from the get-go starting on the road.
“We played some good games but still didn’t get the job done.”
St. Louis, who will turn 37 in a month, knows that his chances to win another Stanley Cup are getting slimmer. He’s under contract until 2015 with the Lightning yet feels totally comfortable with it, largely because of his belief in the players and general manager Steve Yzerman.
“As you get older you want a whack at the playoffs and the games in late may and early June, and I think Steve knows that and is aware of that,” St. Louis said. “If I didn’t believe that we can be playing those games next year, maybe I’d think about playing somewhere else.
“But I firmly believe we can be in that battle next June because I know what Steve can bring. I’m optimistic. I believe in the pieces we have here.”
Of note, this optimism might stem from Yzerman’s loaded deck at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. The Lightning GM has four picks in the top 40 — including No. 10 overall — and given his wealth of picks, could dip into the RFA and/or trade markets as well.