Marty St. Louis

PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Canada dominates en route to Olympic gold


The numbers alone explain how well Canada played at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi:

Six games, six wins, 17 goals for, three allowed.

But to get a better sense of how truly dominant the team was, consider what the guy that built it said.

“Since I’ve been around, it’s the most impressive, the greatest display of defensive hockey,” Canadian GM Steve Yzerman said after a 3-0 win over Sweden in the gold medal game. “They were committed to this, and I think that’s ultimately why we won is because our leaders, our best players, said, ‘Guys we’re going to win; we don’t care about individual statistics.’

“We’re going to play the right way.”

And play the right way they did. The Canadians re-wrote the history books in Sochi, never trailing for a single second of the tournament while setting an Olympic record for fewest goals allowed. They also became the first back-to-back gold medalists since the Soviet Union turned the trick in 1984 and ’88, and were the first Canadian team to go undefeated at the Olympics since the Conn Smythe-led 1928 team ran the table at St. Moritz.

In Sochi, Canada’s opponents acknowledged just how talented a squad they were up against.

“They played unbelievable defense,” said Sweden’s Niklas Hjalmarsson, per the National Post. “One of the best teams I’ve ever played against, for sure.”

Of course, there were individual standouts. Carey Price finished the tournament with an 164-minute shutout streak and was named top goalie. Drew Doughty led the team with six points in six games en route to best defenseman honors. Shea Weber got one past the seemingly unbeatable Kristers Gudlevskis in the quarterfinal win over Latvia, and Jamie Benn scored the all-important goal in the 1-0 semifinal win over the U.S.

But in the end, it was Canada’s team game that stood out. A collection of individual stars buying in and accepting their roles — P.K. Subban, a Norris Trophy winner, played 11 minutes the entire tournament — while understanding that, for six games, they were all combining for something historic.

“It’s a great team that we had in this tournament,” Jonathan Toews said, per the Globe. “You can see it developing, the chemistry in the locker room, the guys start to understand their roles. It’s not easy for some guys. You look at guys like Roberto Luongo or Marty St. Louis, or even Sharpie (Patrick Sharp) tonight, guys that have made sacrifices to win the gold medal. You ask them, I don’t think they care.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of a team like that, whether your role was big or small … we’re just an amazing team to watch, the way we work together.”

What they’re saying about St. Louis’ return to Tampa Bay


Tonight, Martin St. Louis will return to Tampa Bay for the first time since his stunning departure last spring.

The explanation for his trade demand has always been unclear — a nebulous, blanket statement of “family reasons” was most prevalent — and so too have the responses; onlookers seem torn between acknowledging the tremendous things St. Louis accomplished during his improbable 16-year career, and accepting the ugly way he ditched the Lightning organization (while serving as captain, no less).

Here’s what some notable pundits are saying in anticipation of tonight’s affair.

Tom Jones, Tampa Bay Times

You could boo him. That’s certainly your right.

You could bring his old jersey to the game and use it to clean the nacho cheese off your fingers. That, too, is your right.

You could bring a sign telling him to go back to New York and take his no-good, stinkin’ Rangers buddies with him. All of that is fair game.

But here’s what you should do tonight when Marty St. Louis takes the ice at Amalie Arena for the first time since being traded in March from the Lightning to the Rangers:

You should get up out of your seat, put your hands together and show him the appreciation and respect for everything he did for you, Tampa Bay and the Lightning organization.

“I’m expecting the worst,” St. Louis said, “and hoping for the best.”

He deserves your best.

Martin Fennelly, Tampa Tribune

The Lightning will show a video tribute to honor their former captain. How 19,000 people react will be fascinating. My guess is that No. 26, this time around, gets treated more like a sinner than a saint.

“People are entitled to their opinion and I respect it,” St. Louis said. “I know a lot of them probably will heal with time. It is what it is. I’m expecting the worst, hoping for the best.”

A night like this was always going to happen. We’ve known that, Marty has known that, since last March, when he demanded a trade and Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman sent him to the Rangers for their captain, Ryan Callahan. The wound is still too fresh for some. There are fans who feel betrayed. To them, St. Louis deserted his team.

“Some people can live with that, some people can move on, and some people are going hold that to their grave, probably,” said St. Louis’ friend and former teammate, Steven Stamkos. “I think Marty understands that. I think everyone in here understands that there are probably going to be mixed emotions from the fans. We’ll see how it goes.”

Get it out of your system, folks.

Boo your lungs out.

Andrew Astleford, Fox Sports Florida

This is his life. It was his choice to leave a team high and dry that tapped him as the franchise’s ninth captain. It was his choice to act in a way that made him an instant villain to many.

Tuesday, it was easy to sense some regret from St. Louis with the way he made his former home a speck in the distance. He said he never had a chance to say goodbye. He said the whiplash nature of those whirlwind hours was hard.

“That was the toughest part,” he said.

But again, this is his life. Joe Maddon’s choice to opt out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays in October offers a chance to revisit St. Louis’ choice with a different perspective.

A man should be free to make his way in the world however he desires. Life is larger than team legacy. Life should be about more than stats, trophies and the roar of a crowd as “Louie Louie” plays.

Life, after all, can be too short.

St. Louis’ former coach in Tampa Bay, Jon Cooper, has a fairly good handle on the situation — and what to expect tonight.

“He does have probably a pretty in-depth relationship with the fans, and sometimes family members get in a fight and I think that’s what happened,” Cooper said, per TBO. “Sometimes they make up, sometimes they don’t. And this is a pretty big family, so the chances of them all forgiving are probably not there. So, I’m sure he’s probably going to hear it at both ends of the spectrum.

“All that I ask is people should remember what he did for the organization, because he did a lot of great things.”

Columnist: Lightning fans should thank St. Louis for trade demand


Marty St. Louis is one of the greatest players to ever wear a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey and for a brief time he was also their captain. Still, some fans might chose to voice their displeasure over his decision to demand a trade while the team was preparing for a playoff run when he returns to Amalie Arena on Wednesday for the first time since that deal

Tampa Bay Times writer Joe Smith argued that he did the team a favor though:

At the time, it hurt … But St. Louis didn’t want to be here, no matter his reasons. And that Tampa Bay, having the ability to negotiate with just the Rangers, was able to snag wing Ryan Callahan along with two first-round picks may end up being a steal, especially considering how deep next year’s draft is.

Tampa Bay also got a chance to move on. This was always going to be Steven Stamkos’ team eventually. The trade just sped up the process. And with an extremely young group of players, along with a relatively new coach in Jon Cooper, that culture could be created with a more seamless process. St. Louis was the last link to the old guard.

The Lightning traded away one of those two first-round picks to the New York Islanders in exchange for the 35th and 57th selections in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft (Dominik Masin and Johnathan MacLeod respectively). The Lightning still control the Rangers’ top pick in 2015.

Of course, while this trade might end up benefiting Tampa Bay in the long run, St. Louis’ time isn’t over yet. He might be 39 years old, but he’s still playing at an elite level with eight goals and 17 points in 20 contests. He’ll be taking a four-game point streak with him to Tampa Bay.

Rangers’ OT goal, officiating leaves Babcock fuming


Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock has been around the block many times when it comes to goalie interference penalties and the goals that may (or may not) be allowed because of them. He still finds himself fuming about them every now and then, however.

Babcock aired his latest grievances following the Red Wings’ 4-3 OT loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday, as Puck Daddy reports.

Specifically, he’s unhappy that this Derick Brassard goal counted:

While a would-be overtime game-winner against the Buffalo Sabres was disallowed in an eventual shootout loss on Sunday:

“That’s gotta be the same,” Babcock told Puck Daddy. “So I want the second point, or they shouldn’t get a point. I don’t know how it works.”

Puck Daddy notes that referees Tim Peel and Steve Kozari made a handful of controversial calls last night.

But hooboy, was it a bumpy ride for Peel and Kozari. They missed an obvious dive on Gustavsson, calling an goalie interference penalty on Dominic Moore (who did make contact). They missed the Hagelin high-stick. They missed a Dan Cleary goal, that had to be later confirmed by the war room. They made a complete hash out of a late third-period sequence in which Marty St. Louis hooked Justin Abdelkader and Abdelkader embellished – the penalties had Abdelkader off for hooking and Marc Staal of the Rangers off for diving, after he fell over a sliding Abdelkader.

St. Louis had to inform the officials they had the wrong player, and he was still hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that was meant for the Red Wing.

Fair or not, the Red Wings are now on a three-game losing streak, leaving them with an odd 6-3-4 record.

They can channel that agitation into a climb in the standings, as they begin a four-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils on Friday. Perhaps Babcock & Co. will get a few more favorable calls in front of their home crowd?

Risk Factors: New York Rangers edition


From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

New York Rangers

1. Depth at center, or lack thereof. Two key middle men from last year’s Stanley Cup Finalist are gone: Brad Richards (bought out, now in Chicago) and Brian Boyle (free agent, signed in Tampa Bay). A third, Derek Stepan, will miss the first 4-6 weeks with a fractured fibula. Even prior to the injury, New York’s center depth was going to be an issue; the Blueshirts had Stepan, ideally a No. 2 guy, masquerading as a top liner and Derick Brassard, who thrived as a No. 3 last year, playing as a No. 2.

So now what?

Head coach Alain Vigneault could be forced to open the season with Brassard, Dominic Moore and a trio of 22-year-olds — J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Oscar Lindberg — vying for minutes at center. (Veteran Matthew Lombardi, signed out of the Swiss league to provide depth down the middle, is sidelined indefinitely with a groin injury.)

Vigneault admitted he has a tall task at hand, especially trying to replace what Stepan brought to the table.

“When you think of Step, you think five-on-five, you think penalty kill, you think power play. Someone else is going to get those minutes,” Vigneault said, per the New York Daily news. “We’ll see who steps up.”

How the Rangers deal with their center situation will be a two-part act. The first part is surviving the length of time Stepan is out, and it’s fair to suggest he could miss all nine games in the month of October. It’ll be tough, but not impossible; the Rangers can band-aid the problem (heck, Marty St. Louis already offered to play there) and even if they do struggle, no biggie — the Blueshirts won just three of their first nine games last year, and rebounded fine.

The second act, though — a season-long lack of center depth — will be a problem. New York didn’t have a bonafide No. 1 last year but advanced to the Cup Final with a committee approach; problem is, that committee was exposed against the Kings, and now it’s thinned out.

More importantly, the Rangers still lack an elite center and don’t have anybody to match the likes of Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews, Claude Giroux, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar. Just how crucial is having top-end talent atop your depth chart?

“If you want to be one of the elite teams,” Stars GM Jim Nill told the CP, “you have to have it.”

2. Can they still roll four?

Last year, much of New York’s success came from its ability to roll four forward lines — especially in the playoffs. From the New York Post:

“I think if you look at the teams that have had success and have won the Cup since the [2004-05] lockout, you see those teams have had depth and have been able to play their depth,” Vigneault said Saturday.

“From personal experience, I know when we [the Canucks] lost the Cup to Boston, Boston was a four-line team — probably the best fourth line, I felt, in the league,” the coach said, referring to the unit that generally featured Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. “We didn’t have four lines.

“From that experience, if you can play four lines and manage the minutes, I think you can play at a higher tempo and faster paced game.”

Depth up front really was the Rangers’ calling card last postseason. Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot were arguably the postseason’s best third line and in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, it was the fourth line of Boyle, Moore and Derek Dorsett that scored the series-winning goal while providing countless shifts of dynamic forechecking.

Cap issues and free agency hurt New York’s depth. Boyle, Pouliot and Dorsett are all gone and the Richards departure bumped Brassard into a different role. Without much money for replacements, the Rangers acquired the likes of Lombardi, Ryan Malone, Tanner Glass, Lee Stempniak and Chris Mueller on the cheap; there’s experience in that group, but also a large number of question marks.

3. That blueline… is not fresh.

Perhaps nobody’s reputation took a bigger hit last spring that Dan Girardi, who opened the Stanley Cup Final with an egregious mistake — and things didn’t get much better from there. The knocks on Girardi by the end of the five-game ouster all sounded the same: he looked slow, fought the puck and lost too many physical battles, leaving many to wonder if 1) years of heavy minutes under John Tortorella wore him down, and 2) if the Rangers made a poor decision inking Girardi to a six-year extension in February.

So then they went out and got even older on D.

New York’s big free agent acquisition was Dan Boyle, signed from San Jose to replace the outgoing Anton Stralman. The irony was that Boyle, 38, was allowed to walk from San Jose following a playoff series against — guess who! — the Los Angeles Kings, in which Boyle looked a step slow and unable to contain the Kings forwards.

(For Boyle, replacing Stralman is no small task; the Swedish rearguard averaged nearly 20 minutes per game during the regular season, then finished fourth among all Rangers in playoff TOI.)

Overall, the Rangers’ blueline is not a young group. Boyle and Girardi are already on the wrong side of 30 and Kevin Klein gets there in December. Marc Staal, a pending UFA, turns 28 in January — meaning the young guns of the group are 25-year-old Ryan McDonagh and 23-year-old John Moore.

Now, McDonagh is a star in the making and likely the Rangers’ future captain; he’ll anchor the group for this season and beyond. But it’s the parts surrounding him which could be problematic — after the top-six of McDonagh, Boyle, Girardi, Klein, Moore, Staal, the Rangers’ reserve depth consists of a trio of journeyman NHLers in Steven Kampfer, Matt Hunwick and Mike Kostka.