Martin St. Louis will officially be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto tonight, and the honor is well deserved for a player who had an immense impact on the game. The same can be said about Marty and his time with the New York Rangers, even though it only lasted just 93 regular season games, and 44 postseason games.
The Rangers are in rebuild mode currently after years of contending, and have their eyes set on a future. Those years of contending can be thought of as a Golden Age, despite them never reading their ultimate gold. But if you think about the recent Golden Age whose highlights include the team going to the Stanley Cup Final and winning a Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in 20 years, it’s hard to not think about St. Louis.
The official beginning of St. Louis and the Rangers was on March 5, 2014 when the Blueshirts sent team captain Ryan Callahan and a pair of first round picks to Tampa Bay for the very-soon-to-be Hall of Fame right winger. It was a deal that was a long time coming, as St. Louis had wanted to join the Rangers as early as 2009 as the Lightning were a pretty bad hockey team, but a deal never happened.
As with many deals the Blueshirts made over the last six years, I can remember frantically refreshing Twitter until the deal was ultimately done. I remember thinking how the addition of St. Louis was huge for the team and their Stanley Cup aspirations, even though it came at the expense of two first round picks. It was a win-now move that did cost picks, but it was a win-now move that saved future cap space, as this stopped them from signing Callahan to a massive extension.
As amazing as it was for the Rangers to add a player of St. Louis’ talent, he didn’t get off to the greatest start and there were questions as to whether or not the team made the right decision. He picked up an assist in his Ranger debut on the road vs. the Carolina Hurricanes, but it took him until Game 15 as a Blueshirt to find the back of the net. As fate would have it, that game was in Vancouver against a Canucks team coached by none other than John Tortorella — the coach that he won a Stanley Cup with in Tampa Bay in 2004.
It was a classic St. Louis goal on a 2-on-1 situation where he decisively shot the puck once it was passed to him by Rick Nash.
This was St. Louis’ first and only goal as a Ranger during the regular season, and in the final four games he tallied four assists to finish with a stat line of 1-7-8 in 19 games played.
There was still some skepticism regarding St. Louis and how he would ultimately help the Rangers, but that was quickly put to rest once the playoff started. The Rangers finished second in the Metropolitan Division and faced off against the third place Philadelphia Flyers. In the first three games of that series, St. Louis scored two goals and added three assists for five points. He finished the series with a stat line of 2-4-6, and was one of the team’s top forwards.
Next up for the Blueshirts was the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it was a tough series which saw the Rangers win Game 1, and then lose three straight in a row. During these four games, St. Louis was neutralized, tallying no points and registering six shots. With the team on the verge of their season ending, tragedy struck as it was announced on May 8, 2014 that Marty’s mother France had unexpectedly passed away. At that moment, hockey was the least important thing for St. Louis, and there was no telling if he’d be back with the Rangers for an elimination Game 5 in Pittsburgh the next day.
The time for Game 5 came, and Marty was in the lineup, just hoping to do his best to help the team. He said that his father wanted him to play, and that he knew that his mother would have wanted that too. During the game, a 5-1 blowout, St. Louis skated just 16:19 but his presence was certainly felt on the bench. I will never forget how the team supported him that night, and one of those moments was caught by TV cameras.
It was a simple and unassuming tap on the helmet and hug from Derick Brassard, but it meant a lot in the moment as St. Louis was staring into space with a tremendous weight on his shoulders. The Blueshirts had won Game 5 and would be heading home for Game 6.
Game 6 was held on Sunday May 11, and it also happened to be Mother’s Day. There are a lot of people who talk — whether it be serious or jokingly — about the hockey gods, but it was certainly a goosebumps inducing moment to have the Rangers playing at home in an elimination game on Mother’s Day just three days after the death of St. Louis’ mother.
In storybook fashion, St. Louis scored and there wasn’t a dry eye in The Garden.
It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but it was the first goal of the game which got the team rolling to an eventual 3-1 victory to tie up the series.
After the game, St. Louis delivered an emotional speech thanking the team for everything they had done for him over the last few days, and awarded The Broadway Hat to everyone in the locker room.
After this moment, it felt like the Rangers were destined to take care of business in Game 7. It wan’t going to be an easy task by any stretch of the imagination, but it was hard to see the team falling flat having come this far. Much of that was because of the emotion and energy of St. Louis that were absolutely infectious, and created an this atmosphere around the Rangers and their playoff run that were hard to forget.
Game 7 was held in Pittsburgh, and the Rangers were looking to turn the tables on the Penguins by winning their third in a row after having just lost three in a row. The Blueshirts’ fourth line of Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore and Derek Dorsett got things started as Boyle tallied his second goal of the playoffs.
The Penguins would get on the board to tie things up in the second period, but the Rangers responded shortly after that, and once again St. Louis played a pivotal role.
On the power play St. Louis setup his long time friend — fellow 2003-04 Stanley Cup Champion — Brad Richards who scored the game-winning goal.
Henrik Lundqvist locked things down and put on an absolute clinic in which he stopped 35 of 36 shots, including 25 of 26 in the second and third period combined.
After a quiet series vs. the Penguins, understandably so, St. Louis got back on track vs. his hometown Montreal Canadiens. St. Louis picked up a goal and an assist during Game 1 thrashing of the Habs which ended with a score of 7-2. The game was held on the same day as my graduation from college, and I remember my phone buzzing a number of times during the ceremony.
On the off day between Game 1 and Game 2, the Rangers attended France St. Louis’ funeral in Laval, Quebec, and it was a moment of bonding for the team. St. Louis spoke at the funeral, and then head coach Alain Vigneault talked about what it meant to the team.
“The New York Ranger family has been touched by a little Quebec family in a deep, profound way. Marty took the podium and shared some incredible moments. It was a very deep message.”
The Rangers went on to win Game 2, and St. Louis added his fifth goal of the playoffs on the power play in the second period. The series shifted back to Madison Square Garden, and the Blueshirts lost Game 3 and headed to overtime in Game 4 which gave Montreal a chance to tie the series up.
We all know what happens next, so I am just going to roll the tape and let you relieve one of the most satisfying moments in recent Rangers history.
And here’s a GIF for good measure.
It was a classic St. Louis goal in which he skated in on his strong side and picked it over the goalie’s shoulder. He usually spent a lot of time in this area of the ice warmup and practice firing pucks from, and all that preparation paid off.
The Rangers won the series and went to the Stanley Cup Final where they would lose vs. the Los Angeles Kings in five games. St. Louis scored two goals during the final, one on the road in Game 2, and one at home in a must win Game 4.
When all was said and done, St. Louis had a stat line of 8-7-15 in 25 games played, which was second only to Ryan McDonagh (4-13-17). Derek Stepan also tallied 15 points, 5-10-15, but appeared in one fewer game than St. Louis. It was a very successful run for St. Louis in which he did what he was expected to do. The Rangers deserved a better fate, but ultimately fell short.
There weren’t as many moments, for St. Louis, in 2014-15 as there were in 2013-14, but it was still one interesting season.
One of those moments was the 1,000th point of his career, a typical goal that came off a rebound and being in the right spot, and the right time.
The Rangers went on to win the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time since the 1993-94 campaign as they finished with a record of 53-22-7 and 113 points. St. Louis appeared in 74 games, and was fourth on the team in scoring as he finished with 21 goals, 31 assists and 52 points at age 39.
Once again the Blueshirts fell short, this time in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final vs. St. Louis’ former team the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he finished with an underwhelming stat line of 1-6-7 in 19 games played. He announced his retirement on July 2, 2015, and his career was over after 16 seasons.
When all was said and done, St. Louis had appeared in 1,134 games scoring 391 goals, adding 642 assists for 1,033 points. In the playoffs he appeared in 107 games, scoring 42 goals and adding 48 assists for 90 points.
St. Louis was a point-per-game player in his 30s, posting a stat line of 282-492-774 in 770 games. From age 35 to the end of his career, St. Louis scored 124 goals and added 230 helpers for 354 points in 362 games. The man was simply a machine, and defied the logic of conventional age curves.
He was a five-time All Star, a three-time Lady Byng winner, a one-time Hart Trophy winner as league MVP and a one-time Lester B. Pearson award winner during the 2003-04 season as most outstanding player as voted upon by the NHLPA. He also was a two-time Art Ross winner, winning during his MVP season, and again in 2012-13, becoming the oldest player to do so at age 37.
There is no shortage of words to describe how spectacular St. Louis was as a player, and how he defied the odds to even forge an NHL career.
St. Louis has a distinguished career with the University of Vermont in which he scored 80 goals and added 175 assists for an impressive 265 points in 138 games played.
After failing to stick with the Ottawa Senators after being offered an NHL tryout, St. Louis puttered around with the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the IHL, spent time in the AHL and eventually got a chance with Calgary but he was ultimately cut free.
He overcame a lack of size, and carved a place for himself in the league at age 25 in Tampa, and achieved super stardom as a 28-year-old. Simply stated, St. Louis worked hard and always made the most of his opportunities, rewarded the faith that was placed in him and the rest was history. He will be remembered for a lot of things, including his signature yellow stick, but it is personally hard for me to shake what could have been in 2009.
It is fun to imagine alternate history scenarios, and I truly wonder what things would have been like had the Rangers added a 34-year-old St. Louis in 2009. In the three seasons that followed, St. Louis posted a stat line of 73-160-233 in 207 games played, and that certainly could have been an amazing add for a Ranger team that went on to lose in the Quarterfinals in 2010-11, the Conference Final in 2011-12, and Semifinals in 2012-13. Those teams lacked true offensive firepower outside of Marian Gaborik, and in many ways those failings led to the team signing Brad Richards and trading for Rick Nash among other things.
We will never know what could have been, but we can celebrate what did happen. St. Louis was a key part of two of the Rangers’ most successful teams in recent history; he was a fan favorite who was honest, thorough, showed a passion for the game, and in the middle of many key moments that brought fans tremendous joy. He was also a source of inspiration to his teammates, including Stepan who absorbed many of his leadership qualities from their short time together in New York.
In the immediate aftermath, it is understandable there were lukewarm feelings regarding celebrating a stretch of seasons in which the team didn’t win the ultimate prize. Or even the Rangers making win-now moves that mortgaged their future. But looking back, that stretch of season were a lot of fun, and they will be looked on with more fondness as time goes on and more players from that era depart the team.
It is hard to believe that St. Louis was only a Ranger for one whole season and the part of another, because it feels like he was around for much longer. He was part of two Ranger teams that were a whole lot of fun to watch, and two of my favorites in all of my years in being a fan.
St. Louis means a lot to the game of hockey, and a lot in a smaller way to the Rangers, which is why his selection to the Hall of Fame is a well deserved honor. While his time as a Broadway Blueshirt was short, it had a lasting impact.
Stats via Hockey-Reference unless otherwise noted.