"He is overrated. He's not that good. He had one great season in the NHL and the rest was kinda average. You should get rid of him instead of Vinny."
I've just quoted one of my friends. We were sitting in a pub, having fun, talking hockey when he said that. I couldn't believe my ears. Honestly, I was shocked, mad and disappointed at the same time. I absolutely disagreed with his statement but I didn't want to spoil the fun we were having, I didn't want to start any fight so I just said it was his opinion and didn't talk about it anymore. But it stayed with me and I feel I need to prove he was wrong.
When I became a Lightning fan Marty St. Louis was definitely one of the very first guys who attracted my attention. His speed, intelligent passing and his simply smart hands blew me away. I was amazed by the fact that such a small player can be so visible on the ice. It came as a shock when I've found out that he has never been drafted. He's been signed as a free agent by Tampa Bay, July 31, 2000 (He's been also signed as a free agent by Calgary, February 19, 1998). I couldn't believe almost nobody wanted him on their team.
When my friend said "he had only one great season" I'm sure he meant the one when the Lightning won the Cup. Sure, that is the year which comes to the mind first. Marty appeared in all 82 games of the regular season and recorded 94 points (38 goals, 56 assists). Was awarded the Hart Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award, and the Bud Light Plus/Minus Award. Led the Lightning in goals, assists, points, plus/minus, SHG, GWG, and led all Lightning forwards in ice time. He naturally appeared in all 23 games of the SC playoffs and at the end he hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head. But was this season really the only one to be remembered? Of course it was very special because of the amazing feeling of the victory but I'm sure there were another seasons which show Marty's an extraordinary player. Season 2006/2007 could be one of them. Marty set his career highs with 43 goals, 59 assists and 102 points. Broke his own franchise record for fastest 3 goals as he scored a hat trick in 6:17 during the 2nd period 10/26 vs. CAR. He showed his qualities also in the upcoming seasons. He recorded more than 80 points in both of them with more than 50 assists in both of them as well.
I could keep writing about his stats. I could keep talking about his career highlights. That he played in 5 NHL All Star Games (2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009), that he won individual puck control competition and finished 2nd in fastest skater competition at SuperSkill Event during 2003 All-Star Weekend, scored the game-winning goal in overtime to send the series to Game 7 in the SC finals vs. CGY in 2004. Played for the National team Canada at '05 World Cup, '06 Olympics and IIHF World Championships in 2008 (now he's playing on team Canada at World Championships in Switzerland and damn he's incredible).
Yeah, I know that you must already be fed up with all the facts I've mentioned so I'll stop with them now. The thing is that the numbers don't lie and they kind of prove that Marty is definitely one of the best players in the league, but it's not only about the statistics. Most of all it's about what a great person Marty is. If Vinny wasn't the captain there's no doubt that it would be Marty who would wear "C" on his jersey. He has "A" though and he shows that he deserves it every time he steps on the ice. He works so hard no matter what the score is. The Lightning could be trailing by 4 goals but he doesn't care. He goes for it. He goes for the goals. He can cover both ends of the ice. You see him fighting for the puck behind the net in the offensive zone and when the puck is lose you suddenly see him in the defensive zone jumping into the shot trying to block it. He gives everything to the game and he shows what hockey is really about. About heart, commitment, dedication, determination, faith, strength, sacrifice and fightning 'till the very end. Marty never gives up. He never stops until the horn signals the end of the game. Last but not least, he barely finds his way into the penalty box. Do you want to know what the sportmanship means? Look at Marty and how he plays. And that all together is what makes him essential for the Lightning. They need guy like Marty. "True captain" some people say. So I strongly deny that we should get rid of him.
There is a problem though. Yes. Money & salary cap. I'm really worried, scared you could say, that it's not possible to have both Marty and Vinny on the Lightning the next season. I said that hockey ask people to sacrifice but I can't sacrifice one priceless player for another. If any of them, Marty or Vinny, leaves the Bolts, I'll be destroyed. You can bet on that. The upcoming summer really scares me.
I was trying to think of anything what is bad about him. I wasn't successful. Yeah, I might be biased and blind. I might not see the negatives. I don't know. Well... to close this blog I have to say that even though he's not that kind of "super star" like Ovechkin, Malkin or Crosby, it doesn't mean he's an average player.