Finishing 27th out of 30 teams, it should come as no surprise that Tampa Bay Lightning fans were looking for something positive to take away from yet another disappointing, playoff-less season.
They finally got their wish Friday night, with veteran winger Martin St. Louis capturing both the Lady Byng (sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct) and Art Ross (points leader) trophies in what was an awkward, lockout-affected NHL Awards show.
Playing for a team that lost more games than they won, and went through a mid-season coaching change, nobody would blame St. Louis for losing his cool. But he didn’t, instead choosing to go about his business without taking many penalties (only 16 minutes in 48 games). That approach definitely helped him rack up a league-leading 60 points, thus earning Art Ross honors.
Even so, it was kind of surprising to hear his name called. Especially considering the competition. Patrick Kane had six penalty minutes and 55 points for the Presidents Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks, while New York Islanders forward Matt Moulson went 37 consecutive games without spending time in the sin-bin.
However, there’s no doubt that the Lightning’s alternate captain deserves these awards. One of the league’s smallest players, he represents everything hard work, perseverence and never giving up can get you. He’s a Stanley Cup champion, two-time Art Ross champion and three-time Lady Byng winner who, at 37 years old, is showing little signs of slowing down.
St. Louis also serves as a mentor to young guys like Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos, the latter of whom is a two-time Rocket Richard trophy winner that scored a team-record 60 goals in 2012.
Without St. Louis in the mix, it would have been incredibly difficult for the Lightning to hang around the playoff race until early April. They were near the top of the league in scoring, averaging 3.06 goals per game. He’s a key piece offensively, with over 20 minutes of ice time for the Bolts.
If St. Louis can continue playing at a high level, there’s no reason to think the Lightning won’t be playoff contenders come 2014. But for now, fans can just be proud their city is home to the Art Ross and Lady Byng trophy winner.