So here we are, four games into the Martin St. Louis era in New York, and the Rangers are still spinning their tires.
The offensive outburst has yet to come, the power play surge has yet to be seen, and the wins, the points, the very progress of this team is as inconsistent as ever. If St. Louis does in fact make this team better, as Glen Sather earnestly believes, then we haven’t bore witness to it yet.
Since adding St. Louis at the deadline last Wednesday, the Rangers have scored 10 goals over four contests – an average of 2.5 per game consistent with their season average of 2.54. They have scored one power play goal on 11 chances – well below their season average of 19.7 percent. But most troubling is the fact that they have won only twice, and are as desperate today as they were a week ago.
St. Louis was supposed to put all those concerns to bed. That’s why, you might recall, the Rangers shipped out their most beloved captain since Brian Leetch and mortgaged their draft future to pry the star winger away from Tampa Bay. As Sather said in the team’s press conference after the trade, “It isn’t often that you get to acquire a guy like Marty St. Louis.”
In the past, when Sather has made this type of back-page move, it has come via free agency. The player brought in – Bobby Holik, Darius Kasparitus, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury – spent the ensuing season trying to live up to his new contract, which, thanks to Sather’s improvidence, was often an impossible task. How much money do I need to give this guy, Sather seemed to wonder, to render him a bust?
St. Louis finds himself in a different position. Instead of needing to prove that he was worth the money, he must prove that he was worth the sacrifice. And Sather, again, has set the bar high.
(It’s almost as if the GM is playing a game with himself. How far do I need to go to make player X a failed investment? Think he can’t take down Sidney Crosby? Think you can’t put a price on 130 points? 93 first round draft picks later, Sather wins again!)
But here’s where St. Louis’ story truly deviates from the rest: he came to the Rangers in March, in the thick of a frantic playoff race. He never had the luxury of time, the chance to dip his toe in the water and test the temperature. The team needs him now, in this very moment, and so St. Louis has had to dive right in.
That’s why it’s fair, it’s relevant, to judge him after four games. The Rangers don’t have time to let Marty find his game, the way they would if this were September or October. St. Louis came to New York for a 20-game season, and as he nears the quarter mark, he has one point to his name.
So now’s the time for the gifted winger to make his presence felt. One week of acclimation? Okay. Fair enough. Every player has to find his bearings in a new environment.
But orientation is over. Initiation is through. St. Louis is fully part of this team now, and fully liable for any lack of production. He is insulated no more than Henrik Lundqvist or Brian Boyle, Rick Nash or Kevin Klein. The alibi of unfamiliarity is gone.
On the hook, his mettle will be tested. St. Louis forced his way to New York, to the Rangers, eager to play under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. He, alone, is the reason he’s here, so there will be little pity to go around if the star forward falters. If he finds himself, heaven forbid, overwhelmed.
Having made his own bed, it’s time for St. Louis to wake up.