Greenwich resident St. Louis on top of his game, takes home 2nd Art Ross Trophy

Greenwich resident and Tampa Bay Lightning's Martin St. Louis finished the NHL regular season with 60 point, most in the league. — photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Greenwich resident and Tampa Bay Lightning’s Martin St. Louis finished the NHL regular season with 60 point, most in the league. — photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning

There is certainly no shortage of top-notch young talent in the National Hockey League.

Whether it’s Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, New York Islanders’ John Tavares, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin or Carolina’s Eric Staal, it’s obvious that hockey is in good hands.

Despite the youth movement in the league, it was a 37-year-old veteran that led the way this year, as Tampa Bay Lightning right winger and Greenwich resident Martin St. Louis had another stellar season to add to his laundry list of accomplishments.

“I am very pleased with the way my year went,” St. Louis said. “Every summer I try and get ready to get myself the best chance to be successful. It was tough to stay focused early because the season was in limbo early. I did what I had to do to stay in shape and get ready for the season. I had a good start of the season and kept pushing towards the end. I thought I had the chance to do something special and I did my best to do it.”

Competing in a shortened season due to the NHL lockout, St. Louis, entering his 12th season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, is on top of the league in points. The Art Ross Trophy winner finished with 60 points overall.

Throughout most of the season, St. Louis was in a battle with teammate Steven Stamkos to see who could net the most points. Stamkos finished second overall with 57 points. Ovechkin and Crosby tied for third overall with 56 points.

This was the second time St. Louis took home the Art Ross Trophy, as the Greenwich resident hoisted the trophy during the 2003-04 season, the same year he helped the Tampa Bay Lightning hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. In winning the points title this year, St. Louis also made history, becoming the oldest player to ever lead the NHL in scoring.

“It’s a pretty cool record,” St. Louis said. “It’s an 80-year-old record. As one of the older guys playing in the league, it’s very inspiring to achieve this. As you get older, people think you’re supposed to slow down, but I actually had one of my better years. I just proved people wrong.”

While St. Louis had his fair share of goals, netting 17 on the season, three of which were on the power play, he did a stellar job getting the rest of his Tampa Bay teammates involved. Despite the shortened season, St. Louis finished with 43 assists on the season and led the NHL.

“Hockey is a team sport,” St. Louis said. “You can’t do this without your teammates, especially your linemates. I was able to find them a lot. I thought they could score from anywhere, so I ended up collecting a lot of assists because I would feed them the puck. I have been blessed in Tampa with having great shooters on the team and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

While making sure he was in top shape to start the season, working out hard throughout the offseason and eating right, St. Louis said the reason he was successful was having the correct mindset heading into the season.

“It starts with attitude,” St. Louis said. “There’s going to be some tough patches, but you still need to focus on what you are trying to accomplish. I try to take care of my body and try to make sure physically I am able to be successful. It’s one of those things where I think it starts with attitude. After a good or bad game, you have to forget about it and move on to the next game and try to do your best there.”

Grabbing his second Art Ross Trophy just adds to his always expanding trophy case. In addition, St. Louis has won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy twice, won the Hart Memorial Trophy once as the league’s most valuable player and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the league’s most valuable player chosen by the players in the NHL.

This season, the Lightning weren’t able to capture a playoff spot, finishing fourth in the Southeast Division with a record of 18-24-4 and totaling 40 points. In the Eastern Conference, Tampa Bay finished 14th overall.

During the 2010-11 season, Tampa Bay finished fifth in the conference and second in the Southeast Division with 103 points. After beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the quarterfinal round, the Lightning upended the top-seeded Washington Capitals to earn a trip into the Eastern Conference finals.

However, St. Louis was unable to make a return trip to the Stanley Cup finals, falling to the Boston Bruins in seven games. St. Louis finished the season second in points with 99, as only Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin had more (104).

A year later, things weren’t as smooth for Tampa Bay, as they finished 10th in the Eastern Conference with 84 points and didn’t qualify for the NHL postseason.

“When you play in the conference finals, you kind of raise the bar on what people expect from you,” St. Louis said. “Obviously we are disappointed that we didn’t get into the playoffs for the last two years, but I think we got pieces here to make some noise in the playoffs. However it’s one thing to say it, but another to go out and do it. We fell short the past two years, but we have the players and have to get it done. It was tough this year because it was a shortened season, but I am hoping we find a way to get the job done down here. It’s just not good enough right now.”

Although Tampa Bay didn’t reach the postseason this time around, St. Louis doesn’t expect that trend to last too long, citing Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik’s desire to bring another Stanley Cup to the Tampa area.

“Mr. [Jeff] Vinik has done an unbelievable job,” St. Louis said. “There’s a good buzz in the community with the Lightning and the arena is always full. They’ve done it the right way and have built a strong base for their fans. It’s a real fun building to play in. At the end of the year at home we were sold out. That was really cool. We have great leadership at the top and that’s why I’m excited to be a member of the Lightning. I know we have a chance to win a Stanley Cup here again because we have great leadership and we have been getting the players here to go out and get the Stanley Cup.”

St. Louis currently has two years left on his contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning and said that he plans on playing his two years out. The reason why St. Louis has been effective for so long in the NHL has been his ability to adapt over time.

“I think I’m smarter than when I started,” St. Louis said. “I read the game a lot better and I’m able to manage my year and channel my energy a lot better. I know when to go and when not to go. I manage my shifts and manage my game and am just a smarter player out there. As you get older, you become wiser and you’re able to put yourself in position to be successful my managing your game more effectively.”

Despite his age, St. Louis is still having a blast playing in the National Hockey League and for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, he’s able to share his love for the game with his three children, ages 10, eight and five.

“It’s a great league that’s given me quality opportunities,” St. Louis said. “The thing I am most proud about is that I am still playing and my kids are able to experience that with me. They are all boys and they all love hockey. They are able to come to the rink and remember that daddy played in the NHL and that’s pretty cool.”

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