Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman traded captain Martin St. Louis this past Wednesday under a cloud of controversy. The last remaining member of the 2004 Bolts Cup team requested a trade to the New York Rangers after being omitted from Team Canada’s original Olympic roster which was announced on February 7, 2014.
It is believed that St. Louis’s relationship with Yzerman was irreparably damaged at that point, and despite St. Louis later being added to the roster and eventually winning an Olympic gold medal, the damage was done.
The entire ordeal is unfair to the fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who lost their captain because of a Team Canada squabble that has nothing to do with the Bolts. That’s a tough pill to swallow. Although, there is probably much more to the story than the Team Canada roster controversy. Former Bolts GM Brian Lawton revealed in late February that St. Louis had asked to be traded back in 2009. Marty obviously wanted out for awhile, and the Team Canada omission was more likely the final touches on a lingering quarrel.
Brian Lawton (@brianlawton9): Martin St. Louis asked for trade to New York Rangers in 2009, during Lawton's time as GM too
— Hockey Central (@SNHockeyCentral) February 28, 2014
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, the loss of Martin St. Louis could put a damper on the very successful season they’re currently having. The loss of a long time captain can have a negative immediate impact on an NHL club. For example, the surging Ottawa Senators have regressed this season after losing captain Daniel Alfredsson to the Detroit Red Wings on free agent day this past summer.
The Sens went out and acquired scoring winger Bobby Ryan the day they lost Alfredsson, and at face value it appeared as though the new acquisition would be good enough to replace Alfie’s offensive production. However, there is more to a team’s success than how many goals it scores; leadership is important. The Sens current struggles could be a result of Alfredsson’s absence and the team chemistry dynamic change that it created.
Similarly, at face value, the Lightning appear to have gotten better by losing St. Louis because they acquired warrior Ryan Callahan and elite gun Steven Stamkos returned from injury. But, the Lightning may struggle without St. Louis’s presence, while they adjust to life after Marty.
In the long run, the Lightning are better off without Marty for two obvious reasons: 1) he didn’t want to be there any longer, and 2) he was getting on in age and the day of his departure was becoming inevitable. That being said, the way he left, and the time of season, were not ideal. To lose the captain in the midst of a playoff race is as likely to be detrimental as it is to be seamlessly unfelt.
The Tampa Bay Lightning lost Game 1 of the post-Marty era, 3-1, to the lowly Buffalo Sabres. They are currently amid a three game losing streak.
The Lightning named Steven Stamkos captain prior to the Sabres game. The pressure is now on him and his teammates to forget about Marty and get back in the win column or their strong first 2/3 of the season could all be for not. Four points separate the Lightning from the ninth place Columbus Blue Jackets – by no means, a comfortably secured playoff spot.