At the age of 37, Martin St. Louis is the oldest player in National Hockey League history to lead all players in points at the end of the season.
St. Louis — who will turn 38 in June — clinched the Art Ross Trophy, given to the player with the most points (goals and assists combined), in Saturday night’s season-ending 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers. He had one goal and one assist in the game.
The previous oldest player to win the NHL scoring title was Bill Cook, who was 36 in 1932-33 when he won the title as a member of the New York Rangers.
To put St. Louis’ fate in perspective at 37, the average age of the next five leading scorers in the NHL is 25.4 (Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and Eric Staal). The oldest player in that group is Staal, 28.
The only other players in the top 50 in scoring who are at least 35 years of age are Patrick Elias (46th) and Jaromir Jagr (48th). Elias is 37 and Jagr is 41.
As incredible as St. Louis’ feat is, let’s not stand on ceremony here. Because Marty wouldn’t.
He told Sun Sports after the game, “I would trade that for playoff appearances, you know?”
St. Louis could probably speak for all of the Lightning organization and fan base when he says that, but the feat is still impressive. The last time a Lightning player won the Art Ross Trophy was in 2003-04 when 28-year-old St. Louis led the league with 94 points.
He is also the only player in the organization’s history to win the award.
“I’m really proud to be a part of history,” coach Jon Cooper said. “What a feat. [Marty] is the type of guy too that wanted to win this game, and that is a tribute to everything about him. He puts the team first.”
However, St. Louis’ accomplishment, along with the fact that Steven Stamkos is in his prime as an elite NHL scorer, speaks to a larger issue with the Lightning. Despite having the top two scorers in the league (60 PTS and 57 PTS), the team finished in 14th place in the Eastern Conference and 14 points out of the final playoff spot.
This offseason, Cooper’s first as head coach, is critical to the improvement of the Lightning (18-26-4) and the development of their younger players.
“One of the things [looking ahead to next season] is we have to accelerate the process,” Cooper said. “Marty is 37, and we need to take advantage of him being at the top of his game. We have the top two scorers in the league, and we aren’t making the playoffs.
“That is where we have to turn that into winning hockey games.”
In the final game of 2013, the Lightning matched their output from the entire 48-game season. They started strong, faded fast and ended with a frustrating three-goal Florida third period that included a fighting major for captain Vincent Lecavalier.
Matt Carle (5) and Ryan Malone (6) helped build a 2-0 lead before Florida fought back to tie the game with goals from Nick Bjugstad (1) and Tomas Fleischmann (12). St. Louis’ goal (17) came at 5:47 in the second period.
Florida dominated the scoreboard in the third, getting goals from Scottie Upshall (4), Fleischmann (12) and Marcel Goc (9, empty net). Lightning goalie Anders Lindback made 27 of 31 saves in his final game of the year.
Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom stopped 28 of 31 shots on the night.
Two statistics to take home with you into the offseason:
- Tampa Bay finished the season 18-26-4 (40 PTS), or in plain English, 18 wins and 30 losses. They started the season winning six of their first seven games before finishing 12-29.
- St. Louis had just 11 of 48 games during the season in which he failed to register a point. He had a point in almost 80 percent of the team’s games. St. Louis had 18 games in which he registered at least two points. He also led the NHL in assists with 43.