St. Louis makes a statement
Who knows how much has been said behind closed doors between Lightning players. All we know is Marty St. Louis took it public after Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Thrashers. He said he was embarrassed and fed up with the effort and execution of some of his teammates. "Clock killers" he called the players who he does not believe care enough about their teammates or winning.
Emboldened by one of their leaders, some others players jumped in. Goaltender Mike Smith, who is winless in his past 11 starts and has been generally hung out to dry by his defense (Marek Malik and Andrej Meszaros were pretty awful in Saturday's game), said he does not know how some of his teammates sleep at night. Left wing Ryan Malone said players from AHL Norfolk should be brought up. It was all quite a scene.
But the hero, if you will, was St. Louis, who punctuated his tirade with expletives and said it all loud enough for everyone in the locker room to hear.
St. Louis has every right to talk. He has been Tampa Bay's best skater for most of the season. He has seven goals and nine points in his past eight games. He had two power play goals and a season-high seven shots against Atlanta. He is playing with eight stitches in his face where he was sliced by a skate. If that's not leadership, I don't know what is.
If nothing else it was a line in the sand.
Coach Rick Tocchet said before Thursday's game against the Avalanche, this five-game segment likely will determine if Tampa Bay has any realistic shot at getting back into the playoff race. So far, one point in two games.
Really, though, this season has not been about the playoffs for a while. It is about perhaps building for the future with a core of players who actually want to play. It must be incredibly frustrating for St. Louis, who is as driven and committed to the game as any player. If his words, even a little bit, put some of his teammates back on the right track, the loss, in a sense, will be worth it.