For the Lightning's Marty St. Louis, the disappointment of a second straight year out of the playoffs was so profound, he said he was unsure how long it would take to feel the competitive twinge for a new season.
Turns out, not as long as perhaps even he expected.
"I took two weeks off, and I got right back into it in mid May," St. Louis said. "I was able to train for 2½ weeks before I met my trainer, so my first stage is already done. Usually, that takes three weeks. I did it in 15 days. I've been pushing my workouts along to try to get as many as I can. I'm ahead of the game in terms of where I usually am at this time of year."
Granted, the lockout-shortened season cut down on wear and tear.
"I'm a lot stronger at this time than I have in any other June," he said.
But St. Louis' terrific season reinforced that the right wing, who turns 38 on Tuesday, still is a formidable force.
His 60 points and 43 assists led the league. On Friday, he won his third Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship, and he was a finalist with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (the eventual winner) and Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the Ted Lindsay Award for most outstanding player as voted by the players.
Still, individual recognition goes only so far.
"Does it help?" St. Louis said. "I think it's two separate animals. You're trying to make the playoffs every year, so I think (individual awards are) irrelevant in the big picture."
What is relevant is how St. Louis feels about continuing his career on a team going through growing pains he did not foresee when in July 2010 he signed a four-year contract extension.
He remains positive, saying he has "full confidence" in general manager Steve Yzerman's plan and "feels good" about Tampa Bay's locker room, including the young players who continually gave the team a boost.
He also is optimistic about his preparations for a 15th NHL season.
"I feel really good this summer," St. Louis said. "I'm excited. You're coming off a good year individually. We didn't make the playoffs, but it kept me motivated. It gave me the drive that I needed."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]