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Former MVP has eyes set on future
Marty St. Louis made the effort this summer to help forget last season.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published September 13, 2006
BRANDON - There were times last season when all Marty St. Louis wanted was a do-over.
The points weren't coming fast enough for the Lightning right wing. The puck wouldn't stay on his stick.
And the apparent sixth sense that almost always used to put him in the right place at the right time just wasn't functioning.
For the 2003-04 regular-season MVP, it was a nightmare.
"Last year was a setback for me," St. Louis said after Tuesday's skate at the Ice Sports Forum.
"I can't tell you how many times last year I wanted to start over. But you just can't do that. You have to fight through it. The starting over part is now."
But as the Lightning gears up for Thursday's training camp, the starting point has moved.
At 31, St. Louis no longer is the undersized long shot who entered the NHL with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.
"So it's not like I have to establish myself as a top-two line forward," he said. "I do have to re-establish myself as a premier player."
St. Louis said he hired a trainer for the first time to direct his summer workouts. And if his eight-pack abs are any indication, the Laval, Quebec, native is in the best shape of his life.
He said he also is determined not to repeat what he considers last season's biggest mistake.
"I was worrying too much about the outside and what people were saying instead of just focusing and doing what I've done my whole life, playing and having fun," St. Louis said. "You can always work hard, but sometimes your mind-set really affects your play. Last year wasn't fun. I was a miserable person and it reflected in my play."
In a season in which almost all of his teammates struggled, St. Louis' points dwindled from a league-high 94 in 2003-04 to 61. His defensive rating fell from plus-35 to minus-3, which mirrored the Lightning's dip from plus-53 to minus-8.
And though he rallied for 31 goals and showed grit playing with a broken finger, the downturn occurred after signing a six-year contract that increased his salary from $1.5-million to an average $5.25-million.
"I just felt totally different," St. Louis said. "I used to be the underdog, but when you're on top you're not the underdog anymore. Last year was the first I came to the rink as an under-achiever. I felt people were looking to me to be the player they know I can be. I can't blame them. I was looking for that myself. I think that magnified my struggles at times."
"He didn't have near as much fun," linemate Brad Richards said. "He takes it home with him. He worries. His biggest fault is he cares too much. In a weird way, that's a bad thing. I think he's going to learn that he has to forget about some of the bad days and move on."
A big move was made during the summer. St. Louis, who lives in Greenwich, Conn., hired fitness expert Ben Prentiss, who said he has worked with the Predators' Jason Arnott.
Prentiss said he cut St. Louis' usual workout time in half by pushing him hard for an hour with drills that pinpointed speed and strength.
He said St. Louis' intensity was "huge," the strides measurable.
St. Louis, at 5 feet 8, said that at 179 he lost four pounds despite lots of new muscle that reshaped his upper body.
"I think Marty has the fire back," associate coach Craig Ramsay said. "He looks great and you know he'll come ready to play. If he has his mind-set in the right spot, I think he's going to have a great year."
"Last year was just a process that made me mature as a player," St. Louis said. "It really made me realize how I got on top and how tough it is, and it's even tougher to stay there as a player and a team. I found out both last year."