St. Louis could become oldest scoring champion ever

By: Tim Kolupanowich

@TimKolupan_

Martin St-Louis could set a couple of records this season with two points in his final three games.  (Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons)

Martin St-Louis could set a couple of records this season with two points in his final three games. (Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons)

Thanks to an errant shot from Brooks Orpik on March 30 that knocked Sidney Crosby out for the remainder of the regular season, Tampa Bay’s ageless wonder Martin St. Louis has a chance to make some history this season. It’s been 23 days since Crosby was injured and he remains at the top of the scoring race though St. Louis is just one point behind him now with his next game scheduled for Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Should St. Louis net two points in his remaining three games, and stay ahead of teammate Steven Stamkos (third with 28-26-54) and the surging Alex Ovechkin (fourth with 30-21-51), he will become the oldest scoring champion in league history, breaking the 80-year-old mark set by Bill Cook of the New York Rangers in 1932-33.

Cook was 36 years and 165 days old when the 1932-33 season ended which he finished with 28-22-50 in 48 games, six points more than Busher Jackson of the Maple Leafs. St. Louis will be 37 years and 314 days old when the season ends on April 28. St. Louis is easily the best Lightning player ever, just like Cook was for the Rangers back in the day. From Hockey’s Most Amazing Records edited by Edward Fraser:

Recognized as one of the greatest right wingers of all-time, Bill Cook was the centerpiece of the early New York Rangers teams. A two-time scoring champion in the professional Western Canada League, Cook was the first player officially signed by the Rangers in 1926 as they were preparing for their inaugural NHL season. In fact, ‘The Original Ranger’ not only became the first captain in team history, but he also scored the Blueshirts’ first goal, on Nov. 16, 1926, in a 1-0 win over the Montreal Maroons.

However, Cook’s season ended better than St. Louis’ will. Tampa Bay will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons while Cook’s season ended when he scored the first Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal in league history 7:34 into the extra frame of Game 4 against Lorne Chabot of Toronto.

St. Louis could also set a record for most years between scoring titles; the only other time he led the NHL in points was during the 2003-04 season, nine years ago. The current record is six years by Cook (33-4-37 in 1926-27, 28-22-50 in 1932-33), Bernie Geoffrion (38-37-75 in 1954-55, 50-45-95 in 1960-61) and Gordie Howe (44-45-89 in 1956-57, 38-48-86 in 1962-63). All three are Hall of Famers.

St. Louis has been remarkably consistent this season, recording points in 34 of 45 games and never going two in a row without hitting the scoresheet. His longest point streak is seven games between February 28 and March 12, posting 3-9-12 in those games though the Lightning went just 2-5. His three remaining games come Wednesday against Toronto (15-32-47 in 48 games in his career vs the Leafs), Thursday at Boston (15-19-34 in 46 games) and Saturday against Florida (27-36-63 in 69 games). Stamkos has had a bit more personal success against those teams in his career, combining to record 38-29-67 in 63 career games against those three teams, so he might be the only reason St. Louis doesn’t make history this season.

Should St. Louis and Stamkos keep scoring and keep Ovechkin and Patrick Kane at bay, this will be the 31st time in league history two teammates finish 1-2 in the scoring race and the first time since 1995-96 when Mario Lemieux had 69-92-161 and Jaromir Jagr recorded 62-87-149 for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Should that happen, it will be just the second time teammates have led the NHL in scoring while missing the playoffs. The 1948-49 Chicago Black Hawks finished 21-31-8 to finish fifth in the six-team league, seven points behind the Maple Leafs for the fourth and final playoff spot. Roy Conacher had 26-42-68 to lead the league while Doug Bentley finished second with 23-43-66. They finished third in goals, but also gave up 39 more goals than any other team.

Twenty-one times teammates finished 1-2 in scoring, the team finished with the best record overall which shows just how important St. Louis and Stamkos are to the Lightning who would be last if it wasn’t for the two superstars. Save for the 1948-49 Black Hawks, the lowest finish when teammates lead the NHL in scoring was sixth out of 22 teams by the 1991-91 Penguins who were led by Lemieux with 44-87-131 and Kevin Stevens with 54-69-123. The Penguins would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season while the Lightning are currently 28th in the NHL this year with a 17-24-4 record.

It’s unfortunate for St. Louis, who has proved beyond doubt he is one of the top players in the game after being labeled too small early in his career, that team success has been so fleeting. He remains a top player at 37, but one has to wonder how much longer he has to take a run at a second Stanley Cup. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman isn’t going to trade him any time soon as he told ESPN earlier this season in order to quell trade rumors:

“Marty St. Louis is not going to be traded,” Steve Yzerman told ESPN.com on Friday. “He remains one of the best players in the league and an extremely important player to our team, both on and off the ice. We are a team in transition, we just made a coaching change, Marty is one of the leaders of the team, he is not going anywhere.”

That’s great news for Tampa, but let’s hope the rest of the team improves in a hurry or St. Louis’ best seasons could be wasted. Surely he wants another crack at the Stanley Cup, but for this season he’ll have to settle for chasing history on his own.

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