Hockey TacticsPlayers

Getting the most out of Martin St. Louis

Courtesy of Getty Images

It has started already hasn’t it? Like Nash vs. Dubi & Arty, or Torts vs. AV, or Prust vs. [insert annual banger’s last name here], Rangers fans are watching Martin St. Louis’ every move and comparing them to the box scores coming out of Tampa.

To date, many have already declared a winner and loser of this trade. Our former captain has potted 6 points in 9 games, including a game winner. Moreover, his fit with the Tampa Bay Lightning was recently described as ‘seamless’ by head coach John Cooper.

For the Rangers? Marty’s integration with the Blueshirts has been about as fitting as a suit from Men’s Warehouse. Far from bespoke.

With that said, now isn’t the time to analyze the trade or compare box scores on a game by game basis. That won’t do anyone any good. Right now, we have to figure out how to make this work, because this whole zero goals in eleven games thing can’t continue much longer.

However, before you can make a diagnosis and prescribe an antidote, you first have to be aware of the symptoms. And to understand what’s wrong with Martin St. Louis, you have to recognize what success looks like for the pint sized forward.

After pouring over Youtube video after Youtube video and analyzing shot location charts, I’ve come to realize that Martin St. Louis scores most of his even-strength goals in the slot by evading defenses. Sure he can finish off end to end rushes and highlight reel breakaways, but his bread and butter the last couple of years has been about finding seams between the dots with give-and-go’s and peeling off his checks. Here’s two examples of what I’m talking about (click on gifs below).



Many of these types of goals come down to linemates making great reads. In Tampa, Marty mostly played with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, both of whom have hockey IQ’s off the charts. These guys excel at finding each other between the seams. On the Rangers, the only guy who really has elite vision like that is Mats Zuccarello, but unfortunately both men prefer playing the right side.

The other issue is handedness. St. Louis usually played with at least one right-handed linemate. The only top 9 righty the Rangers have is Derek Stepan, but he’s pretty much glued to Kreider and Nash.

As for the power play, Tampa also runs a 1-3-1, but Marty was pretty much exclusively positioned on the right wing face-off circle. Many of his PP goals came off one-timers (click on gifs below). On the Rangers, both Mats and Nash have that spot.



At the end of the day, Marty will have to adapt. It’s just too late in the season for AV to blow things up and start constructing plays around him. However, to get the best out of him I’d at least look to play him with Step 5-on-5 and give him the right wing half-boards on the PP.

If not those suggestions, hopefully AV can figure something else out soon. Time is running out.

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  • Nice write up Suit.

    I have little concern about Marty. Even before this post illuminated some of the X’s and 0’s to why he has been slow out of the gate.

    I was thinking about Stepan and Zucc too. I wouldn’t mess w/ what’s working for Zucc but I think Stepan could work well. He’s got pretty decent vision and awareness. Esp. now that he’s settling in.

    I don’t think he needs to be glued to Nash and Kreider. In fact I was thinking it might be good to break that line up to get a big, fast power forward, both of which are shooters, on separate lines.

  • It just proves the point regarding how much this is a team game, Even a superstar, needs to be fed the puck in his “sweet-zone”. Cally was a scrap heap guy. Not afraid to get dirty and he finds loose pucks. MSL is more of a polished scorer, who, if given the right opportunity, puts the puck home. As you can tell from the write-up, if you don’t feed this guy within his sweet-spots, he is a wanderer. Not his game, but he will need to find a way to adapt. I do believe the PP needs to use him better.

  • This just goes to show that while you can plug a work-horse like Callahan into any lineup with success, niche skilled guys like MSL come with a lot of conditions. At 38 years old, MSL isn’t worth the disruption to what was a good thing. This is why I was against the trade from day-one, and why each game that passes my opposition to this trade grows. I stand by my original thesis that this will go down as one of the more destructive NY Rangers trades.

    With that said, with the goal of winning games in mind, what are the suggested lineup alterations that could be make to get the most out of what Sather has given AV?

    If moving MSL to play with the right handed Stepan, then we’re looking at either him moving to the first line or Stepna moving to the second line to accommodate, right?

    In other words:




    Either way, you’re either demoting Nash to the 2nd line or promoting Richards to the 1st line, neither of which are deserved, to accommodate the arrival of MSL because he cant seem to play effective hockey without building a custom line around him. It’s ridiculous.

      • Or at the very least, a right-handed, playmaking #2 center to replace Richards and anchor MSL on the second-line.

        Stepan can be a #1 center in this league. He showed it last year, and he’s beginning to show it again these past few weeks.

        Ideally, you don’t move MSL to the top-line to play with Stepan because, honestly, MSL doesn’t deserve to be on the first line, whereas Nash does. But, I don’t like Richards on the first line either.

        This year, the trade has only caused disarray. Maybe, with a buyout of Richards and replacing him with someone like Statsny, then you can put Step on the 2nd line with MSL. But until that happens, MSL doesn’t have a home on this lineup.

        In all honesty, I wouldn’t mold anything around him at the moment. If anything, simply switch Kreider and Hagelin.



        That would be a slight adjustment that may help MSL without rocking the proverbial boat. I don’t know how effective Hagelin will be on the top line, but Krieder could open up some space for MSL as he’s a more potent scoring threat than Hagelin.

    • I think people get too attached to saying 1st line, 2nd line, 3rd line. At the NHL level, you don’t really need these monikers. Competitive hockey personnel look more for matchups as to how/when to deploy certain lines on the ice, not so much what # the line is.

      However it shakes out, it is all about getting your point producers away from other teams top competition so that they could produce. If you accomplish that as a bench boss, you done good.

  • Suit

    In the short time frame you’ve had to work with, and lack of tools, you did a very good job of pointing out what works for Marty. That stated, why didn’t the front office do it’s homework before the trade??

    I, for one, was against this move for many reasons, especially Marty’s age, and giving away draft picks, which is our future. Moves like this make me dislike Sather’s style, and motives.

    Knowing all along that we couldn’t re-sign Callie, why didn’t the clown Sather trade Callie sooner, rather than wait for the last minute, and get nothing in return, yes nothing in return?????

    • Walt… the guy won the Art Ross trophy last yeat. That means he had more points than anyone else in the entire NHL.

      And it wasn’t a blip on the rader. MSL ranks 5th on points scored since 2005 (ahead of guys like Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Marleau, Hossa, E. Staal and Spezza, to name a few). That goes to show how consistent he has been.

      Additionally, he was doing fine this year as up until the trade with a line of 29-32-61 in 62 games.

      Give the guy time to figure it out and judge him based on value added in the playoffs.

      That said, your gripe about the draft picks is valid (unlike your MSL hate), but would you be as sour on giving up those draft picks if we can bring home the hardware sometime during MSLs tenure? The idea here is that Sather is building a team to win it this yr, next yr or the yr after. If he is successful in doing so, I don’t think that losing a couple picks will be more tolerable.

      • I’m sure the front office did their homework with better tools than what’s at my dispoal. Ultimately, MSL has played for every type of coach, system, etc. you could think of and he’s thrived in pretty much every situation since becoming what he is. He’ll adapt, it’s just going to take more time than we all probably anticipated.

      • That’s old BS history!

        Would you bet $1,000 that he wins another Ross?

        I’d put my money on him not putting anywhere near those numbers again, and never be consider for it as well!

        To behonest with you Hatrick, if MSL was 10 years younger, I would have been elated with this move, but at 38, it’s a day late, and dollar short. I don’t hate the man, it’s nothing personal, it’s old Ranger history, bring in marquee names, way past their prime, and expect to win with them. I’m so tired of that BS, go with kids, at least they are hungry, and put out every day, as opposed to some of the loafers that we have been blessed with!! BR anyone, another great free agent signing, barf!!!!!!!

    • Gotta side with Walt here. The marquee St. Louis that we all know is not the St. Louis that the Rangers acquired and no amount of time and adjustment will change that.

      I know he had a great year thus far in Tampa but that is where he is comfortable (playing for 14 years) and they’ve built around him.

      If St. Louis has such a niche within which he can succeed, then that’s problematic for a 38 year old, because they Rangers cannot afford to turn everything upside down to give him the structure he needs to succeed. We need his skill and his production and he needs to provide that no matter where he is put in the lineup. So far he’s not demonstrating that he can accomplish that.

      I’d much rather have Callahan at the moment leading us to the playoffs. If he walked in the summer, so be it. We’d have picks and cash to play with at that point.

      • Chris
        Thanks for your support. I hate saying this but the major portion of Ranger fans read the local papers, believe it as gospel, and follow like sheep….

        Dear Ranger fans, please take off your blinders, see the big world, this man is not the savior everyone believes he is. As for his ability to score, get me Stamkos to skate with him, then maybe I could believe , until then, I’m afraid he is a shell of the player he was, and will never be again.

        Now have fun posting all your thums down, I know you love doing that!!!!!!!!

        • Walt, no one is drinking coolade here. I don’t read papers, and I don’t listen to what all beat writers say because I know more than them. Ditto the many blogs out there. I come here to follow the Rangers because it is one of the few places where the writers actually know more than me and played the game to a higher level than I did, which goes a long way in analyzing todays game. That said….

          If you were expecting the savior in St Louis, then you should grow to hate him. Because he isn’t the savior (nor was he ever billed as such). What he is…. is a better top 6 winger than Callahan in terms of production who makes our top 6 more dynamic and thus a tougher matchup for oppositions to deal with. He should continue to play at a higher level than Callahan for this year and next, which gels with the timeline which Sather has quietly identified as our best to win a cup under the current construction (basically before Lundqvist gets too old).

      • As Suit mentioned above, the guy has figured out how to be effective in the NHL under every system and coach you could think of. And he will do so here

  • Great write up with great points. I understand that he needs to adjust and its unfortunate he hasn’t produced. With that said it looks to me that MSL is always getting knocked to the ice and hardly back checking and is going through the motions. Maybe i’m picking on him too much just hope I see more out of him if hes not producing.

  • Nice write up, Suit.

    Funny that I made 2 of these 3 points (PP goals from the right half wall, seams in front) on twitter with accompanying video clips the day after the trade deadline AND asked you for a retweet AND you did (see below).

    I guess “Imitation is the highest form of flattery” but give a guy a stick tap. Good points though and I do enjoy what you write.

    NetFrontPresence @NetFrontPresenc
    @thehockeysuit Hey I just tweeted 3 vids of how MSL scores most of his goals but I have 11 followers. Check ’em out & retweet if worthy.

    NetFrontPresence @NetFrontPresenc
    MSL scores lots of PP goals from the right faceoff circle. #NYR need to create that for him. Example from 1/18: 1/3

    NetFrontPresence @NetFrontPresenc
    At even strength, look for MSL to make explosive moves to seams of open ice in front of the net, like so: 2/3

    Or MSL can use his speed to create breakaway. Like so: Hoping to see a lot of McD to MSL stretch passes! #NYR 3/3

    The Suit retweeted
    NetFrontPresenc’s avatar
    NetFrontPresence @NetFrontPresenc
    Or MSL can use his speed to create breakaway. Like so: Hoping to see a lot of McD to MSL stretch passes! #NYR 3/3

    • Great stuff NFP. I remember seeing one of these tweets on my timeline, but certainly not all. You’ll have to forgive me if I didn’t respond. Hard to communicate with everyone that tweets at me, especially during the game windows. I’ll be sure to check out the rest. Glad I’m not the only one noticing this stuff.

      • Yes, well done (as usual), Suit. As a friend said, it’s hard to have an original thought these days and I’m glad to be in good company.

        I agree with what you and others have said about giving MSL and Step a try together 5-5. This is one of the more obvious differences between AV and Torts. If Torts were still here, he would have tried everyone with MSL already. AV is much more patient and plodding. Both approaches have their strengths, but I would like to see MSL and Step given a good long look together at some point soon.

        As for the powerplay, I’d like to see them build one unit around Zucc and another around MSL. That would mean taking some time/emphasis away from Richards (especially for zone entries), but I doubt anyone will be upset about that. They have had MSL set up on the right half wall lately and they have been moving the puck really well at times in the last few games, but haven’t really cashed yet. Once MSL starts getting enough room to turn off the wall and carry the puck toward the net (as our videos and gifs suggest) the goal judge’s thumb will get sore.

        MSL was 8th in the league in scoring when he came to NY and he is playing pretty well considering his numbers, so if they can get him going and the defense keeps playing the way it has, there is a lot to like here.

        • Good stuff. I read that Torts and MSL were texting each other when the latter was trying to decide if he wanted to go to the Olympics after the initial snub. Apparently Torts was pushing him to go. Maybe he can text MSL to score more goals while he’s at it.

  • Now, if one looks at fancystats, one might note that, since the trade, St. Louis is positive relative Corsi and Callahan is negative. St. Louis has also drawn five penalties in ten games.

    Excellent post, Suit. I think that using MSL correctly is tricky and important. But it’s not like he isn’t playing very well. He’s just not playing like a HOFer.

  • Good one on MSL – Marty is a pride guy and his performance has more about the pressure he put on himself by asking out of Tampa.

    He outworks even Callahan (albeit differently) can and will score, but more importantly he is a leader on and off the ice.

    There is a crap-load of pressure being the guy who forced his way out of Tampa, let alone living up to the expectations of New York.

    In the short-term (this year’s Cup) Marty is an upgrade over Cally. The team is now ten games past the trade and they are an upswing – It may be a coincidence but Steph’s recent play has coincided with the trade as well.

    Marty is a winner and a winner. And in the long-term – this will be proven out

  • Great post. It’s threads like these with intelligent analysis and discussion – great comments in this one – that makes this site the best Rangers blog around.

    Keep up the good work, and Suit, when will we get another installment of your breakdowns for any of the following: regroups, counters, backchecking systems and/or face-off plays?

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