In the comments section of yesterday’s goal breakdown, BSB regular SalMerc made a comment about how Martin St. Louis’ presence on the ice seemed to be opening up space for others. I thought that was a solid idea for a post, since he isn’t scoring. We’ve looked past snake bitten players in the past (see: Dubinsky, Brandon) when they are doing other things to assist their teammates, so this seemed to be another case of that. If player’s that just can’t seem to score are doing the right things on the ice, then the ship will eventually right itself and the player will begin scoring again. At least, that’s the theory.
Looking at the Rangers team page on Extra Skater, the first thing to notice is that in his 14 games since the trade, MSL is facing the toughest competition on the team (tied with Nash at 29.9% ToTm% QoC). This helps us conclude that SalMerc’s observation is an accurate one: His on-ice presence is affecting how the opposition matches up against him. He is drawing the top defensive assignments, which opens up the ice for his teammates. It’s a small sample size, so we need to take this with a grain of salt, but since it is MSL, we can assume these matchups will continue.
Since St. Louis isn’t scoring, he needs to be doing more than just drawing tough assignments. He needs to be driving puck possession (I’ll be using CF%, Corsi-For, and puck possession interchangeably as synonyms throughout the remainder of the post. If you need a refresher, click here), especially considering how adept the Rangers are at driving puck possession (second in the Eastern Conference).
Looking at his individual stats page (click on ‘show partial seasons’ to get the NYR/TBL splits), MSL is –at least comparatively to his time in Tampa Bay– driving puck possession at the rate of a 52.1% Corsi-For ratio. That’s 2% better than his numbers with Tampa Bay. But, when you compare him to his teammates using CF% relative, he’s not performing the way you would want to see (-3.1% CF% rel).
A concern here is that despite his increased offensive zone starts (61.2% in New York, 54.1% in Tampa), his relative puck possession took a dive. It is expected that an increase in offensive zone time would lead to increased puck possession. That’s why the relative number is so important, and a bit alarming.
But therein lies a part of the problem: MSL has never been a puck possession driver. His relative numbers in Tampa were (usually) in the negatives, and his straight CF% was usually below 50%. From a raw puck possession standpoint, he’s actually adjusted nicely into the system, showing increased ability to drive possession with his increased time in the offensive zone. From a relative standpoint, there’s still a long way to go.
As Suit pointed out, although Marty has played under many different systems and styles of play, he is used to being fed the puck between the seams and has had to adjust while in New York. This has shown in his numbers (no goals, negative relative puck possession). The numbers aren’t especially pretty at the moment, but MSL is too great of a player to remain completely snakebitten. Call me an optimist I guess.