Give the United States credit – and perhaps an early lead – in the race for Olympic gold in 2010 at the Vancouver Winter Games for rewarding loyalty and recognizing the importance of leadership. How else to explain the decision to name New York Rangers center Chris Drury to the squad and Canada’s inexplicable snub of Tampa Bay Lightning winger Martin St-Louis?
Drury is having a disastrous statistical season for the Rangers. With only six goals and 16 points and a minus-7 in 40 games, it is hard to make a case for Drury being an Olympian this year. That is, until you look at his track record and factor in how he has consistently elevated his game on the big stages.
Drury has answered his country’s call to duty as an Olympian in 2002, when the U.S. captured silver, and again in 2006 and for three IIHF World Championship tournaments (1997, 1998 and 2004). Drury is also a winner, dating back to 1989 when he hurled his Trumbull, Conn., team past Taiwan and onto a Little League World Series title. He followed that with a NCAA national championship at Boston University (1994-95) and a Stanley Cup (2001) with Colorado.
Drury has never posted big offensive numbers, hitting 30 or more goals only twice in his career and never reaching 70 points in a season. At the same time, he has been one of the NHL’s top faceoff men, most responsible defensive forwards and team-leading shot blockers. Drury can kill penalties and play a regular shift on the power play. Moreover, he has “been there and done that” and those leadership qualities clearly counted when Team USA named its roster.
Compare Drury’s situation to that of St-Louis. Five times in his career St-Louis has netted 30 or more goals. During the 2006-07 season, St-Louis potted 43 and just last season recorded 30 goals. Five times he has registered 70 or more points, including seasons of 94 and 102. This season, St-Louis has 11 goals and 49 points in 44 games and is a minus-4 for the Lightning. He is ninth in NHL scoring. His current season stats are significantly better than those of Patrice Bergeron and Eric Staal, to name just two players on the Canadian Olympic squad.
St-Louis has also been loyal to his native Canada. An Olympian in 2006, he also participated in the 2004 World Cup. He faithfully answered the call of his country for the World Championship following both the 2007-08 and 2008-09 NHL seasons. While his own performance had been solid to outstanding in both seasons, (82 games played each year, 55 total goals and 163 total points), St-Louis refused to take the easy way out and beg off participating. Instead, he played for his country and recorded six goals and 25 points in 18 games over the two tournaments.
St-Louis is a big-game player. He has scored more important goals for the Lightning than any player in franchise history. The organization won a Stanley Cup thanks to St-Louis and he has amply demonstrated over the course of his career he can play with anyone and elevate their game.
That he was not selected to play for Team Canada reflects a gross error in judgment by Hockey Canada management. Failing to reward loyalty and recognize leadership qualities is a mistake.
Team Canada needs St-Louis; he more than deserves to be on the team. USA (Drury) 1 – Canada (St. Louis) 0.
Let the Games begin.
Jay Feaster is a former GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he took over in 2002 and helped build the team into a Stanley Cup champion in 2004. As he did last season, he will blog on THN.com throughout the 2009-10 campaign. Read his other entries HERE.