As the New York Rangers made their run to the Stanley Cup final last spring, Martin St. Louis was their soothsayer.
"It just seemed like whatever Marty was saying was kind of coming true," defenceman Ryan McDonagh said.
Looking back, McDonagh said, it's hard to imagine the Rangers getting so far had they not acquired the veteran winger at the trade deadline. St. Louis had been through a similar experience in 2004 winning the Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning and now gets the opportunity he didn't 10 years ago because of the lockout.
"I didn't have a chance at continuity," St. Louis said as part of a promotional media tour for new NHL sponsor Crest. "This year I'm looking forward to that continuity. I know we didn't win or anything, but I'm looking forward to that."
St. Louis gets continuity: a first training camp under coach Alain Vigneault and more time to spend with the teammates who helped support him when his mother died during the playoffs. With an off-season house in Greenwich, Conn., now his and his family's full-time home, it was a more relaxing summer not having to pick up and move in August.
The Laval, Que., native has gotten more time with his family, including wife Heather who's doing Crest marketing with him. It might be safe to assume a hockey player's wife has a more perfect smile than her husband.
But the Rangers are a team in some flux. Gone from the Eastern Conference-champion group are defenceman Anton Stralman and forward Brian Boyle, who signed with the Lightning, and centre Brad Richards, who was bought out and went to Chicago.
New York added veteran defenceman Dan Boyle, a 2010 Team Canada gold medal-winner, and grinder Tanner Glass and expect younger players to also fill some holes.
"I think every team's in that situation," St. Louis said. "It's what you make of it, it's how you embrace those guys, how you welcome them. You can't look at them as replacing the players you lost. You want them to be themselves and play their game, so we're going to make sure that happens."
St. Louis has only been around since March, when the Rangers traded captain Ryan Callahan and draft picks to Tampa Bay for him. But as the search for a new captain is on, St. Louis is among the candidates along with McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Rick Nash.
The 39-year-old said he's more worried about being a teammate than having an official leadership position.
"I've had a lot of experience in this league on and off the ice, I've been in many situations," he said. "I feel like I help my teammates regardless because I can relate to them. I've been a guy in the minors, I've been a guy called up, I've been a guy scratched, I've been a third and fourth-liner, I've been a top player. I feel like I can relate to them and I can help them out."
St. Louis has already helped plenty. Not only was he tied for second on the Rangers in post-season points with 15 (eight goals, seven assists) but teammates looked to him as a calming influence.
"I love that with players that, in stressful situations they're still calm to make the decisions and say good things," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "But you still want to see the fire, you still want to see the edge and I think he has both sides of that."
On the ice, St. Louis noticed practice habits that others didn't.
"There's no small play with him," McDonagh said. "If he sees something in practice that we're working on on the power play or even just line rushes with his (other) winger and his centre, he's always grabbing guys, talking about what he sees and what's feeling to try to get on the same page with you and you get on the same page with him so that in a game hopefully the execution's a lot better."
St. Louis said the credit for the Rangers' playoff run from teammates was flattering but brushed it off.
"It's collectively everybody," he said. "I don't think it's just me. I try to play my part as everybody that's important to the team (does), and collectively we were able to do the things that we did. I don't think it was one guy."
No Stanley Cup final loser has made it back the next year since the Pittsburgh Penguins did it in 2009. Thanks to experience, St. Louis hopes the Rangers have what it takes to buck that trend.
"It's so hard to repeat, it's so hard to get back there," he said. "We're hoping to break that this year and get back there and not be disappointed with the result.
"I know we have a lot of new guys, but you try as a team, you try to build it up and get the chemistry and get better as the year goes on and really try to hit your stride at the right time."
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