Martin St. Pierre Enjoys 5th AHL All-Star Game, Keeps Sights on NHL Future

Al DanielCorrespondent IIJanuary 31, 2013

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 29:  Martin St. Pierre #47 of the Chicago Blackhawks is seen during warm-ups against the Dallas Stars November 29, 2006 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks won 2-1.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks farmhand Martin St. Pierre is not ready to resign himself to the Reg Dunlop label. If anything, he continues to perform like Ned Braden.

As the AHL prepares to resume normal business this weekend after Monday night’s All-Star Game in Providence, St. Pierre rejoins his Rockford IceHogs, whom he leads with 16 goals and 36 points on the year.

That is hardly a new trend. The 29-year-old St. Pierre, a veteran of 38 NHL games with Chicago, Boston and Ottawa, has finished at the top of his AHL team’s scoring chart in each of his last six seasons in North America.

The only exceptions have been his rookie year, split between the ECHL’s Greenville Grrrowl and the Edmonton Roadrunners, and a season abroad in 2010-11.

With his current pace, St. Pierre can set himself a new career high by finishing 2012-13 with 28 goals in 76 games. Not a bad case to get a crack at the parent Chicago Blackhawks, especially when conventional wisdom would otherwise say he must settle for the top bus league.

“You can never be so down on yourself,” St. Pierre said prior to the All-Star Game, the fifth of his AHL career.

“It’s about trying to find the right organization and that’s part of the reason why I went back to the Blackhawks. They know what I can do.”

St. Pierre spent three seasons (2005-06 through 2007-08) in the Hawks’ system, making his first 21 NHL appearances over that span.

Since then, he has seen AHL and NHL action in Providence, Boston, Binghamton, Ottawa and Springfield. He most recently signed a minor league deal with the IceHogs on July 3 of last summer.

At this point, St. Pierre is more than three years removed from his last appearance in The Show. But recent developments in the parent league’s belated start to the 2012-13 season yield two sources of inspiration.

Chris Bourque, a seven-year journeyman and reigning AHL scoring leader, was originally selected to this year’s Eastern Conference All-Star team. But the Boston Bruins placed him on their opening night roster and have since dressed him for every game, upping his career total to 39 in the NHL.

Wade Redden, a former No. 2 overall draft pick and veteran of 12 seasons spent strictly in the NHL, suddenly found himself with the Connecticut Whale in each of the past two years. The 34-year-old’s major league days appeared obsolete; that was until he cut ties with the New York Rangers and found an open roster spot with the St. Louis Blues.

St. Pierre admits to feeling extra encouragement upon following those two stories.

“Good for Chris,” he said Monday. “He’s been in the league (AHL) for a while and now he’s getting a chance to play, and hopefully he sticks.

“And obviously, Wade, with contract situations, he’s getting another chance, so these days you’re never too old. It’s just about finding the right fit.

“I just have to focus on myself and play my best and hopefully I can have a chance like them.”

In the meantime, St. Pierre is letting his incentive flow hand-in-hand with a genuine enjoyment of something else that never grows too old.

Of adding a fifth AHL All-Star Game to his transcript, he said, “It’s a great honor and it’s fun to be around.

“It’s a different role now. I remember my first year I was in Winnipeg and I was a younger guy looking up to the older guys. Now the roles are reversed and it’s my turn to look at guys who are 20, 21, rookies in the league.”

This season’s celestial exhibition also offered St. Pierre a chance to savor a festive atmosphere in one of his former workplaces. The host Providence Bruins were one of the teams he led in scoring during his lone season with the franchise in 2008-09.

At Sunday night’s skills competition, which St. Pierre effectively clinched for the Western Conference on a decisive breakaway relay goal, there was at least one spectator spotted in a St. Pierre P-Bruins jersey. The seasoned IceHog also received one of the louder ovations during pre-skills and pre-game introductions among those not representing the host party.

“I was surprised when they announced my name in the introduction that some fans kind of cheered a little bit,” he said.

“We had a great run to the conference final my year (in Providence). I love this city and it’s a great organization and it’s fun to be recognized and know that even four years later the fans still cheer on for you, still follow you and track you.”

If St. Pierre has his way, those fans will be keeping tabs as he shuffles from Rockford to the Windy City, where hockey has grown substantially more relevant during his time away from the Blackhawks' system.

“It’s night and day,” he said. “When I was there, five, six, seven years ago, they didn’t make the playoffs the previous eight years before that. Now they’ve won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and they’re the best sport in Chicago.

“It’s a great city. They have a lot of support, sell out the barn every game and that’s one of the best buildings to play in North America.

“It’s great to be a part of that organization and hopefully I can get in a few games and still show that I can play in the NHL.”

Al Daniel is an NHL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this story were obtained firsthand.