Steven Stamkos is coming off a 60-goal season with the Lightning.
Forget about Ovie. Sid the Kid needs to mount a full-season comeback.
The 2012-13 season will be all about Steven Stamkos.
He is the face of the NHL heading into the upcoming season, and he deserves his status.
Not that there's anything wrong with reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Vezina Trophy-winning Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, explosive Flyers forward Claude Giroux or Dustin Brown of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
It's just that Stamkos simply rules when it comes to putting the puck in the net and playing the game the right way at all times.
Last year, Stamkos led the league with 60 goals and he finished second to Malkin in scoring with 97 points. He is a highly skilled shooter who can find the top corner of the net any time he gets inside the blue line. His slap shot is fired like a rocket and his wrist shot is devastating.
It doesn't stop there. Stamkos has an array of moves around the net and excels when it comes to rebounds and deflections. He understands how the defense is trying to play him and he can use his speed to get in alone and torment opposing goaltenders.
In addition to the numbers, Stamkos is a hard-working player, and he shows that by the way he prepares each offseason. Stamkos goes through dry land training shortly after the end of the last game of the season, and he does not let his body lose its conditioning.
Stamkos trained with former NHL star Gary Roberts before the 2010-11 season. While he was in great shape for an NHL player prior to working out with Roberts, his training and diet changes brought him to a new level.
Roberts trains several NHL players and tailors a program to each of their needs. In Stamkos's case, he needed to get stronger. Roberts' program worked dramatically, according to a 2010 TSN.com article by analyst James Duthie.
Stamkos has incredible numbers throughout the first four years of his career. After an ordinary rookie season in which he scored 23 goals, Stamkos has been machine-like in his production.
He scored 51 goals in his second year. He poured home 45 in 2010-11 and then reached the magical 60-goal mark last year.
As great as the numbers are, Stamkos's courage may be the most underrated aspect of his game. That came to the forefront in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. Tampa Bay met the Boston Bruins in a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series.
In the second period of the final game, Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk blasted a shot from the point that hit Stamkos in the face. The shot got under the shield on his helmet and turned his nose into a bloody mess.
Which player should be the face of the NHL in 2012-13?
Stamkos rushed off the ice for repairs and returned shortly thereafter to finish the game. He was unable to score, and the Bruins won the game 1-0; but Stamkos's effort under duress was remarkable.
Stamkos is a superior talent who has has played hard every game he has been on the ice. There is no hint of him ever relaxing or taking a night off.
There are no guarantees that Stamkos is perfect off the ice, but there has never been any reported scandal or misbehavior regarding his actions away from the game.
As a result, he's a stellar symbol for the NHL, and he needs to be the face of the game for the 2012-13 season.