When the NHL eliminated the two-line pass, it invited an increased focus on goal scoring.
The ability to spread the ice from your own defensive zone to a potential breakaway in one pass has effectively changed the game.
Fans love goal scoring and no one in the league is better at it than Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has made himself a household name among hockey fans, and he will soon become the face of the NHL.
Last season, Stamkos hit the 60-goal mark for the first time in his four-year NHL career. He had 10 more goals than anyone else in the league (Evgeni Malkin).
Thanks to his goal-scoring abilities, Stamkos has joined the company of some of the NHL's biggest names.
As a two-time 50-goal scorer before he turned 23, Stamkos joined the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Pavel Bure and Alex Ovechkin.
Not bad company is it?
Stamkos will endear himself to more fans with more than just his goal-scoring ability.
Here are some reasons Stamkos will become the face of the NHL.
Honestly, for the longest time, I avoided Twitter like the plague. Recently, I started a Twitter account (follow me) and began following some of the biggest names in the game, including Stamkos.
Stamkos uses his Twitter account on a fairly regular basis and doesn't just tweet about happenings in the world of hockey.
During the Olympics, the Markham, Ontario native tweeted about the controversial United States/Canada women's soccer match and the Canadian track and field team.
He also tweets about everything from fantasy baseball to his offseason training.
His humble approach to his success will endear him to fans around the world—with help from Twitter.
Steven Stamkos is more than just a hockey player to the community in Tampa Bay.
Stamkos is active in the community, visiting area hospitals, attending charity events and playing a significant role in the "Kids are Heroes" program.
The "Kids are Heroes" program has honored over 1,300 kids in the Tampa Bay area since 1996. Stamkos was there to honor this year's finalists.
He is also a big supporter of the NHL's "You Can Play" program. The program was created to ensure "equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation." (via You Can Play Program)
He interviewed about the program during the 2012 NHL All-Star Game and even wrote a blog detailing his support for the program.
Stamkos is exactly the type of guy that should be the face of the league.
His off-ice actions are just as loud as the cheers his on-ice actions spark.
Stamkos may have it easier than most superstars in the league when it comes to being a leader. After all, he plays alongside Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.
St. Louis is a two-time Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner.
The Lady Byng is "an annual award given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." (via NHL.com)
Lecavalier, in my opinion, is one of the biggest philanthropists in the NHL. Lecavalier established the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at the All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL.
Lecavalier, the Lightning captain, sets a prime example for future captain Stamkos with his Vinny4 Foundation. Check out the Vinny4 Foundation.
Lecavalier also won the Mark Messier Leadership Award in February 2007 for his leadership on ice and "as a contributing member of society."
Those two are great role models for Stamkos to follow on and off the ice.
As for Stamkos, his leadership extends far beyond his personal accomplishments.
After his 60th goal in 2012, Stamkos addressed the media about the milestone by focusing on a different one.
"You trade this stuff in a heartbeat for winning a championship," Stamkos said. "You don't play to score a certain amount of goals or to get individual awards. You play to win a league championship game." (Via Tampa Bay Times)
He also tweeted:
Also want to thank all my family, friends, teammates , and fans for supporting me as I shared a memory with all of you last night that I will never forget . #60forStamkos
Stamkos is an old-school leader with new-school talent that endears him to teammates, other NHL stars and fans.
Oddly enough, the picture above actually shows Stamkos hitting the targets at the 2012 NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
Stamkos competed in the accuracy contest and hit three targets (not all four) in 17 shots. That was an embarrassing moment for the league's best scorer.
The skills competition was proof that Stamkos hasn't always had the shot that goalies around the NHL fear today. About his shot, he said:
I never had a good shot as a kid. I was one of the smaller kids and was a good skater, but I could never really shoot. My dad took me to shooting school when I 12, 13 years old and started to develop that with a one-on-one instructor. I think my shot’s more accurate than hard. It’s something that I’ve worked extremely hard on over the years, and continue to work on. (Via Sportsnet.ca)
The 22-year-old sniper has a shot that gets fans out of their seats and earns their respect every time he touches the puck, even on the road against division rivals.
Stamkos has destroyed the rest of the NHL in goal scoring the last three seasons. He has 156 goals the last three seasons.
Stamkos is far and away the best shooter in the league.
Another scoring title will put him in the NHL's spotlight for years to come, much like Gretzky did in the 1980s and 1990s.
For the majority of the last decade, the NHL's marketing strategies have failed.
The Alex Ovechkin/Sidney Crosby rivalry hype fizzled out.
Sidney Crosby's emergence as the face of the league took a hit when he got injured. And now, dare I say it, Crosby is overshadowed in Pittsburgh by his own teammate Evgeni Malkin.
The NHL now searches for its next marketing strategy and there seem to be only two viable options, Malkin and Stamkos.
Think back to the 2011 playoffs.
The first round of the playoffs between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning started, or reestablished, a great rivalry.
The series went seven games. Three games were decided by one goal, including the decisive Game 7.
If Tampa Bay can get back to the playoffs on a consistent basis, the league has its image locked in.
And, Stamkos will be the focus.
Stamkos vs. Malkin-The Showdown.
Heck, we could even turn it into a reality television show.
How do we feel about the title "Sniping with the Stars?"
Stamkos, despite his success, has a bit of a way to climb if he is going to dethrone Crosby, Ovi or Malkin from the ranks of the NHL's most popular.
Here is what I feel has to happen for Stamkos to become the face of the NHL:
Tampa Bay Lightning Accomplishments
- Need to win the Southeast within the next three seasons
- Need to make the Eastern Conference Finals within the next four seasons
- Need to make the playoffs in at least two of the next three seasons
*Fast Track to Stardom: Lightning win a Stanley Cup within the next three seasons*
Steven Stamkos Accomplishments
- Win Hart Memorial Trophy in two of the next three seasons
- Win Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy in next two seasons
- Be named Captain of Tampa Bay Lightning
- Score over 100 points in three of the next four seasons
- Beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in at least 60 percent of head-to-head meetings in next three seasons
*Fast Track to Stardom: Win the Stanley Cup and be named playoff MVP*