Hockey is a game of tradition. From the Original Six to newer franchises like the Columbus Blue Jackets, don’t tell fans their team doesn’t have tradition.
Entering its 20th season, the Tampa Bay Lightning are a proud franchise passed down from the generations of Dave Andreychuk to Vincent Lecavalier, and now, to Steven Stamkos.
For the Bolts, it’s tough to say the Lecavalier/Martin St. Louis generation is over. But, when faced with the future generation, the Stamkos generation, Tampa fans should have no problem pledging their allegiance to No. 91.
In 2007-08, the Bolts finished tied for last in the league with 71 points. Following that season, the Lightning selected Stamkos with the first overall pick in the draft and selected the future face of the franchise.
Stammer played in 79 games as a rookie, scoring 23 goals and adding 23 assists. It turned out to be just a sign of things to come for Bolts fans.
The following season, the Markham, Ontario native didn’t just take over the reins of the Lightning franchise, but he also made a statement to the NHL. Stamkos scored 51 goals in just his second NHL season.
The face of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, shared the Rocket Richard Trophy with Stamkos, matching the 51-goal mark. That performance brought Stamkos’ name into the conversation of the league’s best.
Not so quietly, Stamkos announced his presence to the Lightning. He outscored St. Louis by one point and Lecavalier by 25 that season—it’s been “Stammer Time” ever since.
Surprisingly, despite his high production, Stamkos isn’t even the captain of the Lightning. In a league that is filled with young captains, he doesn’t wear the “C.”
This offseason, the Colorado Avalanche named Gabriel Landeskog captain. The Swede is just 19 years old. In his rookie season, Landeskog won the Calder Trophy after recording 52 points.
Yet, Stamkos, the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner after scoring 60 goals, isn’t the captain of the Lightning. That is merely a formality at this point.
Lecavalier is the seasoned veteran for the Bolts in his 13th year and second tenure as captain. He also served in the 2000-01 season before the Lightning brought in Andreychuk from 2002-06.
Still, this is Stamkos’ team. The talented center was one of two Lightning players to see over 1,800 minutes last season (Eric Brewer). As a consistent fixture on the ice, he goes about his seasons in a workman-like way.
He plays. He produces. He leads and he wins. Stamkos is the captain-in-waiting in Tampa, but he has earned the trust and respect of his teammates through his consistency.
Named an alternate captain before the 2011 season, Stamkos admitted he wanted a larger leadership role (via the Tampa Bay Times).
"I'm feeling I want to take more of a leadership role this year," Stamkos said. "I've been in this league a while, you go through playoff experiences. I'm comfortable that I've earned the respect of the veteran guys."
Longtime defenseman Mattias Ohlund knew he deserved the title.
"He's a great kid," Ohlund said. "He's got a lot of experience, and we all know the type of player he is. Everybody respects him, so absolutely he's ready."
The Lightning have a superstar, leader and captain of the future in Stamkos. While he may not wear the “C” now, make no mistake, this is Stamkos’ team.