There is little doubt that Steven Stamkos is the best goal scorer in the NHL. There could even be an argument that Stamkos is the best player in the league. The scary thing about the top-line center for the Tampa Bay Lightning is we haven’t seen the best of him—yet, and here are three reasons why.
The proof is in the numbers for Stamkos. He leads the league in goals since the start of the 2009-10 season, is the third-youngest player to score 60 goals in a season and is one of four players to win the Rocket Richard Trophy multiple times.
And the shortened season hasn’t done anything to cool him off. Stammer has a league-leading 15 goals already this season. But it isn’t just about goal scoring.
When Vincent Lecavalier and then-head coach John Tortorella were in the middle of their feud, Lecavalier lost his captaincy. That was back in 2003 and rumors swirled of Lecavalier being traded for a better defensive player—sound familiar?
No one is suggesting that Stamkos will be traded—he’s under contract until 2016—but the 3-2 loss to Boston on March 2 showed some animosity between coach Guy Boucher and the young superstar.
Late in the third period, with the game tied 2-2, Stamkos led a 3-on-2 break shorthanded. With a chance to take the lead, he ripped a shot high and wide that caromed all the way around the boards and led to a 2-on-1 for Boston. The Bruins scored and held on for a 3-2 win.
Boucher was seen ripping into his team—including Stamkos—as they saw another game slip away. But just two periods earlier, Stamkos showed a focus and will that is expected of leaders by lighting the lamp.
After an awful performance against the New York Rangers, it was Stamkos who got things going for the Lightning with his trademark one-timer. It’s something the Lightning saw for two months last season, as he willed his team to a playoff push en route to his 60-goal campaign.
His focus and abilities are things that only the best leaders possess. Expect even better things to come from the next player to wear the “C” for the Lightning.
Reaching the Top of the Mountain
Interestingly enough, statistics show that NHL players peak around age 25. If that’s the case, the Tampa Bay Lightning have two more years before Stamkos hits that big mark. That’s a scary situation for the rest of the league, since Stamkos has averaged over 82 points in his first four seasons.
He has 361 points in 346 career games. He has finished as one of the top five scorers in the league in each of the last three seasons.
Wayne Gretzky—the greatest scorer of all time—had his best season of 168 points in his seventh year in the league. Stamkos is in the middle of his fifth season with his best seasons ahead of him.
Still, the superstar is fourth in NHL history in scoring before age 23 with 186 goals. If he maintains a similar pace for an estimated 15-year career, Stamkos would be one of the greatest scorers in NHL history.
The Tampa Bay System
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a very dedicated and passionate fanbase. They have sold out every home contest this season and have one of the most fan-friendly front offices in the league.
Still, Lightning teams that love to score goals have spoiled the fans. Goals bring fans to the arena and keep them there.
They had one of the league’s best offenses in 2003-04 when they won the Stanley Cup and have had a top-10 offense for the last three seasons. This year, the Bolts, led by Stamkos, are the league’s highest-scoring offense.
The fans love that about the team, and the front office will do everything it can to continue to provide that experience. It’s not your typical hockey market, like those in the colder climates, but the fans know and love what they get to see on a nightly basis.
That passion from the fans is what will keep Stamkos as a focal point of the team for years to come. The fans are the fuel that drives this young star. They will only see him improve in years to come.