The NHL lockout is (almost) officially over. Players are streaming back to their respective teams and taking part in informal workouts to get ready for the start of the season. With camps set to open either Sunday or Monday everyone’s excited and ready to get started. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, one player’s more excited than ever as he has the chance to make new history.
As some might recall, Steven Stamkos last season became only the 20th overall, second in this century, player to record 60 or more goals in a season. He reached this historic plateau on the final day of the 2011-12′ regular season by beating Winnipeg Jets‘ goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. To prove how difficult it is, the only other player to accomplish that feat in the 21st century was the Washington Capitals‘ Alexander Ovechkin back in 2007-08′.
Stamkos isn’t totally content with the history he made last season though, instead telling the Tampa Bay Times Joe Smith the following:
“I want to be a guy who can be counted on in the last minute of the game, to protect a one- or two-goal lead. That’s something that when I look at the best players in the game, not just the best offensive players, but the best overall players who are counted on in every situation, that’s the type of player that I want to be. I have had to learn and go through that process my first four years. It doesn’t just happen overnight.”
As for defending his own history from last season, that will be extremely tough given the shortened season. Stamkos knows his job though, telling Smith this regarding a possible encore:
“I just go out and know my job is to create offense and produce and score. I just have to look at it as, I want to be the best every game. I want to score every game, that’s the mentality that I have, no matter how many goals that I have.”
From what I’ve gathered, Stamkos is ready for this season and that’s great news for the Lightning. Whether he defends his own history, there will be a lot of factors which play into that. Personally, I expect him to have another great year. Will he score 60 goals again? Probably not because of the circumstances the Lightning, and every other team, faces thanks to the lockout. Will he produce the way he’s expected to? Yes, I believe that’s certainly a possibility.
Either way, Stamkos is one of the NHL’s top players and will keep getting better no matter how long the season lasts. It will certainly be fun to watch him grow, both on and off the ice, this season.