Ever since the NBA superstar announced he was returning to play basketball near his hometown, a few around the hockey world have wondered if any specific big names would ever pull this type of move and return to their hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. It wasn’t long before one of the suggested names stoked said fire via social media.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is someone Toronto fans have longed to see in a Leafs sweater. Having grown up in nearby Markham, Ontario, Stamkos would understandably put a little weight in the idea of playing in Toronto. Hockey writer Adam Proteau wrote a piece pondering if Stamkos, among other Ontario natives, would ever make such a move. Once the article was tweeted, Stamkos caused a bit of a stir by favoriting it. Later, he favorited a tweet from someone suggesting he and New York Islanders star John Tavares join the Leafs.
Needless to say, with how huge social media has become, it left people wondering if this was any sort of sign. Today, Stamkos was asked about the idea of heading back home to play for Toronto.
“We’ll see what happens. It’s a couple years away,” Stamkos said. “Right now I’m focused on what I have to do to win in Tampa, and I think we’ve really established ourselves as a team that can compete in upcoming years.
“For me, that’s the important thing is getting a chance to win. It looks like we’re going to have that chance for a couple years.”
To the shock of no one, Stamkos didn’t come out and say “you bet, clear sign, see you in two years, Leafs fans!” At the same time, it didn’t close the door on the situation either. With this in mind, how concerned should the Lightning be about the idea of losing Stamkos in 2016?
First of all, he’s not going anywhere this year or next, so Tampa doesn’t need to freak out right now. The Lightning did have a quality season last year before getting swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens. The team does indeed look poised to build off a solid campaign.
However, appearing capable of winning is different than actually doing so. Remember, the Lightning were one game away from playing for the Stanley Cup in 2011, and instead of improving the following year, the club failed to make the playoffs for two straight seasons. If similar results occur, Stamkos might be tempted to start looking north.
All comments and favorites aside, Tampa is in a peculiar situation right now. Obviously, there’s no reason for anyone in the front office to flip out because their best player made a couple curious choices in Twitter favoritism. At the same time, what happens if the Lightning begin to show signs of struggle? Will the fear of losing their franchise player cause them to make panic moves in attempts to create as much success as possible?
These things happen all the time, in every sport. It’s no surprise Toronto fans are salivating at the idea of having Stamkos on their club, and therefore jumping on any sign indicating the scenario is possible. Tampa, however, doesn’t need to even eye the panic button right now. The team merely needs to focus on the upcoming season and turning it into a success.
If they can’t, though, you can bet the front office will have someone monitoring Stamkos’ Twitter activity.