Canes coach: Stamkos will be a "great player"
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, one of the game's best people, had an interesting take on the development of Lightning rookie Steven Stamkos. Maurice said Stamkos "is going to be a great, great player," but not just because of his skill. In part, because of how he handled the pressure on the front end of his career.
Asked if the Lightning would have been better served not hyping expectations so much for the No. 1 draft pick, Maurice disagreed.
"I think that's part of it," Maurice said of the maturation process, "and maybe an important part of what he has to go through. You might be able to look back and say there was more pressure than was needed, but at the end of the day, this man is a high -pressure man. All of them go through it."
Maurice said even now, Canes star Eric Staal, at 24, is still learning to deal with expectations, and even though the numbers have been there, Sidney Crosby is even struggling with pressure because it is constant. But as Maurice said of all the younger players, once they go through the hype, "It's in the memory bank now. Sometimes it makes you feel better if you insulate a young player like that, but at the same time, he's going to get used to it."
Stamkos, 19, has been on fire lately. With eight goals in his past 11 games, he enters Saturday's game seventh among rookies with 31 points on 14 goals, 17 assists. He is second with 131 shots.
"It just boils down to confidence," Stamkos said. "I don't feel the urgency to force plays like maybe I did at the beginning of the year. I know the coaching staff has confidence in me. I know my teammates do, but most importantly, I have confidence in myself. I'm taking the time to make the right play."
As for all the Seen Stamkos stuff at the start of the season, he said, "I really didn't pay any attention to that stuff. It didn't really affect me. I'm more of a laid back kind of guy. Being first (drafted) in the OHL kind of prepared me for expectations and pressure. The hardest part for me was living up to my expectations at the beginning of the year. For me, it was tough to handle that a little bit. ... I still had to find a way and I didn't and that's my fault. I learned through the whole process. It was a little bit of an eye-opener how hard you have to work. I'm learning that now, better late than never."
Other stuff from this morning: Mike McKenna is expected to start in net. ... Left wing Ryan Malone (flu) is expected to play which means forward Brandon Segal, called up on an emergency basis, might be sent down to AHL Norfolk. (At least his dad got to see him play in the NHL.) ... Forward Paul Szczechura also should play. How frustrating has this season been for him? He missed 12 games with a sprained left knee. Played eight games with Norfolk to get back into shape, returns to Tampa Bay and injures his right wrist on his first shift Tuesday against the Penguins blocking a shot and has to sit out Friday. "Definitely frustrating, but it's part of the sort," he said. "In that situation, I have to block the shot. Unfortunately, it hit me in a bad spot. I've got to figure out a way to grip the stick and play through it." ... Interesting morning in that the Lightning had a "teaching" video session before the game. But with only 17 games to go, expect more of that, coach Rick Tocchet said. The video was from Friday's loss to the Blues. "We can't continue these mistakes without teaching these guys, even if it's game day," Tocchet said. "I know the coaches' manual says you have to move on from it, but we have to learn from the past, and if it's on game day, so be it." And while losing "is terrible," wins and losses may not be the ultimate priority right now. As Tocchet said, "I need to see guys in certain situations. I have to see how Stamkos does taking draws against a good player. Luke Krajicek, can he go against certain players on a consistent basis? Things like that. But if you're not going to be competitive, that's not acceptable. If you're not going to be competitive, I don't ant those players here. That's the mandate we have to make now. If you're not willing to compete, don't bother coming next year to training camp. That's what I think, and from talking to (GM Brian Lawton, and owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie), they have the same mandate. That's what we're looking for."