Lightning center Steven Stamkos: I told you so (kind of)
Had a nice chat with Lightning center Steven Stamkos this morning and will write a story for later this week about his terrific showing at the world championship, where, after tying for the tournament lead with seven goals, he was voted by the media onto the all-tournament team.
Predators coach Barry Trotz, a Team Canada assistant, talked about Stamkos’ hands and ability to adapt to what the opposition gave him, and added, “He’s going to be a great player.”
Lightning teammate Marty St. Louis, who played on Stamkos’ line in Switzerland and also made the all-tournament team, said Stamkos “reinforced what we saw (during the season), for sure.”
As for Stamkos, it’s the closest he has come to saying “I told you so” to his early season critics. “There is definitely a little bit of that in the back of your mind,” he said. “You go out and prove them wrong, it’s a little bit of a satisfying feeling deep down inside.”
Anyway, the interview is long, but it gives some insight into 19-year-old’s “quiet self confidence,” and reinforces his commitment to getting better in the future.
On saying “I told you so“: There’s definitely a little bit of that I the back of your mind. I definitely would be lying if I said there wasn’t. With the naysayers and the people who don’t think you can do it, you go out and prove them wrong, it’s a little bit of a satisfying feeling deep down inside. But for me you have to have that quiet self confidence and know that if you get an opportunity, you have to be able to succeed. I was lucky it didn’t go away at the beginning of the season. I kept believing in myself, and my teammates believed in me and (coach Rick Tocchet) and the rest of the coaching staff did. So, while there might be some of that, you try to keep that in and just believe in yourself you can be that player again game in and game out.
On what he gained from playing in the world championship: I gained a little more confidence than I already had at the end of last season. Obviously, it was an honor to go over there and represent my country. I didn’t really know what to expect going over there in regard to what role I would play, but I was pretty happy to see I was playing with Marty, and I think we were both happy in that way because of the chemistry we had at the end of the season. Plus, playing in a short tournament like that, the key is to generate chemistry with new players and we were fortunate to already have that, and I think it really benefited both of us offensively and I was able to go over there and had a pretty productive tournament. I was pretty disappointed in the way things went in the gold medal game (a loss to Russia), but I still think I can draw a lot of positives from myself that I can go over there and compete at a high level like that and do pretty well, so definitely a confidence booster heading into the summer.
On reinforcing how last season ended: It’s never going to hurt. Even if the confidence is already there, to go over there and do something like that in a national tournament with some of the best players around the world, it’s definitely not going to hurt the confidence. So, for me it was big and kind of proved to myself I can keep that up, especially at a level like that.
On his ability to adjust to different opponents: Hockey is not always a game of X’s and O’s. You can go in with a game plan, and I thought our coaching staff did a great job of preparing us for each team. It’s tough when you can’t get to see them that often, but you have to judge on what they’ve done in top tournament games. They did a great job of preparing us for what they thought the other team was going to do, and then when you get on the ice you have that in the back of your mind. But you have to be instinctive and you have to have the hockey smarts in order to react to the situations on the ice. It’s up to the players to read and react. It’s not going to be exactly like it was drawn up on the chalk board before the game, so you definitely have to be smart out there to make the plays and react instinctively.
On wishing next season would start soon: Yeah, as a competitive guy, you want things to go well and you don’t want it to stop. You want it to keep going. For me, I had a blast over at the tournament and I feel like I’m playing great and I do wish the season could start a little sooner, but everybody needs a break. It’s a long year and a grind mentally and physically. Things were going well and I did want to keep playing, but your body does need that rest period. I’ll probably take a couple weeks more here before getting back to the grind of the summer and working out and getting ready for training camp.
On an injury-free season: I was pretty fortunate this year not to have anything and not miss any games other than the scratch games, knock on wood.
On what stood out most about the world championship: I don’t think there was any one particular moment. Obviously, scoring on my first shift with a nice pass from Marty, that gives you confidence for the rest of the tournament, so that was a pretty big moment for me. I think just being able to play with those guys, especially for a young guy like me. I grew up watching guys like (Dany) Heatley and (Jason) Spezza and Shane Doan, so that was pretty cool. I was pretty amazed at how quickly our team came together over there. I think it was one of the closest teams I ever played on in my career so far, and we were only together for about three and a half weeks. It just goes to show you what kind of guys that Hockey Canada gets because it was a great experience and I learned a lot from the players and coaching staff, and developed relationships from playing with those players and being with them day in and day out. So, overall it was just a great experience and definitely something I can use to my advantage.
On being nervous walking into the locker room: Sometimes it’s a little intimidating. I thought I’d be a little more nervous, but once you get in that setting, and it helps that Drew Doughty, Luke Schenn and, obviously, Marty, I knew a couple of guys from meeting them at the All-Star Game; Shea Weber I was pretty close with, so it definitely helps when you know some guys. But I got to room with Shane Doan the first two weeks before I got to room with Marty. He’s probably one of the nicest guys in hockey and was our captain, so that definitely was a good experience for me and helped with the comfort level in the dressing room.
On proving the end of last season wasn’t a fluke: I think that’s always in the back of your mind. You want to go there and prove you could be a good player at that level. But when I saw the line combinations and I saw that I was playing with Marty, that chemistry was there and then it definitely helped me and the comfort level when I was on the ice during the games.
On expectations for next season: Every player kind of has a certain amount of numbers in your mind that you keep to yourself and try to work towards like a goal, but for me it’s just trying to build off that second half and tournament success and have a great start to the season. The start wasn’t the greatest for me at the beginning of last season, but I definitely want to come out of the gate right away and prove I can be an effective player for the whole year. It will be interesting to see what evolves around the draft and free agents and trades and stuff like that; that will be an indicator about how the year is going to go next year, so I’m excited about that. I just want to be a better player than I was last year. There are so many things that I learned this year and at the tournament that I can put in my repertoire next year, and it’s just going to make me a better player and ultimately the goal is to help the team win, and I can do that.
On what he learned last season: For me, this was probably the first time I ever had to go through that much adversity in regards to hockey in my life. Coming in on the big level there are expectations, and it was tough to go though. But looking back, you wouldn’t want to go through that, you want to come in right away and be a great player right away. But now that I have gone through that, I think it does make you realize how hard you have to work to be a good player. Obviously, the opportunity I got the second half was helpful, but it just makes you work even harder and realize how hard you have to work to be a great player in this league. That’s something that builds character. You can’t get down. Even though there were tough times, I kept working hard. I learned a lot about myself and how I can deal with that adversity if I ever had to do it again. I think if I was going to go through it, I was glad to get it out of the way at a young age when I’m still learning. It was a good experience. Looking back now, I definitely learned a lot.