Stamkos arrives, ready to follow up 60-goal season
As frustrating as the NHL lockout was for Lightning star center Steven Stamkos, it gave him an opportunity to do things in his hometown of Toronto he normally wouldn't get to do.
That included hosting Christmas at his home for the first time in six or seven years. But Stamkos, 22, also enjoyed the chance to play in his father's pick-up hockey league every Thursday, where he and former Lightning forward Steve Downie would mix it up with men sometimes twice their age.
"It was great, all guys locally that I've grown up with, my dad's buddies and a couple of guys around my age," Stamkos said Tuesday after joining the Lightning at their informal skate in Brandon. "It was a blast, those guys loved it. And they don't get a chance to play with NHL guys very often. It was a lot of fun and something I'll cherish forever."
With the lockout over, Stamkos was excited to rejoin the Lightning Tuesday at the Ice Sports Forum, joining Marty St. Louis on a line in a controlled scrimmage. He joked it was a more "competitive" situation than his father's rec league.
"It was fun setting up the old man," Stamkos said of his father Chris. "His stats are going to go down for sure."
Speaking of stats, Stamkos is ready to follow up a season in which he became just the 20th person in NHL history to rack up 60 goals.
"It's weird, people talk about it, you hear about it, but for me, it doesn't really register that I'm a 60-goal scorer," Stamkos said. "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. It's really cool when you hear that there's only been like 20 players in the history of the game ot do that. It's a humbling stat when I hear about it. I'm excited to have more opportunities to hopefully do some bigger things in this game from a team perspective and try to get better every years as an individual."
Stamkos won't have to feel like he has to repeat the 60-goal performance, especially considering the shortened season will likely have just 48-50 games. He said his goals are to stay consistent offensively, while becoming a more all-around player.
"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," Stamkos said. "To be out there, taking a faceoff, being on the penalty kill, just be an all-around player. 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 ot learn and go through that process my first four years. It doesn't just happen overnight."
Stamkos knows the team won't automatically gain perfect chemstry overnight, or be game-ready, but they have to do their best in a compressed schedule. In Thursday's more than hour-long skate, there were early drills - directed by St. Louis - and then a controlled scrimmage, with players trying to get used to their new teammates.
Most of the Lightning team is there, with Stamkos, Nate Thompson and Brian Lee joining Tuesday. D Victor Hedman and G Anders Lindback are scheduled to arrive Tuesday night and could join the team in its skate Wednesday in Brandon. According to the league, training camps will start Sunday, although it's unclear where the Lightning will hold theirs.
"The goal of the whole organization is to get back to the playoffs," Stamkos said. "You saw what we did a couple years ago, you just have to get in and things can happen. That's the motto this year, we want to be a playoff team."
-- JOE SMITH