For Stamkos, schooling with paper and pen
We'll have what is a pretty interesting story on this in Saturday's paper to advance rookie Steven Stamkos playing in the YoungStars three-on-three showcase in Montreal, but thought it was worth touching on a few points here.
You all recall the "process" that was announced in which Stamkos would be scratched occasionally to watch and learn and put into an amped-up workout program to sturdy-up his 6-foot, 180-pound frame. And it has started to show some results as Stamkos has two goals and four points in his past four games. The most interesting part, though, is that Stamkos is expected to take notes in the press box when he is scratched. That's right, jot down stuff on paper that he can take into the next day's "classroom" session with assistant Wes Walz.
Walz, 38, who played 13 NHL seasons, said the sessions include video, not only of the game in which Stamkos was scratched but if games in which he played.
"The one thing I told Steven was I'm going to do everything I can to help him. But I'm going to be honest with him, really honest, bluntly honest," Walz said. "I think he needs to hear some of the things that other guys won't say. Hopefully, I can build a relationship with him that he respects me. I know there's going to be days when he's (mad) at me, but that's okay, too."
Stamkos said the skull session have really helped. He spokes about just stopping in front of the net in the offensive zone, something that helped him score that big goal against the Stars. He also talked about supporting the wings low in the defensive zone and maintaining positioning in the middle of the defensive zone when the puck is at the point. "If any pucks went through, you're there," he said.
The question, though is whether Stamkos, knowing what the Lightning had in store for him (he was scratched twice in the past seven games), would have wanted to be freed up for two weeks to play for Canada in the junior world championship?
"It's tough to look back on it now," he said. "It would have been a fun experience for me and maybe a little bit of a confidence boost when things weren't going well. I wasn't playing that much, wasn't playing that well heading into there. Who knows what would have happened? You never know with injuries and stuff. It could have been a disaster, it could have worked out great. So, it's tough to comment on that. They really didn't need me there, they won the gold medal. They had a great team and it was great to see what they accomplished. It's done and over with. I'm just focusing on my game now."
Coach Rick Tocchet said there was brief discussion about letting Stamkos play.
"But we felt that it would be better for him being here in the environment of practicing and stuff we were supplying him," Tocchet said.