Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos: "People are going to expect a lot"
If Tampa Bay Lightning star center Steven Stamkos, 20, feels overwhelmed by his second-season success, he did not sound like it during his exit interview. Earning the Rocket Richard Trophy by tying Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby with a league-best 51 goals. Finishing fifth in the league with 95 points. Putting together a team-record 18-game points streak during which former coach Rick Tocchet said Stamkos might have been among the best players in the game. It all adds up to a lot of expectations for next season, though he has to first get through the May 7-23 world championship, playing for Team Canada.
On his season: It's a pretty special time for me, individually. Obviously, you'd much rather be in the playoffs, but it was nice to get the 50th goal, and the icing on the cake to tie for the Richard with Crosby. I would never have dreamt this day would come so early in my career. But at the same time, a lot of hard work is paying off, as is the opportunity to play with some great players this year and the opportunity by the coaching staff. I just tried to take advantage of it.
On setting a high bar: It is. It's tough. But this makes you a better player, challenging yourself. The bar has been set, and people are going to expect a lot, and I expect a lot from myself again. It makes you just work even harder to get to the next level. Consistency is important in this league, and that's something you strive for.
On the firings of coach Rick Tocchet and GM Brian Lawton: It's a tough time for them and a tough time for me. Rick was a lot of help in my career here. He was the one who gave me the opportunity; Brian as well. It's a tough time. It's a bittersweet time. But we have to look at it in regards to the future of the team. Obviously, (owner Jeff) Vinik thought this was the best approach to go about it, to have a clean slate and be focused for next season, and it starts right now. That's the business of the game. It's tough for the guys who are being let go. But for me, personally, I have to thank them for all the hard work they put into making me a better player and a better person. They are a big part of my hockey career.
On a difficult period for the team: It's tough right now. We just went through it. The process is just beginning. Mr. Vinik explained to us he's on the lookout, and he's going to do his due diligence before making any decisions (on a CEO and GM). Obviously, you'd like to have everything wrapped up before the draft, and I think that's his goal as well. I think everyone has been through this situation once or twice in their careers and know how to handle it. It's definitely a tough time for the people involved, but for us, we're focusing on getting a bit of relaxation time right now and getting back to friends and family. It's probably the least thing on our minds right now.
On playing next season for his third coach in three years: I think it does have an effect. There's a comfort level there with a coach and your surroundings and your teammates. We definitely have to have a relationship with your coach, and I had a great one with Rick. He respected me and I respected him. He gave me a big opportunity and I'm thankful for that. Now, you have to make that first impression again. It's part of the game, though. It's not something that's an uncharted territory, but you have to make another impression. We'll cross that path when the time comes.