Steven Stamkos says 'more urgency' needed from core group
Lightning star Steven Stamkos has started what he called "a long summer" after the team for the second straight season finished out of the playoffs.
The center had a fine season. His 29 goals and 57 points were second in the league. Still, he called 2012-13 "a dark year" and put the onus on the core grpoup of players to increase its ugency and consistency to get Tampa Bay back to the postseason.
Stamkos, 23, isn't quite done with hockey as he is playing for Canada at the world championship in Sweden and Finland. He took some time to talk to reporters before he left.
On his emotions about the season: Disappointment, we’ve been in this situation before. It’s not fun. You play to be in the playoffs at this time of the year. That’s what you work hard throughout the season to do. It’s extremely disappointing not only from a team perspective but as an individual. You always feel like you can do more when the team is not winning. It will be a long summer. But there’s only so many times you can sit here and have the same conversation. It gets old really quick and we don’t want to be in this position next year. We addressed that as a team. It’s been pretty patient around here the last couple of years. We’re kind of running out of that time, so next year is going to be a huge year for this team.
On what is needed: Consistency and maybe a little more urgency at the end of the day for the guys who were here when we had that run, to have that feeling of being in the playoffs and once you get in not knowing what to expect because anything can happen. That’s the feeling you want. We’ve got to get back to there. We realize, having that experience, when we get back to the playoffs, everybody is going to know how to react and, for me, what to expect and that’s what we want.
On getting back to the postseason: You never know when you’re going to have an opportunity to get in the playoffs. I mean, look, we went to the conference final early in my career (2011). You think you’re going to be in the playoffs again and be able to have that chance again. Now, it’s two years in a row you’re not in the playoffs. You don’t even get to play one game. That’s the crazy thing about this sport. You never know when you’re going to get a chance to be in the playoffs again let alone get to the conference finals or get to the finals. So, every year you waste is a wasted opportunity in my eyes. Hopefully, I do have a lot of years left to go and win it. There have been a lot of good players in this league that have never even come close. That’s the sad reality of our game.
On being frustrated: Oh, for sure. I mean, like I said, we don’t play to be having this conversation in April. You play to have it in June holding that silver shiny thing, so it’s extremely disappointing. No matter the years all of us had individually, it means nothing.
On if the last two years have been squandered: Yeah, you want to be scoring those goals in the playoffs. It’s nice to have a good season but it’s even nicer when you’re helping the team win, that’s when it feels good. We talked about this with Marty (St. Louis) winning the Art Ross. It is a positive in a down year, but if you ask him he’d much rather do that in a year we win.
On the team's window of opportunity: That’s just the reality of where people are in their career paths and where we are as a team. We know we have the talent in here. We show it in spurts, but it’s that consistency. It’s about the willingness to win, everyone, myself included. Obviously, we have to be a lot better in that department if we’re going to be in the playoffs. That’s something we all have to look in the mirror this summer.
On if the team is far off: No, I mean, but, again, how many times can we keep saying that? Obviously, we know there are going to be some changes. You’re never going to have exactly the same guys year after year. You can make some changes but it’s still going to fall on the core guys that have been here the past couple of years who were there when we were winning and are third to last in the league now. The ownership, management and coaching staff, there’s been an element of patience that, frankly, I know there won’t be next year. There’s no more time to talk about what-ifs, we need this, we need that, it’s up to us next year and I’m definitely part of that group.
On players being committed: To a certain extent everyone has to be accountable, and whatever we did this year wasn’t good enough. We can’t say it any other way. It wasn’t acceptable. We didn’t make the playoffs so no one can really be happy. No one should be leaving today thinking we, I, had a good year. Unless you’re in the playoffs you didn’t have a good year.
On excitement about the draft: When it’s all said and done, the positive is you are going to get a high pick, if you decide to take that pick, so it’s a positive. I heard about the top couple of guys who are up for the draft and they are very skilled. Whether they can make an impact right away, you know you’re going to get a skilled player when you’re drafting in the top five, so that’s something that I guess is a positive.
On what might happen this summer: If you ask ownership and management, they’re going to tell you that they’re trying to get the best players possible to win. They’re accountable for that just like we’re accountable to go out and play hard and win. Everyone is accountable in this organization and we’re all on the same page in that regard, so whatever does happen this summer, whether it’s trade or free agents or the draft, everything is to improve this team and most likely to improve this team now.
On next season's difficult division: Yeah, we know it’s going to be tougher. That’s a division when you look at it, the teams that were in the playoffs this year we’re going to have to beat out. It's not going to be easy by any means. We realize we do have the team that can compete for those playoffs. It’s a little different situation next year with the division, and our travel is going to be a little longer, But those are all the back-pocket excuses we’ve been talking about the last couple of years. There’s going to be an expiration date on all those and hopefully it’s next year.
On improving his game: You want to be able to do everything. If you’re not improving, if you don’t want to improve, if you think you don’t have to improve, then you’re never going to get better. For me, obviously, I know and expect myself to produce offensively, but I want to be even more accountable on the other side of the rink. There were times this year, you go through stretches when you feel like you’re on the ice for every goal against. Sometimes it’s not your fault but sometimes it is and you have to look at that as a collective group thing. That has been the Achilles heel of our entire team the last few years. We scored enough goals to win. It’s a commitment from everyone. I need to look in the mirror. Sometimes you do find yourself cheating and find yourself hoping and you can’t. At the end of the day, if you want to win, it’s not about the I’s in here. It’s about winning as a team. That’s something, for sure, I’m guilty of sometimes. As an offensive player you want to produce, but you have to be accountable at both ends of the rink.
On his postseason emotions: It’s not fun when we’re sitting her talking about the what-ifs and what could have been and next year. We have five months before this group is going to be back together playing a regular-season NHL game. That’s half a year. That’s crazy when you think about that. It’s very frustrating. It’s not fun and you’re pissed off for sure. You look at the teams that are in the playoffs and think how you could match up against them. There's just so many thoughts that go through your head when you’re sitting down watching the playoffs. It’s definitely not where you want to be.
On Marty St. Louis winning the points championship: Oh, for sure, everyone is proud of that accomplishment. I keep saying it doesn’t surprise anyone in this room. It might surprise some people who don’t get to see him every day or see the work ethic that he has. You look at Marty and you don’t say he’s 37 years old. He doesn’t have that personality he doesn’t have that, ‘Hey, I’m getting old I’m just going to finish out my career here.’ You would never know he won anything. He’s always hungry for more and that’s why he’s the player and the person that he is. It’s definitely a bright spot in a dark year, but you ask him, he’d trade that for sure.
On what his legacy might be: For me at the end of the day when I look back at whatever time I’m done playing this game, if I don’t have a Stanley Cup ring then it’s incomplete. That’s what you play the game for, for a chance to win a championship with all these guys that you work so hard with. That’s the end goal. You want a chance. If you don’t give yourself a chance you’re never going to win. You’re never going to score a goal if you don’t shoot, little things like that.