The Lightning failed Steven Stamkos — at first.
That is the view of former Tampa Bay general manager Jay Feaster, who said the team should have better prepared the 18-year-old rookie for the NHL.
Had it been diligent, Feaster said, perhaps Stamkos would not have endured a tumultuous first few months of his career, when there was legitimate concern about his physical strength and then-coach Barry Melrose did not want him on the team.
"It was one of those things that were dropped in terms of the transition," Feaster said, referring to the sale of the team in June 2008 from Palace Sports & Entertainment to Oren Koules and Len Barrie.
"There's no doubt in my mind, if we had been doing business as usual, if it had been what it always was under (Palace Sports owner Bill Davidson), priority No. 1 for us would have been a strength and conditioning program, and it would have been monitored on a three-times-a-week basis."
Feaster, now the assistant GM for the Flames, was a casualty of the sale, forced to resign July 11, 2008, about two weeks after Stamkos was drafted No. 1 overall. It was a busy time with new owners and new management coming on board, and Feaster said he understands how a player's training habits could fall through the cracks.
"Because the expectation is he's training," Feaster said. "He knows he's going to be a first-year pro."
On the other hand, Stamkos was the top pick in the draft, so Tampa Bay had a reason to be engaged.
"And if you go back and look, the one thing we said was, an issue is this guy's strength, and I'm not sure how much attention was paid to it," Feaster said. "It's not fair the kid is the one who ultimately is deemed that he doesn't belong in the league."
That is why Feaster gave high marks to Stamkos' second coach, Rick Tocchet, who put the player on a strength and video study program that kick-started Stamkos, now a premiere player.
"He understood what the issue was," Feaster said of Tocchet. "He wasn't going to give the kid anything, but he recognized what Steven had to do to make the adjustment.
"Then the credit belongs to the player, because the player said, 'I'm going to be serious about this, and I'm going to get stronger in the weight room.' "