LAS VEGAS — Jinx? What jinx?
As far as Lightning center Steven Stamkos is concerned, the urban legend about players on the cover of EA Sports' NHL video games having disastrous subsequent seasons has long been put to rest.
Look at Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, he said. Both had great seasons after being on the cover the past two years.
And how about Tampa Bay's Vinny Lecavalier in 2006, Washington's Alex Ovechkin in '07 and Carolina's Eric Staal in '08, each of whom were stars as cover boys?
"So, I have no worries," Stamkos said, laughing. "I'm just honored to be part of it."
The announcement that Stamkos will grace the 2012 cover was one of the more interesting stories out of Wednesday night's NHL awards show at the Palms Hotel.
It certainly was notable that Tampa Bay wing Marty St. Louis won his second straight Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship, something he called "an honor" and general manager Steve Yzerman called "tremendous."
But Stamkos' link to the video game, which brings well-deserved recognition to one of the game's brightest stars and a coincidental dark cloud similar to the one linked to John Madden's EA Sports' NFL game, did prompt some questions.
Stamkos, 21, shrugged them off, saying he is not superstitious in that way. And St. Louis said Stamkos "should not be worried, no, not at all."
Still, Philadelphia's Eric Lindros in 1998-99 sustained a collapsed lung at the end of his cover season. San Jose's Owen Nolan saw his point production fall by 35 in his cover season of 2000-01.
Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux played only 24 games because of injury in 2001-02. Calgary's Jarome Iginla was down 29 points in 2002-03, and Atlanta's Dany Heatley before his 2003-04 cover season wrapped his car around a pole in a crash that killed his passenger, teammate Dan Snyder.
On the other hand, there are Lecavalier, Ovechkin, Staal, Toews and Kane, who in five of the past six seasons turned the cover into more of a lucky charm. "Hopefully," Stamkos said, "I follow that trend."
That would be good news for Tampa Bay, which needs the unsigned Stamkos to play as he did while scoring 40 goals in his first 54 games last season, not as he did scoring five in his final 28.
Stamkos always has been a gamer. He claims he asked for the EA Sports game every year at Christmas since he was 6 and was "so excited" to buy the first version he was in. He reveled in his version, which hits stores in September, and said he is ready to take on all challengers.
"I played (Wednesday) morning, and I scored a couple of goals when the camera wasn't rolling," he said. "When it was, I think I lost the game. ... My faceoffs weren't very good, so maybe I'll take that as a hint to get better."
"I think he had an outstanding season this year," Yzerman said. "I thought he did an outstanding job in the playoffs. He did a lot of the little things and he continues to evolve as a player."
Enough to overcome any jinx.