They’re sold: Stamkos is as good as advertised
Even before they saw him play his first shift in a Tampa Bay sweater, the Lightning were head-over-hockey-sticks in love with Steven Stamkos. They trotted out that marketing slogan, clipped from the “Got milk?’’ ad campaign, and plastered it everywhere to rally the locals ’round the new best thing about to hit town.
Chalk one up under, “Got that right!’’
OK, so his ascent to stardom wasn’t instant, but considering the follies surrounding the club that made him the top pick in the 2008 draft, Stamkos has delivered the goods like no other prized North American prospect the last couple of decades other than Eric Lindros and Sidney Crosby.
Sure, Lindros was a much different player and considerably bigger. But the hype was very similar, although no one before or since could be compared exactly to the Lindros “package,’’ including his game and temperament and the made-in-Canada hyperbole and idolatry that he engendered. Lindros banged in 85 goals and 172 points his first two seasons with the Flyers. He was the real deal, his career cut short by equal dollops of attitude and injuries.
Crosby was also highly touted, almost in Lindros proportions, and delivered off the hop following his first overall selection in 2005. He broke 100 points each of his first two seasons and four of his first five. Unlike Lindros, he also got his name on a Stanley Cup (2009).
Stamkos, who will be in the Hub Thursday night with the Bolts, debuted during the short-lived and highly forgettable coaching tenure of Barry Melrose, who made public his opinion that Stamkos wasn’t ready for prime-time NHL hockey.
Melrose was soon gone, following a 5-7-4 start, and with Rick Tocchet in charge, Stamkos quickly emerged as a scoring savant. And by the looks of last season and this, he might turn into the No. 1 striker of his era.
Consider: Entering last night’s game against the Panthers, Stamkos has 21 goals in 23 games, a full-season pace of 75. Remember, it’s the same kid (he won’t turn 21 until Feb. 7) who tied Crosby last season for the league lead in goals (51). For those who might have lost track during the game’s dead-puck era (see: New Jersey Devils, 1990s), a 78-goal output would be the best in the NHL since Brett Hull hammered home a career-best 86 in 1990-91. Hull, by the way, was 25 when he first reached the 50-goal plateau.
Also, Stamkos was leading the league with 38 points, a pace, if maintained, that would bring him 141. Dial the Way-Back Machine again and you’ll find that would be the largest haul since Jaromir Jagr rang up 149 with the 1995-96 Penguins.
Stamkos’s take on all this? He says he’s humbled and it’s great to be mentioned with those names. Yep, straight from Chapter One of “The Book of Hockey Humility.’’ Not the stuff that has him headed for the lead segment in “Entertainment Tonight’’ or anything that will get him chased down by tmz.com. But in an era when eye-popping accomplishments often morph into the ludicrous, let’s enjoy where this show is going. It only seems right.
Former Bruin cut by CanucksEx-Bruin Peter Schaefer, who surprisingly won himself a spot on the Vancouver roster as a training camp walk-on, was waived last week and opted not to report to the Manitoba Moose (AHL).
Consider him retired again. For now. Probably.
The 33-year-old forward, according to agent Ross Gurney, has “ample opportunity’’ to play in Europe, where he previously played (brief tours in Finland and Italy prior to his short-lived Boston days). But keep in mind, Schaefer is still collecting buyout dough from the Bruins ($767,000 this season) and wife Julie is about to deliver the couple’s second child. Looks like it’s time for this one to go home (West Vancouver).
Schaefer signed a two-way deal in Vancouver, one that paid $600,000 with the varsity but a 1970s-like $105,000 in the minors. Even though $105,000 goes a long way in Winnipeg, Winnipeg was too far to go for Schaefer.
The killer for the Canucks is that they opted for Schaefer over the feistier and more productive Brendan Morrison (another September tryout), and Morrison left for a $725,000 deal with the Flames, for whom he has totals of 4-11—15 in 23 games, only 4 points off the team lead.
Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.