Red-hot Stamkos hits 40 goals


Seen Stamkos? You probably have if you’ve been looking at a list of the league’s goal scoring leaders lately.

Only two nobodies named Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin (seriously dudes, get an agent) have scored more goals this season than Steven Stamkos, who potted two goals against Atlanta to reach the 40-goal mark last night. This extends his 16 game point scoring streak, an all-time Tampa Bay Lightning record.

It hasn’t always been rosy for the 20-year old center, though. He was such a shoo-in to be the No. 1 pick of the 2008 NHL Draft that the Lightning’s marketing team began its notorious “Seen Stamkos?” street ad campaign even before the guy was drafted. The campaign became a source of derisive comedy, however, when Stamkos received limited minutes and plenty of criticism during Barry Melrose’s train wreck of a 16 game run as the team’s head coach.

With 18 games left in the regular season, Stamkos already has 76 points – 30 more than he had in his up-and-down 2008-09 campaign. He’s also completed his fair share of highlight reel goals.

That doesn’t mean that Stamkos can flaunt a flawless game, however. I asked Cassie McClellan of the Lightning blog Raw Charge to share her thoughts on some of the young forward’s flaws. (She’s definitely more professional than I am, because my critique would have revolved around the fact that he looks like a villain from an ’80s teen movie.)

“I’m in the minority with this kind of thinking, but while Steven Stamkos unquestionably has offensive talent, that’s about all he has at the moment. He’s hot and cold in the faceoff circle, he’s not much of a playmaker (that’s what he has Martin St. Louis for, after all), and he can be a defensive liability. About all you can say for him is that he’s a finisher. Granted, this is only his second year in the league, but he’s very much a one-dimensional player at this point in his career – which should change as he matures, if he gets the right coaching, but we’ll see.”

Either way, Stamkos certainly should grab the attention of opposing defenders and coaches from now on. (Get it, because he’s being seen? Don’t look at me like that.)

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?