Training camps aren’t here yet, but many players got back on the ice – or at least back on the ice with media members around – for the first time in ages on Saturday.
It’s no surprise, then, that the optimism is running high among returning NHL players on Tuesday. Even by that standard, Steven Stamkos‘ feedback is remarkably positive, right down to him expecting to participate in Tampa Bay Lightning training camp with “no restrictions.”
As Stamkos told reporters including the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith, he realizes after years of puzzling injury woes and even surgery, that he doesn’t totally know what “100 percent is” any longer. There’s a certain weariness that comes from being a savvy veteran of injury/surgery rehabs, yet his excitement also seems palpable.
Maybe to the point that it might make it difficult for some to ignore the advice of PHT’s Cam Tucker in tempering expectations for the kind of player Stamkos can be in 2017-18.
Smith also transcribed some of Stamkos’ enthusiastic takes:
“I mean, it takes time,” Stamkos said. “Anytime you’re out for as long as I was, it’s going to take some time to get adjusted back to game speed. Nothing replicates a game until you get in that situation. Once you do that, then you’ll know how your body feels. When you go through something like that you have to find a way to put yourself in position to feel good and still find a way to be the player you know you can be. My expectations are that I’m going to get back to that player. Hopefully it’s right away. That’s the plan. We’ll see how it goes.”
Of course, Stamkos himself admits that his competitive nature pushed him to aim for too much, too soon before. He’s bright enough to acknowledge past mistakes, yet you wonder if that fire in his belly could inspire him to fly too close to the sun again.
To some extent, there’s really only so much he can do, anyway. Just about every player, even the seemingly bionic ones like Max Pacioretty, see ups and downs when they come back from injuries.
The Lightning probably won’t be too offended if they had to “settle” for, say, 80-percent-Stamkos next season. Especially if they get that guy for close to 82 regular-season games.