It may be temporary, but Steven Stamkos will start the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning as one of their alternate captains. With Mattias Ohlund out with knee problems, the 21-year-old will join Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis as members of the Lightning leadership. Not too bad for a team that has veterans like Dominic Moore, Ryan Malone, and Eric Brewer on the roster. Then again—ever since he was drafted first overall in 2008, Stamkos was supposed to be a leader as well as an elite goal scorer. And so it begins…
Lightning head coach Guy Boucher explained the rationale for selecting the young star:
“He’s earned it. We saw him become a man during the playoffs.”
There’s no question that Stamkos’ play on the ice has already made him a de facto leader on the team and one of the faces of the franchise. There’s something about averaging 48 goals over the last two seasons that has the tendency to earn the respect of teammates and opponents alike. But as Boucher mentioned, over the regular season and during the playoffs last year, Stamkos took his game to a new level—which had nothing to do with goal scoring.
Many people will remember Stamkos returning to the ice in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals after taking a shot directly to the face. He returned to the ice only minutes later after the training staff affixed a cage to his helmet and shoved cotton up his nose to temporarily stop the bleeding. He had stepped up his game over the course of the playoffs—but that one single visual of an injured Stamkos returning to the ice demonstrated that winning with his team was the number one goal.
He’ll give up the “A” when Ohlund returns from his knee injury, but don’t expect him to give up the leadership role on the team. It’s only a matter of time before Stamkos receives the alternate captain role on a permanent basis—and even more before his career is over. Obviously his goal scoring makes him an elite sniper around the league. But his offseason training and leadership qualities as a young player truly make him a guy the Lightning can build around for the future. For the first few games this season—the future is now.