August 15, 2008
"He's one of the most beautiful skaters I've ever seen. I hate to use the word beautiful in hockey, but skating ability like that, you're eyes are drawn to him on the ice." - Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Barry Melrose, Lightning Strikes
That stalker-ish quote came from a chat Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times had with Melrose about Steven Stamkos, the Bolts' top pick in the 2008 Draft and a player expected to make an impact in his first NHL season.
More interestingly from Cristodero was a discussion yesterday about what to expect from Stamkos in his rookie season:
No one is comparing him to Sidney Crosby. He certainly was the best player in the draft, but I can't find any credible "expert" who believes Stamkos is going to put up 100 points. Having said that, though, there is plenty of evidence he is going to be a useful player, and he'll have to be when taking over the second line. Remember, the original plan was to have Stamkos anchor a third line and bump him up occasionally until he got acclimated to the NHL game. But then Jeff Halpern got hurt and, well, all of a sudden, Stamkos' learning curve needed to be a lot shorter.
Dave MacQueen, Stamkos' coach at OHL Sarnia, said for a story we did before the draft that he believes 25 goals and 60 points is not out of the question for Stamkos, who likely will start camp playing with wings Ryan Malone and Radim Vrbata.
That's a slightly better caliber of linemate than most rookie centers start with; one could argue that Stamkos will have more stability than Patrick Kane did last season playing with Tuomo Ruutu and Jonathan Toews.
Speaking of Kane, here are the offensive "No. 1 number ones" since 1998, and how they faired in their rookie seasons:
• Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (2007) -- 82 Games, 21-51-72
• Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (2005) -- 81 Games, 39-63-102
• Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (2004) -- 81 Games, 52-54-106
• Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets (2002) -- 74 Games, 17-22-39
• Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers (2001) -- 65 Games, 29-22-51
• Patrick Stefan, Atlanta Thrashers (1999) -- 72 Games, 5-20-25
• Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning (1998) 82 Games, 13-15-28 (Yikes.)
Former Bolts GM Jay Feaster nearly took my head off for suggesting that the massive marketing Tampa's been doing for Stamkos may have unfairly raised expectations for him. But based on what those in his situation have done, would the "Seen Stamkos?" marketing campaign be worth it for a 39-point season?
No one's expecting the forces-of-nature first seasons of Crosby or Ovechkin. No one's expecting a 72-point, Calder Trophy campaign like Kane had last season. I think everyone's assuming he'll be better than Vinny's 28 points back in his rookie year; especially Vinny.
But what's a reasonable point total for Stamkos in Year One, playing on the second line? What's the number that justifies the promotional stickers on parking signs and dogs? And what number does he have to reach in order for his rookie season not to be considered a disappointment?
Judging from the recent rookie years: 20 goals would be a gift, but 50 points is the absolute minimum for Stamkos. Should be an interesting Calder race.