The Tampa Bay Lightning are a mess at the moment, and with all the negative media attention surrounding the team at the moment regarding their poor play so far this season, and the controversy surrounding Barry Melrose’s short tenure with the club, I have to think that getting one of their future stars out of that toxic environment for a short time could only be a good thing.
Steven Stamkos will be a star in this league some day, but despite showing flashes of his potential, he is clearly not there yet. Few rookies can come in at such a young age and have an immediate impact. Guys like Dale Hawerchuk, Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby have managed it, yes. But look at Joe Thornton and Vincent Lecavalier as examples of superstar players who didn’t exactly light the league on fire in their respective rookie seasons.
Stamkos would have to set the league on fire from here on out to have a shot at the Calder trophy, and he doesn’t look prepared to do that. Instead he will continue to toil fruitlessly, along with his teammates, on a club that looks destined to potentially finish dead last in the league.
So why didn’t the Tampa Bay Lightning offer up Stamkos’ services to the Canadian World Junior team? The two week, high intensity tournament would have been a great confidence booster for the young star forward. Look at the impact it had on Patrice Bergeron’s game the year he went when the NHL lockout was on. Bergeron didn’t snub the chance because he was already an NHL player. He seized the opportunity and was a key figure on arguably the best Canadian World Junior team ever assembled. The confidence he gained during those two short weeks was evident upon his return to the NHL next season. Stamkos could experience that same confidence boost and could turn around what has so far been a disappointing rookie campaign.
Management in Tampa Bay should take a page out of the Detroit Red Wings’ handbook. The Wings develop their players slowly, and are rewarded in the end. By heaping too much on Stamkos too soon the Lightning may just be stunting his development, and will have to wait that much longer for Stamkos to reach superstardom. He is, after all, just a kid. They should have let him be a kid, and have one last shot at the childhood fun of hockey, before the business side of the game rules his life for good.