Steven Stamkos was one of 23 Canadians who received the honour of representing Canada at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto these past few weeks, carrying out a young hockey player’s dream of one day donning the red and white maple leaf for a country that lives and breathes for the game of hockey.
Unfortunately, Stamkos’ performance at the World Cup was less than sub-par despite playing on a team filled with world-class talent to support him. The Tampa Bay Lightning must be hoping Stamkos’ play in the tournament was his way of shaking the cobwebs loose from a long summer without hockey, especially when they just finished signing the Canadian sniper to an eight-year, $68 million dollar extension over the summer to keep him in Tampa.
Stamkos will need to rebound quickly when the season begins in order to get the Lightning on track early on, knowing they’ll be playing in a much more competitive Atlantic Division than they played in last year. Games will be tougher to win, and you never want to find yourself losing points early on in the year, meaning Tampa will be leaning on their captain early to drive the ship in the right direction.
Stamkos’ Numbers at the World Cup
Stamkos played in all six of Canada’s games at the World Cup (not including pre-tournament exhibition games), playing a majority of the tournament with John Tavares on his opposite wing and either Ryan Getzlaf or Jonathan Toews down the middle at center. He also saw substantial time on the power play, often times being used on the team’s first PP unit by head coach Mike Babcock in order to generate some scoring, something Stamkos has been known to do.
Unfortunately, the scoring never came as Stamkos was able to register just one goal in the tournament, struggling to find the back of the net until the first game of the best-of-three final against Europe. The goal itself wasn’t spectacular on Stamkos’ part either, as Ryan Getzlaf did the majority of the work by stripping Zdeno Chara of the puck on an attempted breakout play, then sliding the puck over to Stamkos for an easy tap-in goal on Europe’s netminder Jaroslav Halak.
Stamkos finished the tournament with that one lone goal on 15 shots, earning a 6.7% shooting average. To put that into perspective, the worst shooting percentage of his career (excluding his rookie campaign) came in 2014-15 when he had 43 goals on 268 shots, earning a shooting percentage of 16%. Although the games played in comparison are out of perspective, it reflects Stamkos’ ability to score and how he was unable to do so on the World stage. In addition to Stamkos’ lone goal, he added one assist to his total to finish the tournament with just two points in six games.
Stamkos Needs to Lead Cup Run
Tampa Bay is hoping Stamkos used the World Cup of Hockey to find his game before the NHL season started so that he’ll be back to form with the Lightning when they open their season against the Detroit Red Wings at Amalie Arena Oct. 13.
Last season Stamkos played 77 games with the Lightning, recording 36 goals and 64 points with a plus-3 rating. Stamkos will enter his third full season as Tampa’s captain, leading a team that seems to be legitimate Stanley Cup contenders after making solid runs at the Cup the last two seasons.
Tampa Bay managed to make the Stanley Cup Final in 2014-15 before losing in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. They then made a return to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, losing to the eventual Cup winners the Pittsburgh Penguins in a close seven-game series. Tampa will be looking at their captain to take the next step forward with the team now that he’s locked up for the foreseeable future and most of the team is returning from their last two playoff runs. Their window seems to be closing with a number of new players needing new contracts after this season and their salary cap nearing the ceiling, so this may be the team’s last chance at taking a run at Lord Stanley’s Cup altogether.
Stamkos will need to up his game from what he put on display at the World Cup of Hockey for the sake of the Lightning’s season, as one of the main reasons he stayed in Tampa Bay was to bring another championship to the city, with this next season possibly being their best chance at doing so. Tampa will look at Stamkos to be a key player in their next playoff run, as the playoffs haven’t treated ‘Stammer’ so well in the past and they’ll need him to shake that trend in order to beat the NHL’s elite.
Stamkos will be looking to rebound after the World Cup.The question is, how fast can he do it?
4th year Sport Management student at Brock University.