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The Bright Side of Stamkos' Outburst

Steven Stamkos didn't see the end of Saturday's game in Raleigh. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Steven Stamkos didn't see the end of Saturday's game in Raleigh. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Steven Stamkos has had one fighting major in his NHL career according to hockeyfights.com, a brief, spirited tilt with fellow young offensive player Nikolai Zherdev, and it took place on November 26, 2008-- less than two months into his NHL career, and less than two weeks after Rick Tocchet replaced Barry Melrose.

Through his first two seasons, he averaged less than half a minute per game, or a minor penalty every four games. The buzz about Stamkos has always been about his torrid scoring pace after blooming late in his rookie season, and never about his physical play.

He's doubling his penalty average so far this season, with 50 PM in 46 games played, and that's in no small part due to his 14 PM outburst in Saturday's game against the Hurricanes, when "Stammer" picked up a minor holding penalty, then an unsportsmanlike conduct minor and a ten minute misconduct for banging his stick on the glass and arguing the call.

Discussion of Stamkos' game has always focused on his offensive tools: the famous shot from the left circle, his widening array of ways to attack, and his goal-scoring races with face-of-the-league Sidney Crosby, but Saturday's outburst might point toward a new development in his game. And it might not immediately make sense to be impressed by him getting thrown out of a game for complaining to the officials, it does indicate a more visible, outspoken aspect of Stamkos' competitiveness.

It shows a fiercer aspect of his on-ice character. It's part of his growth from a sleek, quiet, media-trained young phenom, into a veteran NHLer. I'm happy to see more anger, passion and attitude on the ice.

That's not to say I'm interested in seeing a lot more bad penalties from Stamkos, or more yapping on the ice. I just think it shows more boldness, more confidence, and more comfort being a star in this league. He's growing up and becoming more emotionally engaged.

The fight against Zherdev in 2008 looked like two kids wanting to show they weren't afraid....


....The shouting in early 2011 meant the same thing.

(Nolan Whyte blogs at Frozen Sheets Hockey and tweets at @nolanwhyte)

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