So we know that the Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens will soon be tearing into each other in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs (TM). Home ice will come down to the final games for each team, but regardless of where the first game is played, there will be a lot to talk about when this thing gets started.
Remember how super-awesome the Lightning's 2011 playoff run was? Remember those fantastic performances by the Lightning's gutsy veterans, like Dwayne Roloson, Martin St.Louis, Dominic Moore, and a whole bunch of other guys who are either now retired or play for the Rangers? (same thing, right? OOOO, he went there).
Anyway, GM Steve Yzerman has completely rebuilt the lineup since that playoff run, and most of the veteran leadership from that group is gone. Brewer is still here. Malone remains, albeit the's not likely to see much action after Saturday morning's incident..
And there's the new captain. Stamkos. Steven Stamkos. The laid-back wunderkind. Is he GRIT? Is he LEADERSHIP? I decided to ask the Raw Charge crew and the Bolt-o-Sphere what they think about the Lightning's leadership situation leading into the playoffs.
Keeping in mind that the Lightning have shed key members of the leadership core from three years ago, and they have a lineup loaded with youth, what do you expect from new captain Steven Stamkos with regards to leadership in the playoffs? Or thoughts on the leadership core in general to support him?
Clark Brooks, Staff writer, Ridiculously Inconsistent Trickle of Consciousness, @clarkbrooks.
I hate equating sports with war because it's silly. However, I'm fine with equating sports with silly war movies. Dave Andreychuk was like Clint Eastwood in "Heartbreak Ridge", whereas Stamkos is more like Patrick Swayze in "Red Dawn". He's not the grizzled old vet who has been there and done that and can get unruly youngsters to fall in line via force of will. He's got exactly one playoff run(albeit a long and memorable one) under his belt and he's the leader of a group that is pretty much the same age as him. As such, his inventory of leadership tricks and tools is going to be limited. He'll be most effective as a leader if he can convey the message of "we're all in this together so let's fight for each other" since he can't really say "follow me, this is the way things are done". Stamkos is talented and affable. I don't see why that approach can't work.
If there’s a player in the NHL who can take being thrust into his team’s captaincy without much warning and turn it into a positive, it’s Steven Stamkos. It’s my view that a captain should be someone who is respected by opponents, admired by teammates, and valued around the hockey community. Steven Stamkos is all of those things.
The question specifically asks what I expect from Stamkos with regards to leadership in the playoffs. Quite frankly, I expect big things. The best part is that I believe Stamkos has the ability to deliver on my lofty expectations. As one of the players on the Lightning roster who experienced that surprising 2011 run, Stamkos has had a small taste of playoff success. After missing so much time this season and fighting so hard to get back, you just know that Stamkos wants to lead his team to great things once the postseason starts up. He’s leading a Lightning team that has been eager to show that it can overcome any kind of adversity all year long.
It’s pretty clear that I think Stamkos is a great leader for this Lightning club, but I’m not naïve enough to say that he’s perfect. He’s still a very young player with a lot to learn. That will come with time. The great thing about this Bolts squad is that Stamkos is surrounded by a number of great veteran voices who have been there and done that. Guys like Eric Brewer, Matt Carle, Nate Thompson, and Ryan Callahan, among others, have a wealth of different experiences behind them. The leadership core assembled by Steve Yzerman and Jon Cooper is a diverse one. Coupling these guys with the youthful exuberance that Steven Stamkos embodies could be a recipe for some pretty special things.
Given all the challenges this team has dealt with this year, from the Stamkos injury, to the St. Louis trade, to this new Bishop injury, I don’t know that we’d be looking at a playoff team if it weren’t for great leadership in that room. The 2013-14 postseason will just give this group another chance to surprise the hockey world.
Cassie McClellan, Raw Charge Senior Writer, @dagmar27.
It's no secret that three or four years ago, I did not consider Stamkos to be captain material. But now that he's matured and he's taken on that role, I have actually been very impressed with his leadership abilities so far. He has definitely learned his lessons well from Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis - and I think he has exceeded their examples, in fact.
So I have no worries in regards to his leadership during playoffs. When the Lightning have been down in games, he's helped rally the troops to a comeback. Not just by scoring, but also by how he just oozes authority on the ice and on the bench - and probably in the locker room as well. He's become the leader this team can depend upon no matter what.
Regarding the guys wearing the "A" - Stamkos's supporting cast, as it were - I think they all do a good job. But I also think that the younger TampaCuse guys have also stepped up. Maybe if they had a much older captain, they wouldn't be involved in the leadership aspect of the team. But despite Stamkos having been in the NHL for six seasons now, he's actually the same age as a lot of those guys. So players like Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson may feel more comfortable speaking up than they otherwise would.
Unlike a lot of teams seem to be, the Lightning appear to have a larger group willing to help out with leadership than most. And if they're all on the same page - as they seem to be - then that can only be a good thing. Stamkos may lead the way, but any number of players will back him up on that.
John Fontana, El Generalissmo Supremo de Raw Charge, @Johnny_fonts.
I can’t say exactly how well Stamkos will handle leadership responsibilities in the playoffs, but I’m not concerned about it so much going forward; the guy was groomed as a central part of leadership the past few years, playing and working close with the old guard (Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.) He knows what needs to be done, and he’s personally fought through pain to play in his only playoff experience in the NHL (2011) so he can set an example there.
The leadership core also can boast enough experience to soothe concerns; Eric Brewer went to the Stanley Cup finals with Edmonton in 2005-06, Matt Carle was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers who always pushed into the playoffs, Nate Thompson is the only one who’s past doesn’t touch on many experiences. And let’s not forget former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan is in the mix now in Tampa; he may not wear an "A" but he’s got a voice in the room.
And the kids… the kids… Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Alex Killorn, Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio and even Keith Aulie have pushed for the Calder Cup in the AHL (and won it once). J.T. Brown was part of last season’s push for the Calder in Syracuse too. Yes, the AHL playoffs is not the NHL playoffs, but it’s an experience that they may draw from going forward. They’re not neophytes is my point, they may be rookies and second year players but they’ve experience a challenge comparable to the NHL playoffs that will only help them.
Personally, I think that Steven Stamkos is well on his way to being the leader that this team needs.
I have noticed on numerous occasions, none as prevalent as when Lightning defenseman Mike Kostka was injured. Stamkos was incredibly quick to react, alerting the Lightning medical team that they had a player in need of assistance, skating out on the ice with the medical team, and making sure that our player was attended to.
One of the best things about Stamkos is that he understands what it’s like to be a young guy in this organization. Heck, he himself is only 24 years old. This gives him an advantage that some of the veteran presence just doesn’t have, the ability to relate to some of the younger guys and help them through any rough patches they may be having.There is one thing that is going to be essential if the Lightning want to find themselves in the later rounds of the post season. Stamkos is going to have to stay strong when it comes to each player being held personally responsible for their play. If they make a mistake, then they need to own up to it and work to not have the same thing happen again.
If the Bolts start to fall into bad habits, like taking unnecessary penalties, then they are going to find themselves in a position that they may not be able to work themselves out of.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has everything they need to be successful. They have loyalty, heart, skill, and most of all determination. The only thing that they need to do in order to be successful is head out on the ice focused and ready to play and do what we all know they can do…win.
As always, tell us what you think in the comments below. And enjoy the playoffs!