The answer to the question, “Who is Stamkos’ favorite player?” brings back a couple of different answer. Wendel Clark pops up. So does Steve Yzerman, which is kind of awkward now that Mr. Yzerman is his GM. However, there is one player that Stamkos mentions a few times - Joe Sakic.
Joe Sakic’s final NHL game was played on on November 28th, 2009. A back injury forced him to miss the Colorado Avalanche’s game the next day. Their opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sakic’s bad back, which would force him to retire at the end of the season, cost a young, 18-year-old rookie by the name of Steven Stamkos the chance to take the ice against the favorite player of his youth.
Perhaps knowing that his idol was in the building jumpstarted Stamkos as he broke a 14-game goalless streak that night in Colorado. His power play goal at the 15:31 mark brought the Lightning to within one goal of the Avalanche, but they couldn’t find the equalizer against Andrew Raycroft and fell to 6-10-7 in the 4-3 loss.
Sakic’s Hall of Fame career came to rather inglorious end that season. A herniated disc in his back had cost him almost 40 games the previous season. He managed to put up 12 points in 15 games in 2008-09 but re-injured the back while lifting weights in early November. Then while injured he managed to break three fingers in his left hand clearing out a snow machine.
It’s easy to see why Stamkos would look up to Sakic. A six-year old Stamkos, just starting out as a young hockey player would be wowed by a 120-point season by the smooth-skating British Columbian. A lynchpin to the mid-to-late 90s Avalanche teams, Sakic was a scoring machine when he was healthy. Even in the dead puck era, Sakic topped 100 points three times, running shotgun with Peter Forsberg with the Colorado teams that were constantly finishing atop the old Northwestern Division.
It isn’t a surprise that Stamkos would pattern his game after Sakic. During the 2008 draft Stamkos referred to Sakic as his favorite player because, “he is so smart out there. He’s a great leader and he makes all his teammates better.”
As his career has progressed, Stamkos has continued to follow in the footsteps of Sakic. He has gone from phenom to respected veteran leader. His leadership style is similar as well. Both are quiet leaders, more likely to take a teammate to task behind closed doors. Nor will they go out of their way to say or do anything outlandish.
On the ice, Sakic edges him out pointwise, with multiple 100 point seasons, a barrier that Stamkos has yet to break. The Lightning center has matched his boyhood idol with two 50+ goal seasons, and one-upped him by scoring 60 in a season, something Sakic never accomplished.
Both players are also fairly loyal to their organizations. There was a flirtation for Sakic when the Rangers signed him to an offer sheet, but he stayed with the Avalanche for his entire 20 seasons in the NHL. With the way he’s going, Stamkos is going to spend at least 16 years with the Lightning, and when this contract expires he should still be in pretty good shape. It’s not inconceivable that he could spend 20 years in a Lightning uniform. If he does, how close to Sakic’s numbers will he get? Goals he should pass him with no problems. Assists? Well that could be a problem, it’s not likely Stamkos is getting 1,000 helpers.
No matter what the final numbers are, if Stamkos finishes his career with the same comparisons to Sakic that he started with, then Lightning fans will be pretty happy.