- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The No. 1 Plan
BEFORE THE NHL entry draft in June, the Lightning put up billboards around the Tampa Bay area flaunting the premature marketing slogan SEEN STAMKOS? The team did subsequently land Steven Stamkos (right) with the No. 1 pick, of course, which now leads to a somewhat more intriguing question: What will Tampa Bay do with him?
At 18 Stamkos, a silky center with a humble mien and a heavy shot, is in the NHL to stay. The 6'1" 196-pounder has nothing to gain by another year in juniors, not after putting up 58 goals and 105 points in 61 games for Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League last season. "There are enormous expectations on Steven given the way [Chicago's Patrick] Kane, [Pittsburgh's Sidney] Crosby and [Washington's Alexander] Ovechkin have blown the lights out," Tampa Bay's VP of hockey operations Brian Lawton says of recent No. 1 selections, who have already won two Hart, two Art Ross, two Calder and one Rocket Richard trophy among them in seven combined seasons.
Stamkos, however, likely won't get the kind of minutes that those players got as teenagers, in large part because Tampa Bay has a superstar forward in his prime—center Vincent Lecavalier, who'll be the rookie's mentor—while Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington did not. "He might play quite a bit, and some nights not as much," Lawton says. "We'll put him in the best position to succeed."
WHEN SAN JOSE G.M. Doug Wilson interviewed Todd McLellan (right) for the Sharks' coaching job in June, he was as impressed by McLellan's answers as by his résumé, which included the 2002--03 AHL championship, although, pointedly, no NHL head coaching experience. "I had no trepidation at hiring a first-timer," Wilson said after signing McLellan, 41, to a three-year contract, "especially when you consider what [Anaheim's Randy] Carlyle and others have done in their first NHL jobs."
Carlyle, a Stanley Cup winner in his second NHL season in 2006--07, and Bruce Boudreau, a minor league coach who took over the Capitals last November and led them to the playoffs, have helped reshape the hiring mind-set. Of this season's nine new coaches, four—McLellan, Atlanta's John Anderson, Florida's Peter DeBoer and the Islanders' Scott Gordon—are on maiden voyages, even as several accomplished NHL coaches remain out of a job.
Beyond having success in the minors (or, in DeBoer's case, juniors) the coaches' familiarity with the growing number of young players on salary-capped rosters has appeal. When Boudreau took over in Washington, for example, he had eight players whom he'd coached before. "When I hired John Anderson, I got a message from [Thrashers goalie] Kari Lehtonen, who was excited because he'd had success playing for him [in the minors]," says Atlanta G.M. Don Waddell. "Ten or 11 players that'll be here came through his teams. He's new to the league, but not to us."