The Debate: Is Steven Stamkos The Best Player In The NHL?

The best in the game? Maybe.

So correct me if I’m wrong or a little misguided here… but at some point when we going to realize that Steven Stamkos might be better than Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin?

As crazy as that sounds, as much hype that has been placed around Sid the kid and Alex the great (and rightfully so) maybe we’re wrong about whom the best player in the game is.

It’s kind of hard to prove this point especially when Crosby and Ovechkin play in highly popular sports towns that obsess over their stars and teams while Stamkos plays in the strip club capital of the world. However, if you’ve ever gotten the chance to watch Stamkos play then you understand possibly where I’m coming from.

He is the league’s leading scorer in goals and points while leading the Lightning to a surprising start at the top of the Southeast division ahead of everyone’s Stanley Cup favorite Washington Capitals who are led by Ovechkin. Stamkos’s offensive output is overshadowing one of the league’s most dismal goaltending situations as the Bolts are 20th in the NHL in goals allowed at 3 per game. He’s also carrying a team that is getting little to no production from Ryan Malone, Simon Gagne and high priced center Vinnie Lecavalier.

Stamkos’s production is similar to LeBron James with the Cavaliers, one supremely talented player who is carrying a bunch of scrubs (except Martin St. Louis who is quietly putting together another solid season) and making the entire team look better.

Conversely look at Pittsburgh and Washington.

Coincidence that Stevie Y's hiring has lead to the Lightning's first place start?

In Pittsburgh, Crosby leads his team in scoring but is getting lots of help from Evgeni Malkin and defensemen Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski. Also Goaltender Brent Johnson is saving their goaltending situation with his 5-1 start and a 1.70 GAA while Marc-Andre Fleury is floundering (which reminds me, is it time for the Pens to give up on Fleury? He was terrible against the Habs last playoffs and has never truly been a consistent goalie. Sure he was great in their Cup run in 2009 but that was after a rocky regular season. I wonder if Mario Lemieux might be doing some shopping for a backstop before the trade deadline). Crosby has a great supporting cast around him which has helped the Pens to a second place standing in the Atlantic.

Let’s not even start with Ovechkin’s help. Alex Semin is getting better yearly (tied with Ovie in goals with 7) they’ve got one of the best passing centers in the game in Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich is having a breakout season with a +8. As great as Ovechkin is, and as exciting I’m starting to get the feeling that his teammates are catching up to him the production department (which actually may speak volumes about Ovie’s affect on the team. Before it was the Ovechkin show with Mike Green riding shotgun and Backstrom right behind. Now I think everyone’s following balls to the wall way of playing. There’s nothing finesse about these guys anymore, Semin goes hard, so do Laich, Tomas Fleischman and others. Maybe after last season’s playoff disappointment the entire team got the message of maybe it’s time to play hard all the time instead of in spots. Hmmmm, Ovechkin becoming a great leader, who’d a thunk it?).

Crosby and Ovechkin are at a greater advantage than Stamkos. Stamkos is on a young team that really has no great defenseman, underachieving forwards and questions in goal. Yet Steve is coming out every night and controlling the action on the ice and leading the charge as if he doesn’t care. Maybe he’s under the influence of new Lightning VP and one of the game’s great captain’s Steve Yzerman. Yzerman’s hard work ethic and leadership was the sole reason that the Red Wings became the league’s flagship team in the last 20 years and its continued even in his absence with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and others in Detroit.

Stamkos, though he wears no C or A might also be following Yzerman’s way of game play. He’s scoring goals at the same clip but now his passing his better and his defense is improving with a +9 rating which is a vast improvement over his combined -15 from his first two years in the league. He’s getting faster, stronger and just plain better with each game. I know the Lightning have been cooling on the idea of trading Lecavalier but why not? Getting Stamkos a center or wing that can get a few goals to help out would be huge for him and the Bolts. Stamkos is light years beyond Vinnie already and the Bolts don’t need a lame duck center as the team’s captain. You gotta wonder if a few years ago the Lightning wish that they would’ve traded him instead of Brad Richards who is also an early MVP candidate for the Dallas Stars.

Just take the time out this year to watch Steven Stamkos and you’ll understand what all of the fuss is about. I picked him to win MVP this year and he’s not disappointing early on. He’s got the Lightning playing with great confidence and at a high level while leading by example. He also has them ahead of Crosby and Ovechkin’s teams respectively while beating the both of them in the scoring race. I might be wrong in thinking he’s better than those two, the numbers ain’t lying. 91 is greater than 87 or 8.

 

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