Of all the drama that came with the final game of the regular season, one of the things often overlooked was the scoring race. The Penguins and Capitals played each other a few days before and the hype was about Crosby and Ovechkin, but now that the regular season is long dead let’s take a look at the final results.
Wait, who the hell is Steven Stamkos? Last I heard of him we were making fun of this face, now he co-owns the scoring title? When did that happen?
Let’s be honest, this was a story weeks ago. The fact that Stamkos scored 51 goals while completely flying under the radar this season is surprising, especially considering how much I follow hockey. Still, this is just about sharing a stupid trophy, right?
Wrong. Stamkos not getting a shred of ink down the stretch of the scoring race says everything about the way this league is marketed. This is a guy who put together a 95 point (51+44) season on an absolutely terrible Tampa Bay team that no one thought twice about all year. He’s a #1 draft pick that gets as much publicity as Marek Zagrapan, forgotten by the previously supportive Canadian media because of where he plays.
Still, Stamkos has put together an impressive start to his professional career on an abysmal team. Where are the stories about a superstar struggling to help a bad hockey team? Where are the buddy cop stories about St. Louis and Lecavalier showing him the ropes?
And if these things exist, why haven’t I seen them? This is a guy the league should be marketing the hell out of and we barely hear about him until he plays against the Sabres. During the last round of the playoffs CBC had Gary Roberts on during an intermission. I was blown away by two things during that segment. The first was how good an analyst Gary Roberts was, and the second was how much he helped Stamkos improve while never hearing about it. I mean, this guy won the freaking scoring title this year and I completely forgot about him.
In a league where everything becomes about the stars, where the Canadiens beating the Penguins becomes a referendum on Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos isn’t given a second look. The scoring race in the NHL was a three-dog race where the third dog was never mentioned, and that blows my mind. The Seen Stamkos? campaign is long gone, but in reality it has never been more necessary.
This isn’t about just one center, however, but about the way the league is marketed as a whole. The NHL still feels that it can emulate the NBA with its star-driven model, and so they push Crosby and Ovechkin and the like. But why is a star, let alone a budding superstar like Stamkos, left off the map?
To be honest I have no idea. Stamkos is a #1 pick in a non-traditional hockey market that has seen success on the ice in the past, why isn’t this guy being rammed down our throats the way we have seen the young talent on Chicago and Pittsburgh and Washington get force-fed? Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t this a guy who should be seen and heard from every night? The Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t exactly at the top of the heap, but at the very least shouldn’t Stamkos get top billing?