Most Tampa Bay Lightning players will take a break from hockey to start the offseason, but Steven Stamkos said he has no plans, other than picking up where he left off at the end of this year and focusing on conditioning his surgically repaired leg.
Though Stamkos made his return to the lineup on March 6 and finished the regular season by collecting 17 points in 20 games and recording four points in four playoff contests, the Bolts captain said there is still much work to be done.
“It definitely doesn’t feel the way it did before the injury, that’s for sure,” Stamkos said.
Stamkos, who usually takes 3-4 weeks off at the completion of the season, expects the window between rest and training to pick up sooner than that due to the extent of the injury he faced.
“I want to make sure I start strengthening, especially focusing on the right leg, and getting full range of how it was feeling before the injury,” he said. “Strength-wise, it will take a good summer of training to get muscle mass back and getting explosiveness and quickness back into those muscles.
“It will be a little bit of a challenge this summer, but it needs to be done.”
The hole that Stamkos’ injury left in the lineup was the first bump in the road for the Lightning in a season that seemed to have endless challenges, but the Bolts quickly smoothed out the cracks with rookies like Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat stepping in and playing at a heightened level in his place.
Yet it was Stamkos’ first taste of adversity on an individual level, and though he suffered setbacks in his rehab, his positivity never waned. Instead. he found strength and motivation when he needed it most.
“There were so many mixes of emotions, it was tough,” Stamkos said. “But I don’t think I really sat there and felt sorry for myself.”
Already one of the most positive forces on the Lightning, of course, he did not fail to find some valuable lessons in it all.
“At the end of the day, when you look back at it all, it’s probably for the best,” Stamkos said. “I learned a lot about myself.”
With each training session bringing him one step closer to the Stamkos he was entering the 2013-14 campaign, it only continues to bring the team nearer to their ultimate goal of competing for the Stanley Cup. That’s something that doesn’t seem too far off after seeing how the team responded in his absence.