NHL.com periodically will be doing a series called "Five Questions With …," a Q&A with some of the key movers and shakers in the game today, aimed to gain some insight into their lives and careers.
This edition features Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos:
Steven Stamkos is experienced enough to understand that this season he'll be judged on the sequel, not the original production. It comes with the territory when you're an evolving superstar in the National Hockey League.
The 60 goals Stamkos scored last season, the fact that he became the 19th player in NHL history to hit that single-season milestone, won't mean nearly as much if he doesn't come back this season with similar production, albeit in a truncated 48-game schedule.
Stamkos isn't blind to this. He knows about high expectations and pressure. He's been living with both since he was a teenager.
Stamkos also knows how to live up to those expectations, how to handle that pressure and thrive in front of the scrutinizing eyes of fans and media.
He's been doing all of that since overcoming a slow rookie season to score 51 goals in his second NHL season. Still, it's fair to say that since Stamkos broke into the NHL as an 18-year-old No. 1 draft pick, the expectations placed on him never have been as high as they are right now.
Read on for Stamkos' thoughts on how he handles pressure and so much more.
Here are Five Questions With ... Steven Stamkos:
FIVE QUESTIONS WITH ...
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What do you do, if anything, to manage the high expectations that are placed on you every game, let alone every season?
"I think I put the most pressure and expectation on myself, so I don't really feel the need to feel pressure from outside sources like the media. I know what I expect of myself. From Day One when I came into the League I had high expectations for myself, and that's why it was tough [in my rookie season]. But now you have some success, you realize what your teammates and your coaching staff expects from you, and I just set the bar so high for myself that each and every year I want to be a better player based on my experiences. I try not to worry about what other people expect of me outside of my team. I worry about doing the job that I know I have to do and being a difference-maker every night."
A few seasons ago it was your one-timer on the power play that people were writing about and talking about all the time. Then it looked like teams started to adjust to that and defend you on it. What did you do to change, to adjust to the way penalty kills were playing you?
"I think you have to evolve your game and you have to find different ways to score. You have to go into those areas where it's sometimes not fun to score, but you realize a goal is a goal. Just because you don't make the highlight reel doesn't mean the goal doesn't help your team win. That's something I learned. Obviously I'd love to score more power-play goals. Our power play struggled a lot last year. But teams are so smart now with watching video and taking note of your tendencies that you have to find different ways to score. I was able to do that and be consistent at that last year, and that's why I took a big step, I think."
When you score a goal, do you feel a sense of elation or do you feel what can be described as a sense of relief because of who you are and the feeling around the League that you are supposed to score in just every game?
"I think it's a little bit of both. With the pressure I put on myself I want to go out and score every game. I realize things aren't going to go my way every game, but as long as I'm getting the chances I know eventually they're going to go in. But there is, definitely, a little sense of relief. There is also a sense of excitement and a sense of hunger that now I want another one. That's something I think pushes you to keep going for more."
How does being an evolving superstar in the NHL affect you away from the ice?
"I get a little more attention, definitely. It was funny, I was talking to the guys in Tampa the other day, and when people think of the city of Tampa you don't think of it as a traditional hockey market, but from my first year here to now it's almost night and day. When you go out for dinner, to the supermarket or to the mall, people are recognizing you now. Obviously personal success helps that, but our team success and the way we have the support of the city now is pretty crazy. When you go to the Canadian cities people will always recognize you, but our city of Tampa is quietly becoming one of the best hockey markets, I think. It's fun to play there. We had a sold-out crowd the other night and I'm excited to keep playing there."
Vincent Lecavalier just played in his 1,000th game. It's a milestone that Washington coach Adam Oates called the greatest a player can get because of the longevity it takes to get there. When you look at Vinny now and you think about 1,000 games, do you think to yourself, "Can I do that with the Lightning? Will I do that with the Lightning? What will it be like when I do that with the Lightning?"
"Yes, for sure. You want to follow in the footsteps of a guy like that. He's played on the same team his whole career. He's a huge part of the community. He's had obviously great success on the ice, bringing the Stanley Cup to Tampa. Now he's our leader. He's had so many great memories in his career that this is obviously one that proves the true professional he is on and off the ice. And he's not even close to being done. Hopefully we can win a championship together and I can share that experience with him as well as the 1,000th game."