April 2, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) reacts after he scored a goal during the third period against the Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Washington Capitals 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Keys to the Season #6: Stamkos Must be Stamkos

After a short lockout for myself, I am back with the top ten keys to the season.  This key is pretty self-explanatory; for the Tampa Bay Lightning to have any success this year, Steven Stamkos must be himself.  By “be himself”, I mean, he must be the number one center scoring machine that he has been for the last few seasons now.  60 goals must no longer be a dream, it should be an expectation; and with that, a lot more wins should come with the improved Lightning roster.

Number 91 has been everything Bolts fans could have hoped for since he has been drafted and that must continue this year for the Lightning.  Coming into this year he has played in 325 games and has an average of over a point per game pace.  This is impressive for any player, but Stamkos is still just a kid at the age of 22.  Stamkos has been in the league long enough however, to understand the game very well.  His intellect is top notch and because of this, I look at him as a veteran leader of this team already.  Coach Guy Boucher has noticed this too as Stamkos wore the “A” on his sweater on numerous occasions last season.

Normally centering for Martin St. Louis, this dynamic duo has proven to be an extremely tough pairing to keep off the score sheet since Stamkos has come into the league.  This year, call it a gut feeling for me, but because of how many options Coach Boucher now has at forward, I look for Stamkos to be the center of many different combinations to create as much confusion for the opposition as possible.  Stamkos could be the center for St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell, Benoit Pouliot, one of the young prospects, or even Vincent Lecavalier.  There are so many options for the Lightning this season that I think it would be wise to share the wealth.  This should not be a problem for Stamkos because he makes players better no matter who he plays with.

One of these years the Most Valuable Player trophy is going to come home with Steven Stamkos.  He is just too good not to be awarded this honor.  For that to happen though, The Lightning needs to have success and make the playoffs.  The way that is going to happen is if Stamkos continues to improve and be himself, which is one of the best players in the league every single game.  If all of this comes to fruition then the Lightning fans will be in for a very fun season because the Lightning will be winning a lot of games.

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