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May 20, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula (51) in game three of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Valtteri Filppula and Stamkos’ Ever-Reaching Shadow

When a player joins a new team, especially in a trade surrounded by so much scrutiny, said player ends up with a mighty high bar to reach. Such is the story of Valtteri Filppula and the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, when you have a center like Steven Stamkos on the main line, it begs the question ‘Will Valtteri Filppula be able to get out from under Stamkos’ ever-reaching shadow?’

After the Lightning bought out the contract of longtime captain Vincent Lecavalier, the Tampa Bay Lightning was left with a mighty big hole at the second line center position. Enter Valtteri Filppula.

Last season while with the Detroit Red Wings, Filppula struggled to put up the numbers he desired; posting a total of 9 goals and 8 assists for a total of 17 points.

This is a far cry from the 66 points he registered during the 2011-12 season.

Unfortunately, there are many things that contributed to this slump.

While playing for SM-liiga’s Jokerit during the lockout, Filppula suffered a knee injury that would knock him out of competition for nearly two months. Fast forward to the eventual start of the 2012-13 NHL season where the Vantaa, Finland native was forced to miss 7 games due to a shoulder injury. The icing on the cake came when Filppula suffered a high ankle sprain in the Red Wings’ Game 7 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

While speaking to the Lightning website about his attendance at the Olympic Evaluation Camp for Team Finland, Filppula had this to say about his performance.

You always want to do better in every aspect of the game,” said Filppula. “Last year I couldn’t produce the points that I wanted to and I hope I can do better next year. That’s going to be a big focus.”

Now, let’s press pause on that for a second and take a look at Lightning center Steven Stamkos.

Stamkos has undoubtedly been the driving force behind the Lighting’s scoring prowess for many seasons now. Since joining the team as the first overall draft pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Stamkos has made a meteoric rise to the top.

With two All-Star appearances, two “Rocket” Richard Trophies, and multiple 45+ goal seasons since that day in 2008, Stamkos has created a mighty large shadow for anyone hoping to make a name for themselves on the team to get out from under.

Will Filppula be up to the task?

Well, he has done it before. When he joined the Red Wings, he had to contend with the likes of players like captain Henrik Zetterberg and center Pavel Datsyuk; both offensive powerhouses. He was quickly able to get out from under and make a name for himself in Detroit.

In my July 5th edition of Around the Twitterverse, I featured a few tweets from fans regarding Filppula’s journey from Detroit to Tampa Bay. I think it is safe to say that fans were sad to see him go.

If Filppula can avoid injury going into training camp this season, and be able to hit the ice at full strength when the Lightning start up their season on October 3rd at the TD Garden in Boston, I think that he will have a very solid chance of propelling himself back to the numbers he put up in the 2011-12 season with the Wings, maybe even more.

Placing him on a line with someone like veteran right wing Martin St. Louis or the newcomer, left wing Jonathan Drouin, who are both very creative players who are skilled at making plays happen out of thin air, will provide him with the help he needs to get the job done.

Only time will tell if Valtteri Filppula will be able to make a name for himself in Tampa Bay.

The one thing I know for sure is that Lightning hockey will be back in 67 more days, and I will be there to Be The Thunder for my team every step of the way. Will you?

Will Valtteri Filppula be able to make a name for himself with the Tampa Bay Lightning?

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Tags: Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning Valtteri Filppula

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