Hockey

Tim Wharnsby - Wednesday Nov. 6, 2013 16:14 ET

Steven Stamkos brings plenty of scoring to Canada

Lightning sniper knows what’s expected of him for Sochi

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A natural goal scorer with Tampa Bay, Steven Stamkos looks to make his debut on Canada's Olympic team. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Steven Stamkos may feel the fervour of the Canadian hockey fans more than any other Olympic teammate not wearing goalie pads.

Goal scoring is an important ingredient in any kind of hockey competition, but especially when it comes to Canada at the Winter Olympics.

Canada scored often in its gold-medal runs in 2002 and 2010, but ran smack into all-world goalie in Dominik Hasek in 1998 and struggled mightily to score in 2006.

Here are Canada’s goal-scoring exploits since NHL players have participated in the Winter Olympics (year, games, goals, finish): 

  • 1998 – 6 games, 20 goals (4th)
  • 2002 – 6 games, 22 goals (1st)
  • 2006 – 6 games, 15 goals (7th)
  • *2010 – 7 games, 35 goals (1st) 

*Canada scored a combined 12 goals in games against Italy and Germany and was shutout in three matches versus Switzerland, Finland and Russia.

Babcock wants balanced scoring

While Canadian head coach Mike Babcock would like a balanced scoring attack with timely goals in Sochi, the 23-year-old Stamkos will be counted on because he simply has been the game’s best sniper in recent seasons.

In fact, nobody has scored more goals in the NHL than the Tampa Bay Lightning sniper since the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

  1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay, 150
  2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington, 110
  3. Corey Perry, Anaheim, 107
  4. Phil Kessel, Toronto, 98
  5. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver, 96
  6. John Tavares, N.Y. Islanders, 95
  7. Jarome Iginla, Calgary-Pittsburgh, 94
  8. Patrick Marleau, San Jose, 90
  9. Matt Moulson, N.Y. Islanders, 90
  10. Jonathan Toews, Chicago, 90

It could be argued that Stamkos, even though he was a fresh-faced 19-year-old back in 2010, deserved a roster spot on the last Canadian Olympic team. He had scored 21 times by Christmas that season and had accounted for 35 goals in 61 games by the time the NHL players took off for the Olympic break.

But he was left off and Canada still won. So Stamkos didn’t have a problem with his exclusion. Still, Stamkos’s omission certainly made for an interesting meet-and-greet with his new boss, Steve Yzerman, who was hired as the Lightning’s general manager a few months after he steered Canada to gold in Vancouver as the team’s executive director. 

“I kind of knew heading in we would discuss me being left off that team,” recalled Stamkos, who met Yzerman for lunch at a downtown Toronto hotel in the summer of 2010. “I’m a realist. I had come to terms with it. I was 19-years-old at the time. I knew I was a long shot if I had a shot at all. It was just neat to hear my name in the conversation.”

Yzerman did reveal to Stamkos that he was one of the last players to be left off the Canadian roster.

“At the time, I told him he would probably have a tougher time explaining to Marty [St. Louis] why he was left off the team,” Stamkos said. “We didn’t need to spend much time on the discussion. It was water under the bridge. But it was something brought up.”

On the surface, it appeared Stamkos might have been peeved about the snub back then. When he returned from his Olympic break vacation in Cancun, Mexico, he was on fire and finished the season with a remarkable 16 goals in 21 games, seven in the first five outings immediately following the Winter Games.

“I might have to go back to Cancun,” he joked.

Stamkos understands role

So about this little short-term event called the Olympics in February. How will Stamkos, a native of Markham, Ont., deal with the expectations of him leading Canada offensively?

“You just have to do your best, understand your role and take advantage of your opportunities,” said Stamkos, who has scored 16 goals in 22 games for Canada at the 2009, 2010 and 2013 world championships.

“Everybody will have to play a different role on a team like this. You probably won’t get as much ice time as you do with your [NHL] team. You may not get as much power-play time as you’re used to.

“It’s a short-term event, there are no re-dos. It’s one-game situations when you get down to the final games. You have to find a way to play your best and use past experiences, whether it’s in the playoffs. I had a chance to go to the conference final [in 2011 against Boston] and I’ve played in a couple Game 7s, so you know what it’s like to play in a couple do-or-die situations and world championships on the bigger ice. You just try to draw on the positive experiences you’ve had from the past.”

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