It feels like the Lightning fan base has to constantly come to the defense of its star players. After seeing the reaction to the Hart Trophy nominations, this week has been no exception. There was so much backlash towards Steven Stamkos for being nominated as “he didn’t lead the Lightning to the playoffs” – No, he didn’t. What did he do though? Well, not only did he score 60 goals on a team that struggled all season long, but he also became the heartbeat of this Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team. The Hart Trophy isn’t awarded to the player judged “most able to lead their team to the playoffs,” is it? In the Lightning locker-room, was there a player more disappointed in not making the post-season than Stamkos? You would be hard pressed to find one. The amount of emotion and selflessness Stammer showed down the stretch was special to watch. While the entire hockey world wanted him to hit the 60 goal plateau, Stammer only seemed concerned with the team. It’s not often players of Stamkos’ caliber both on and off the ice come around; the Lightning are lucky to have him. Obviously the Lightning fan base is a little biased when it comes to the success of Stamkos, but it has every reason to support the guy here.
The question becomes, does Stamkos have a legitimate shot at winning the coveted Hart? The answer from nearly every fan outside of Tampa Bay would be a resounding no, but that’s not my answer. Look at the nominees for this year’s Hart Trophy. You have Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Lundqvist and the aforementioned Steven Stamkos. Once again, let’s get back to the definition of the Hart Trophy. It is awarded to the player judged most valuable to his team during the course of the season. Well, no offense to King Hank or Geno, but Stamkos was more valuable to the Lightning than either one of those men were to their respective teams. Had Malkin gone down, guys like Letang, Fleury, Neal and Kunitz would have still been there. Had Lundqvist gone down, guys like Richards and Gaborik would have been there in front of Biron, who is by no means a poor goaltender. Had Stamkos gone down, well, Nail Yakupov would have looked really good in a Lightning jersey, right? There is one player in the league who was more valuable to his team than Stamkos was to the Lightning; that player is Jonathan Quick, who for some reason wasn’t nominated for the award.
The moral of this story is that while Stamkos did “fail” to lead the Lightning to the playoffs, he is everything a Hart Trophy winner should be. You won’t find many superstars as humble as Steven Stamkos; he’s everything a young player coming up through the ranks should strive to be. Why shouldn’t the NHL recognize him for his outstanding achievements this year on the ice and as a leader? It seems a little silly to count him right out of things just because the Lightning are basking in the Florida sun a little early this year. This kid showed nothing but heart all year long and now opposing fans are acting as though he is undeserving. Well, this fan isn’t going to stand for it. Hopefully Steven Stamkos is given the recognition he so undoubtedly deserves. It’s up to Bolts Nation to cheer him on!
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