Is it too soon to call Stamkos a bust?

The Tampa Bay Lightning held top overall draft pick Steven Stamkos out of the lineup for the second time in five games on Saturday night en route to a 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Stamkos missed one game earlier this month, and the team says he’ll be held out from time to time as part an ongoing program to increase his physical strength. More curious, to me, is that Stamkos also is taking part in extra video sessions with the coaching staff.

So, not only does Stamkos - listed at 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds - appear physically unable to handle the rigors of an 82-game NHL season, but he also seems to be having difficulties grasping the nuts-and-bolts of being a pro player.

Stamkos totaled 100 goals and 97 assists over two junior seasons with the Sarnia Sting. In 43 NHL games so far, he has five goals and 12 assists.

In other words – well, one word, really – bust.

Now, the NHL game is certainly faster than that in juniors, and it may be unfair to call Stamkos a bust just halfway into his first season. Joe Thornton, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound center selected first overall by the Boston Bruins in 1997, had just three goals and four assists in 55 games as a rookie and didn’t evolve into a star until being traded to San Jose in November 2005.

If Stamkos indeed doesn’t pan out, I’d consider him just the fifth such player taken first overall to be tagged with the ‘B’ word.

The others? Glad you asked …

1974 – Greg Joly, Washington Capitals: From 1971-74, Joly was probably the best offensive defenseman in the West Coast Hockey League. The expansion Capitals made Joly the first overall pick in 1974 after he put up 21 goals and 71 assists in 64 games with the Regina Pats and a win in the Memorial Cup.

Among the names Wahsington passed up were Clark Gillies, Doug Risebrough and Pierre Larouche.

Joly lasted just 44 games his rookie season, finishing with a goal and seven assists. After one more inauspicious season in the nation’s capital, he was shipped to the Detroit Red Wings. He spent seven more seasons in the Motor City, but never came close to duplicating the numbers he had in juniors.

Joly’s final tally: 21 goals and 76 assists in 365 NHL games.

1982 – Gord Kluzak, Boston: A native of Climax, Saskatchewan – the best city name to come from the province since the fictional Mile 40 – Kluzak may have had a legitimate reason for being a bust.

At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Kluzak was the anchor of Canada’s defense as it won its first gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 1981-82. The Bruins saw Kluzak as a hard-hitting defenseman, and he didn’t fail in that regard, averaging almost 133 penalty minutes in his first four seasons.

A series of knee injuries that began when he was with the Billings Bighorns of the Western Hockey League forced him to miss two full NHL seasons and limited him to a total of 13 games from 1988-91 before retiring.

The Hockey Hall of Fame Web site noted Kluzak had undergone knee surgery 10 times by 1989. He turned 25 that year.

Boston could have had Brian Bellows, Scott Stevens, Phil Housley, Dave Andreychuk, Ken Daneyko, Ron Hextall (119th overall to Philadelphia) or Doug Gilmour (133rd overall to St. Louis).

Kluzak’s final tally: 25 goals and 98 assists in 299 NHL games.

1993 – Alexandre Daigle, Ottawa Senators: The best of this foursome, but still not good enough to justify the hype he brought with him.

Playing in 1991-92 for the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the 16-year-old Daigle put up 35 goals and 75 assists in 66 assists. The next season, he played just 53 games, but he scored 45 goals and added 92 assists.

So, you can understand why Ottawa – nation’s capital, large French-Canadian population – was salivating when they got him first overall. His rookie season was … meh … 20 goals and 31 assists as Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils took home the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

After four more unremarkable seasons with Ottawa, Daigle also played with Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh before closing his NHL career with Minnesota in 2005-06.

He never cracked 30 goals in a season. He clearly was not the next Mario Lemieux.

Some of the names the Sens could have had: Chris Pronger … Paul Kariya … Rob Niedermayer … Jason Arnott … Saku Koivu … Todd Bertuzzi .. and that was just in the first round. Ottawa, to its credit, did pick up Pavol Demitra with the 227th pick.

Daigle’s final tally: 129 goals and 198 assists in 616 NHL games.

1999 – Patrik Stefan, Atlanta Thrashers: Based just on statistics alone, I still don’t see the attraction here.

After 32 games in his native Czech Republic, Stefan played with the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the defunct International Hockey League from 1997-99, totaling 16 goals and 40 assists in 68 contests.

Somehow, this was enough for the 6-foot-2, 210-pound center to be picked first overall.

Some of the names Atlanta passed up were Daniel AND Henrik Sedin, taken No. 2 and 3 overall by the Vancouver Canucks; Martin Havlat by Ottawa, and Henrik Zetterberg, picked 209th overall by Detroit.

Stefan’s best season with Atlanta came in 2003-04, when he had 14 goals and 26 assists in a career-high 82 games. In June 2006, he was shipped to Dallas. Then there was this infamous moment with the Stars in Edmonton…

Stefan signed with a Swiss club in August 2007, and retired from the NHL less than two months later at 27.

Stefan’s final tally: 64 goals and 124 assists in 455 NHL games.


Anonymous said...

I am hurt that you would include a Senator among your busts without referring to him as "fellow petulant Russian prick"

"Igor" said...

Thanks, Nits!