Oh, Tampa Bay. You had to know you were getting a good one, right? You had heard the comparisons to Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman and saw the videos of this kid with the bee on his jersey doing impossibly complex things for a teenager on skates. Surely there was some cautious optimism given that your captain never fully turned into the next Super Mario, but the stars were lining up for the kid to be one hell of a player. At the very least he inspired more confidence than Riku Helenius.
It wasn’t readily apparent that this baby faced blonde kid who had just officially become a professional hockey player shaking the commissioner’s hand would be one to make history in your jersey, but time has a way of hashing those things out. Plenty of things have changed since then. For instance, the team that drafted second isn’t purple anymore and the team that drafted third doesn’t exist. The kid didn’t change much though – just got a bit older, a bit better and grew a better haircut to match the lethal shot.
That’s what so much of this was about – the lethal shot. What started as 20 became 50 all too quick for the league to process. The kid was supposed to be good, but not 50 good this fast. Time to tighten the screws on the kid and bring him down to a paltry 45. It’s almost comical how good he is at scoring goals for someone who was born at the same time as “Ice Ice Baby“.
Still though, you didn’t really NOTICE him in the playoffs, right? This team played three series and he only mustered 13 points – Sean bloody Bergenheim had nine goals. Hardly star material. Just your typical one dimensional guy. A kid. Not ready to take that next step.
As it turns out we, the viewers, may not have been his biggest critics. He, the player, was. Another hard hitting offseason with the guy who turns young stars into machines and he was ready to blow away that doubt. To silence those critics. To one-up himself.
The team took a step back, what with an aging goaltender among a host of other issues, but the kid forged on, pushing forward, trying to get back to where they were. Could he have done more? Probably not without strapping on a set of pads but I don’t fault him for that. Can you?
The thing about being 50 good is you’re already among the best. Being 60 good is hardly processable these days out there shooting dead pucks. But, he did do 60 good, and not with a whole lot of help. It’s silly to think about the fact that 48 of them came with all five guys on the other team trying to stop him. It’s silly to think that only three other people playing have hit that mark. It’s silly, if not poetic, to think the last guy to score that many goals and miss the playoffs is his boss.
What’s next for the kid? 70? That seems unlikely, but do you want to be the one who bets against him? Against that shot?
I don’t know if he wants to hit 70, but one thing is perfectly clear.
“You trade this stuff in a heartbeat for winning a championship”
With some people, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. He was never supposed to be 50 good this fast. He was never supposed to be 60 good this fast. Joe hit 50 and did it. Stevie Y hit 60 and did it.
Do you want to bet against #91?