(Editor’s Note: In our Playoff Preview edition of the THN magazine, we asked the question, “Who Would You Take” if you were a GM and were building a team from scratch to win in the playoffs? Most said Sidney Crosby, but three THN writers had another opinion. Below you’ll read why Rory Boylen would build his team around Steve Stamkos. Also check out Adam Proteau’s column on Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kennedy’s on Drew Doughty)
So we’ve been tasked to choose one player to start building a playoff team around and the obvious names of Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews of course were quickly scooped up. But given Crosby’s past concussion issues, which could come up again without notice, and the fact Toews isn’t the supreme scorer on his team, there is reason to choose someone else first overall.
My preference is 24-year-old super sniper Steven Stamkos, even though he’s only been to the post-season once. That’s not a knock on him – Tampa Bay has had blueline and goalie issues through most of his career.
Stamkos is the most complete, elite goal-scorer in the NHL today and he’s kept up a torrid pace after 2013 Art Ross winner Martin St-Louis was traded to New York at the deadline. If it wasn’t for an unfortunate accident that broke his leg, Stamkos would have played a front-and-center role for Canada at the Olympics. He was considered as much a lock as Crosby and Toews were.
Think back to when Alex Ovechkin was 23 or 24. He had already hit the 50-goal mark four times and the 60-goal mark once, something Stamkos may very well have matched had it not been for the shortened 2013 season and his injury this year. In 2009 and 2010, Ovechkin would have been a popular choice to pick first and build a playoff team around, only Crosby would have received more votes at the time. That’s the stage Stamkos is at in his career and he’s a more responsible defensive player than Ovechkin was at the same age.
Crosby and Toews are more polished all-around players than Stamkos and you need strong defense from your forwards to win the Cup, so I’d still want to try and build a defensive team. But I’d be able to pick up plenty of players such as David Backes, Ryan Kesler or Patrice Bergeron after my first pick.
In the end, no matter how good your ‘D’ is, you still need to score to win – just look at the recent New York Rangers playoff entries. And no player in the world scores as easily and as often as Stamkos.
The best has yet to come from the Lightning star in the post-season. I’d want him to be on my team when it happens.