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NHL’s Best Captain

Who is the best captain in the NHL? Since 2014, Steven Stamkos has captained the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that time, the franchise has made the playoffs eight of those nine seasons. They have played in six Eastern Conference Finals winning four of those. The Lightning have played in four Stanley Cup Finals winning two of those. All the time being captained by Stamkos. If this record in almost a decade doesn’t qualify him as the best captain in the league right now, that discussion is moot.

Historical Perspective

Not too long ago quite a few fans wanted to trade  Stamkos. Many more of them said he was made of glass because of his injury track record. In full disclosure, I am a tremendous Stamkos fan. Truth be told, I’ve been “all in” on him since the Seen Stamkos campaign before he was drafted. In my mind, he hasn’t disappointed. 

Last Thursday in Philadelphia, Stamkos scored his 1000th NHL point. In the 105 year history of the NHL, he is only the 95th player to reach this coveted milestone. Prior to the start of this season, there have been 7623 players who’ve taken the ice in an NHL game. This means that only 1.2% of the players who played in the league in over a century have reached the 1000 point mark. The names of the players who have reached this level are all too familiar for NHL fans. Gretzky, Jagr, Howe and Yzerman are some of the names at the top of the list. Hall of Famers each and every one of them. There are also names of active players like Ovechkin, Crosby and Kopitar. These players are most likely first ballot hall of famers.

Team Perspective

Stamkos has joined this exclusive club. This is a big freaking deal. Being the first Lightning player to amass these many points solely as a member of this franchise is noteworthy. Marty St. Louis finished his career with 1033 points but he played with two other NHL teams in addition to the Lightning. Stamkos has been with the organization since he was 18 years old. Now, as a 32 year old, two time Cup champion who has over 1000 points, Stamkos is cementing his legacy. 

Currently, Stamkos is the Lightning franchise leader in over 15 offensive categories. Goals, Points, Power Play goals, Power Play points and 11 other categories. There is no denying that Stamkos is simply the best player in Lightning history. This is no slight to players like St. Louis or Vinny LeCavalier or Dave Andreychuk. For that matter, this isn’t a slight against Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov or Andrei Vasilevskiy from the current roster either. For this team, Stamkos stands alone at the top. The amazing thing is that Stamkos is playing about as well as he ever has. Sure, he will probably never duplicate his 60 goal season of 2011-12. Though he tallied over 100 points last season for the first time in his career. This season he is on pace for 99 points. This would be his second best season point total. 

This past Saturday the Lightning organization celebrated this accomplishment prior to the Toronto game. Stamkos, his wife and their kids and his parents shared this incredible moment. Gifts from the team and the NHL were bestowed upon Stamkos. More evidence of this being a big deal.

Best Captain in The League

Through his captaincy, Stamkos has led this team on the ice to levels of success few organizations have ever seen. He is a special player and has been for the Lightning for a decade and a half. His teammates give every indication that they would walk through a wall of fire for their leader. For a franchise that has had some great captains like Andreychuk and LeCavalier, nobody has captained the Lightning longer than Stamkos. There was a point in his career where his injury status was the talking point about Stamkos. That is no longer the case. Conversations about Stamkos now mention the back to back Cups and three consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final. He also captained the team that tied the record for most regular season wins in an NHL season. 

There are some very good captains in the league. But I’d match what the Lightning teams captained by Stamkos have accomplished against other league captains. In my mind, it’s not even close. What makes me even more excited is coming off last season and this season, the best is yet to come. Even four seasons of average Stamkos production could put him at or above the 1500 point mark. That will land him in the top 15 players all-time in the NHL in points. Better than 99.8% of all the players who EVER played at this level. 

From my perspective, all Stamkos accomplishes from this point forward is icing on the cake. Because I am steadfast on these two points: Steven Stamkos is the best captain in the league now and he is the best Lightning player there has ever been. 

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