Why is there always so much hype surrounding the NHL entry draft?
Prior to the 1993 NHL entry draft, scouts and analysts were speaking about Alexandre Daigle like he was on par with Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux.
The Victoriaville Tigres winger was coming off back-to-back 100-plus point seasons and was subsequently taken first overall by the Ottawa Senators.
Daigle would never crack the 60-point mark in the NHL and would end up playing for six teams before moving on to play in Switzerland.
Even before Sarnia Sting center Steve Stamkos was drafted first overall last Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning had begun a marketing campaign that stopped short of saying the young Canadian was Superman himself.
It's not the first time a top pick by the Lightning has been given undue publicity.
Former Tampa Bay owner Art Williams declared Vincent Lecavalier the "Michael Jordan of hockey" shortly after drafting the center in 1998.
Lecavalier has proven to be elite, but the Jordan of hockey?
Prior to this year's draft, the Lightning launched a "Seen Stamkos?" marketing campaign that featured billboards and the Web site www.seenstamkos.com complete with YouTube clips.
Here are some Stamkos quick facts:
— The Sarnia forward was the second leading goal scorer in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with 58 goals in 61 games this season.
— The majority of coaches in the OHL lauded his stick handling and shot in an annual poll.
— He helped Canada to its fourth straight World Junior Hockey championship, chipping in with a goal and five assists in seven games.
On top of the facts, the site also featured testimonials from hockey pundits praising the virtues of the eventual top pick:
"Steve Stamkos is a full and complete player. He is one of the most complete junior players I've seen in quite some time. He is head and shoulders above all others," said Stanley Cup winning head coach Scotty Bowman.
"[He's] an all-around talent in a class by himself," said TSN hockey analyst Bob McKenzie.
Although Lightning GM Jay Feester told a Yahoo! Sports blog that the site's purpose was to market Stamkos—not put undue pressure on him—you can't help but think it will do the latter.
Not to say that Stamkos is on a one way Alexandre Daigleian ticket to Bustville. Ever since the 1993 draft, the first pick overall has fared quite well.
Of the 14 top picks selected after Daigle, 11 of them have turned out to be serviceable NHL players to say the least—the jury is still out on the 2006 top pick Erik Johnson, although he looks good so far. The Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane (2007 top pick) won rookie of the year honors this season but still has a whole career ahead of him.
Sometimes the sensationalism is more than justified too.
The 2005 top draft pick Sidney Crosby received much hype, and deservedly so. He just led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup final. Also, 2008 Hart trophy (league MVP), Art Ross trophy (most points), and Rocket Richard award (most goals) winner Alexander Ovechkin is also a former first overall (2004) who has been worth his weight in gold.
But is it really good practice to turn up the hype on Stamkos so early, especially if has yet to take a face-off in the NHL?
Wouldn't it be better for Stamkos to make his bones first before Tampa Bay really starts calling him their savior?