Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, who fractured his leg nearly three months ago, figured to be healthy and ready to play for Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, news broke today that Stamkos will not be able to participate.
According to the Lightning’s official site, a new scan of Stamkos’ leg revealed that the broken tibia bone had not yet fully healed, and he should not risk playing in the Olympics.
So, who replaces Tampa Bay’s 23, soon-to-be 24-year-old sniper? His goal-scoring talent would have been invaluable to the Canadian team, and it will be tough to truly replace the NHL’s most recent 60-goal scorer. Still, the short list would likely include Stamkos’ own teammate, Martin St. Louis, Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal, Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux, and possibly even Dallas Stars center/wing Tyler Seguin.
St. Louis was considered one of the obvious initial snubs for the 2014 games. He lead all NHL players with 60 points (17 goals, 43 assists) during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season that lasted 48 games. Neal possesses some the best pure scoring ability of anyone not currently on Canada’s roster; he’s only two seasons removed from a 40-goal season, and he’s got 39 tallies in his last 75 games.
Giroux, like Neal, is two seasons removed from his best individual year. Giroux posted 93 points in 2011-12, and has 103 points in 105 games NHL games across the last two seasons. Seguin has enjoyed a renaissance his first season in Dallas; he’s been a point-per-game player this year with 24 goals and 55 points in 54 games for the Stars, and he owns a quick release that has been compared Stamkos’.
Again, there’s no true replacement for Stamkos, who has been one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL since he entered the league in 2008. “Stammer” has 222 career goals in only 390 games, and had 14 in 17 games this season before breaking his leg on Nov. 11 against the Boston Bruins. Luckily for Canada, they’ve still got the likes of Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, and host of other uber-talented players to shoulder the load for them as they seek to repeat the gold-medal performance they turned in at the 2010 Vancouver Games.