Stamkos situation comes to a tidy conclusion

Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning works out with the team during a morning skate ahead of...

Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning works out with the team during a morning skate ahead of action against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday January 28, 2014. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:18 PM ET

SOCHI - So it winds up being about as tidy an ending as could be expected to an unfortunate situation.

Steven Stamkos went from brimming with optimism about playing an NHL game, passing the test he needed to pass before getting on a plane to the Olympics, to having his dream trip cancelled because his broken leg is still broken.

Veteran winger Martin St. Louis went from still nursing the burning bitterness he felt after being passed over by his own general manager the first time around to getting a chance to do what he does best: play with a chip on his shoulder and prove people wrong.

Both guys get what might be best for them at this point.

Stamkos, Canada’s best natural scorer, won’t be scoring goals here and the upside is he and the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that could come out of the Eastern Conference this spring, will be better for it.

It was a stretch that he would have been able to be close to an impact player at the Olympics when it counted after not playing for three months and easing back into it in what amounted to controlled scrimmages early in the tournament.

One former NHLer who suffered the same kind of break was convinced there was no way Stamkos would be able to play in the Olympics.

“I know the type and quality of the treatment have improved, but I don’t think the human body and the way a bone heals has changed much,” he said. “I know in my case I broke it in the spring and had almost five months before I was back on skates and I still didn’t trust it. I was flinching whenever somebody would come near it.

“Then we had the lockout and I didn’t play until January and it was much better then. I just thought all along there wasn’t going to be a chance he would be able to play in the Olympics ... and I don’t think it would have been fair to him as a player or to the team to throw him in there at that level of hockey and expect him to perform.”

Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman was not going to be able to replace the pre-Nov. 11 Steven Stamkos, not even with the metallically-enhanced latest version.

But St. Louis was the man to take over other candidates like Philadelphia Flyers centre Claude Giroux or Pittsburgh Penguins winger James Neal or Carolina Hurricanes centre Eric Staal.

Even at 38, St. Louis still plays a fast game.

This is a player who has taken the knock on him that he was too small and used it to feed that fire. He looks like the kind of guy who is going to take being passed over by Team Canada the first time around and throw that on the heap, too.

“His heart is as big as this building,” former Lightning coach John Tortorella, who won a Cup with St. Louis, told reporters in Montreal. “He is a terrific man.”

Here’s another reason why St. Louis is the right pick: Stamkos was on the team for his goal scoring, so Yzerman needed to replace those goals. With 25 goals this season, St. Louis has the next-highest goal total after all the forwards who have already been picked for the team.

You put that number with the intangibles and St. Louis is the guy. He has won a Stanley Cup and on a Team Canada that has gotten younger since Vancouver – there’s no Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger or Jarome Iginla on this team – don’t underestimate the value his experience brings to the mix.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


Videos

Photos