As the deadline ticks toward the zero hour and there is still no talk of Steven Stamkos being close to suiting up for an NHL game, Hockey Canada has a big decision to make regarding his spot on Team Canada at this month’s Olympics.
Obviously, Stamkos is Canada’s best bet in terms of a pure sniper. Since Stamkos’ rookie season six years ago, only Alex Ovechkin has scored more goals than Stamkos. But with the injury suffered by Stamkos not quite fully rehabilitated and a couple of setbacks while practicing, is it worth bringing a player, no matter how good he is, to the Games at the risk of having one less player on your roster.
Canada is a very deep hockey nation (it goes without saying), with a number of star players chomping at the bit to join the team. Martin St. Louis (reigning league scoring champ), Eric Staal (gold Medalist in 2010) and James Neal (17 goals in 33 games this season) to name a few are on the probable Steve Yzerman short list. All are very good players and would not look out of place on Team Canada, even as the likely 14th forward.
None will be able to match Stamkos’ blend of size, speed and sniping ability and that will most likely be missed. You can’t replace a player of Stamkos’ talent, but its not like Team Canada is Team Slovenia missing Anze Kopitar or Austria missing Tomas Vanek.
I think Stamkos has seen the end of the line in this version of his Olympic dream and is almost resigned to the fact that he probably isn’t destined to play this time around despite his efforts to overcome a devastating injury. He is simply out of racetrack to show he can perform at the top speed. Stamkos at 100% is without a doubt an asset to Team Canada. Stamkos at 85% is probably still an all-world player that could help a lot of teams in the tournament, but with the quality of players on the outside looking in Team Canada shouldn’t take that chance.