With the news finally coming down that Steven Stamkos‘ broken leg hasn’t healed sufficiently for the superstar to take to the ice in Sochi, the big question now is, who gets his spot on the Team Canada roster?
There have been essentially 4 names that have come to the forefront, all with advantages and disadvantages. Martin St. Louis, Claude Giroux, James Neal and Eric Staal seem to be the odds on favorite to get the call to pack their bags. Who should it be among those 4, or will it be someone else not in that group?
First, you have to consider what Stamkos’ role would have been on the roster. A big, skating forward who does nothing better than score goals. Among that list, the best pure goal scorer would probably be Neal. With 80 goals in his last 156 regular season games, he is among the top pure snipers in the game.
If you want all around skill, Neal might not be the guy, and he doesn’t skate as well as the other three leading candidates. However, he has played with Sidney Crosby off and on this season due to the number of injuries suffered by the Penguins, and if Stamkos was penciled in on one of Crosby’s wings, then Neal might be a good fit.
I still think Giroux is a little black-balled from skipping the summer ball hockey camp, injury notwithstanding. However, there are few players hotter in the league right now and he has shown ability to play on big ice, being a dominant factor at last year’s World Championships.
As for St. Louis, if he was going to be named, you would think it would have been on the initial roster and there are rumours that someone on the Team Canada staff isn’t fond of having St. Louis on the roster.
So that would leave Staal, probably the safest bet. He won gold in 2010 with the team and knows the ins and outs of the Olympics. He has been great lately and has the versatility to play any role and any position asked of him.
There is a pretty good chance that whoever takes the spot vacated by Stamkos becomes the 14th forward and would not likely get into action barring an injury or terrible play by one of the top 13. For my money, I would want a pure sniper when needed, because last time I looked Canada had a pretty well rounded team that can skate and play both ends of the ice. Stamkos was going to be counted on to score, and the guy replacing him should have the same top end ability.