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Steven Stamkos to miss Sochi Olympics; Will Giroux or St. Louis replace him?
Russia. United States. Sweden. Even Finland. Your chances of going grey this month have been reduced, as the stress that would have no doubt overtaken you while you watched Steven Stamkos line up blasts from either wing or, worse, the slot in a Canadian sweater has been lifted.
You don't have to worry about it, League of Olympic Nations.
The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Wednesday that Stamkos will miss Sochi 2014. Stammer the sniper is still recovering from a broken foot, which he suffered on November 11.
"Today is obviously very disappointing," said Stamkos (the Score, via Tampa Bay). "I honestly believe that we did everything possible in order to have my injured leg ready."
He added: "I know, in the best interest of my long-term health, I cannot represent Canada in Sochi, as much as I would like to."
Steven Stamkos deserved to be in Sochi, and he deeply wanted to be in Sochi. That's a shame.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) February 5, 2014
So put this behind you, Canada, although it's heartbreaking for the player. Here you have a guy – a true superstar, the scariest goal threat Canada has had internationally since Brett Hull last wore a maple leaf when Flock of Seagulls was still a band – who was passed over for Canada four years, a guy who has done nothing but produce and hope he'd get the chance to serve the flag.
Along with Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, Stamkos was one of three sure things for this team. And now, with cruel fate and an even crueler fracture, he's out.
Read: "Vancouver stars Dan Hamhuis, Roberto Luongo named to Canada's 2014 Olympic hockey team" (Jan. 7, 2014)
Okay, but, like I said... put this behind you.
The focus now turns to his replacement, and Steve Yzerman and Co. should be commended for at least giving Stamkos the benefit of the doubt when it came to his recovery. And because they picked Stamkos, they can now select someone else, and they have a couple quite able bodies to sub in.
One, obviously, is Stamkos's teammate Martin St. Louis. It would be hard to imagine him left off again, for a couple reasons. One, he won the NHL's Art Ross Trophy last season, and he's still crushing it in 2014. But two, he plays for Yzerman. That would be awfully awful if Stevie Y had to make the call again, to tell Marty that he was being left off... again.
But it's not always just Yzerman's call to make, and the best choice – if you're talking, right-handed shooter, wildly skilled, can score from anywhere and pass tape-to-tape, no matter the distance – is Philadelphia's Claude Giroux.
After starting slow, the Flyers' captain has been tearing up the Eastern Conference, buoying Philly to a tie for seventh in the Conference while bringing his point total to 55 through 57 contests, good enough for 13th in the league and ninth among all Canadian forwards.
(Okay, so Big Joe Thornton is fifth among Canadians, but he's a centre and a slow one at that. If you replace Stamkos, you're looking for a goal scorer. You're looking for someone who can go on the ice with a one-goal deficit and only 45 seconds remaining, and put the puck behind Ryan Miller. If that's the case, and with all due respect, you're not looking for Joe Thornton.
(Dallas's Tyler Seguin is also eighth amongst all Canadians. But Seguin's chances of making this team were snuffed out in his goal-less playoff run last spring.)
My pick is Giroux, and I'd easily put my money on it. Of course, the second I write that, I realize just how crazy it would be to stiff St. Louis in the twilight of his career, while he's still playing like it's the meat of his career, and while his GM is Canada's GM.
But Mike Babcock and his coaching staff love their lefty vs. righty thing. With Stamkos out, Giroux provides a similar shot, a similar style (though not as explosive, but a little more contemplative), and he can move from the wing to the faceoff dot and excel in either.
If Canada is taking this as seriously as they should, it will be Claude Giroux.
But if it's Martin St. Louis? Well, who's gonna argue with that?
Actually, ditto for Big Joe.
But you don't care what I have to say. Here's Mr. Bruce Arthur, again:
Also: I'm betting it's Giroux, but we'll see.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) February 5, 2014
I'm going to sleep, but I'll be shocked if Hockey Canada doesn't have a replacement named by the time I wake up.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) February 5, 2014