The impact of Steven Stamkos' absence
February, 6, 2014
By Craig Custance | ESPN Insider
Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty ImagesWithout Steven Stamkos on the ice, other players will have to step up for Team Canada.In the end, it ended up being a mulligan for Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman.
On Wednesday night, while debate raged over who should replace the injured Steven Stamkos on Team Canada’s roster, one NHL scout suggested we were all overthinking it.
"Yzerman is very lucky. He has a chance to correct a mistake that he made," the veteran scout said. "It's not even close. Martin St. Louis. Not even close ... Marty should have made it the first time around.”
The scout’s opinion is consistent with those of many of the players we spoke with in our Olympic player poll from Wednesday. Of the 15 players polled, eight picked St. Louis’ exclusion from Team Canada as the biggest roster surprise of the Olympics.
But most important, it was consistent with Hockey Canada's opinion. They quickly announced that St. Louis would replace Stamkos in Sochi, and it's easy to see why.
His 60 points led all NHL players during the lockout-shortened season, and he has continued to produce, although his point-per-game pace has dropped closer to his career average of 0.93 after he finished with a career-high 1.25 last season. He's a leader, a competitor, has Olympic experience on the big ice (two goals, one assist in 2006) and has a history of producing in the playoffs, a characteristic Yzerman said he valued in players he was considering for Olympic inclusion. During the Lightning's playoff run in 2011, he had 10 goals in 18 games.
Jon Cooper plays him against the toughest competition, so his points are earned. Really, there was no reason to keep him off the team unless the hope was to add more of a pure goal-scorer in Stamkos' place, or replace a righty with a righty.
The question now becomes who replaces Stamkos' production for Team Canada? As John Thornton (Joe Thornton's brother and agent) pointed out on Twitter, there’s no reason to assume St. Louis makes the leap into that spot alongside Sidney Crosby. "Why are so many people assuming a guy that didn’t make the first cut will now be playing on the first line with Crosby?" Thornton wondered on Twitter. It's a fair point.
There's opportunity out there for players who already were on the roster before St. Louis was added, with this group poised to get an increase in Olympic responsibility:
1. Rick Nash. Considering his injuries and slow start, Nash's inclusion on Team Canada's original roster was a bit surprising. Now it's looking wise.