Why Steven Stamkos Should Skip the 2014 Winter Olympics

Adrian DaterNHL National ColumnistJanuary 30, 2014

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos holds his skate after banging into the goalpost defending against Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton, above, during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Boston Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Stamkos was taken off the ice on a stretcher after the play. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

TAMPA — Steven Stamkos didn’t practice the other day with the Tampa Bay Lightning because he said his right leg was sore. This, we were told, was not a setback in his rehabilitation from a broken bone in that leg about 10 weeks ago.

In that sense, this was right. The original prognosis by doctors was that the star center of the Bolts would miss three to four months after his gruesome injury suffered Nov. 11 in Boston. But in his rushed attempt to return in time to play for Canada in the Sochi Olympics, it was a setback—and an altogether unnecessary one.

Stamkos should skip the Olympics for the betterment of his career, and for the betterment of Canada’s chances to win a gold medal.

It’s an admirable comeback attempt by Stamkos, and no doubt the media would eat up this story in Sochi should it come to pass.

“Steven Stamkos was given zero chance of playing in these Olympics, but somebody forgot to tell that to him. It’s a story of fierce determination against all odds…”

That’s a great storyline, and if that is the one ultimately told about Stamkos in these coming Olympics, more power to him.

But this just seems like a bad idea, and Steve Yzerman should put a stop to it. Of course, that’s what makes this story even more intriguing.

Yzerman is not only the Lightning’s general manager, but also the executive director of Team Canada. His long-term interests would best be served by giving Stamkos all the time he needs to return, and then some. After all, the Lighting are a lock to make the playoffs and have been playing very well in his absence.

But Yzerman’s short-term interests include the temptation to include probably the best pure goal scorer in the world on the Canada roster.

Look, players always want to return sooner than expected. Ask any player—rehab is something they want to avoid at all costs. It’s tedious, and every day away from the real action is a day away from their true identities.

Stamkos obviously is a quick healer, skating and doing hockey activities so soon after a such a horrible injury.

But those words by Stamkos the other day should have been enough for Yzerman to step in and put a stop to this Olympic fantasy.

Forget about the fact Stamkos is saying his leg is still sore. What kind of asset will a player, who hasn’t played in three months by the time the Games really get going, represent to Canada? The rust would be thick, no doubt.

This is not a situation of, say, the Lightning and a need for Stamkos in a playoff series. Sure, you can rush a guy back in that situation and just roll the dice to see what happens.

But this is the Canadian Olympic team. Stamkos would be nice to have, sure, but if he can’t go there are several guys who no doubt would be really good substitutions.

Would Canada be worse off with a healthy Claude Giroux instead of a rusty Stamkos? Probably not, and they very well might be a lot better. Canada wants Stamkos’ one-timer, sniper scoring ability. They have plenty of playmakers already, and a guy like Giroux might be overkill in that regard.

So how about a guy like Jeff Carter, then? Think he couldn’t finish a few setup passes from guys like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews or Ryan Getzlaf?

THINK AGAIN. (Sorry, just making fun of one of my favorite sportswriter cliches)

I was in Tampa Saturday, and the party atmosphere was omnipresent outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum (newspapers ain’t dead yet, folks). Couples on their first dates and on their 1,000th dates danced outside before the game to live music, and hip food trucks served them (try Jimmy Meatballs, you’ll thank me).

Life is getting on just fine without Stamkos right now in Tampa. Canada will get on without him this time, too. No need for him to rush back. He’s only 23; there will be other Olympics for him.

Just not this one.


Adrian Dater has been covering the NHL since 1995 for The Denver Post. Follow him on Twitter @Adater.