Ranking Potential Replacements for Steven Stamkos on Canada's Olympic Roster
As it was in 2010, the status of Steven Stamkos is a huge issue for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics.
For the Vancouver Games, the question was whether or not one of the league's top young scorers was ready to represent his country on the world's biggest stage. For Sochi, the question is how to replace Stamkos on the roster.
The Tampa Bay Lightning confirmed that Stamkos will miss the games due to the leg injury sustained earlier in the NHL season. Now Team Canada has to figure out who is the right person to fill the star's spot on the roster.
That's the question this slideshow aims to answer. Read on to see who Canada might be looking at to replace Stamkos.
7. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina's captain has the same problem a few others on this list have: He plays the wrong position.
As a left-shooting pivot, Eric Staal lines up most comfortably at the middle, where Canada is loaded. He can move over to left wing, as he did during the 2010 Olympics, but the Canadians really need help on the right side of the ice.
Also working against Staal is recent history. He has had an up-and-down season for the Hurricanes, and he had only three assists in eight games at the 2013 World Championships.
6. Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall may very well have already been Olympic-bound if not for the fact that he plays in Edmonton.
Hall has been tainted by the Oilers' struggles and failures, but he's still a very impressive player. According to BehindtheNet.ca, Hall is the NHL's second-best even-strength scorer on a per-shift basis, eclipsing even Sidney Crosby.
Working against him is his position (left wing) and a lack of international experience. Hall's only time with Team Canada at the senior level came in last year's World Championships, where he had just three points in eight games and was consistently overlooked in favour of other players by head coach Lindy Ruff.
Despite his formidable scoring, it's a good bet that Canada opts for a natural right wing.
5. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
It wouldn't be fair to consider injury replacements for Canada without mentioning Joe Thornton.
The San Jose captain currently sits second only to Sidney Crosby among NHL skaters with 47 assists on the season. He's still an extremely good player and arguably the best playmaker in the game.
Thornton is also very experienced internationally, having played for Davos during the NHL's last two lockouts, where he managed 80 points over 73 games. A World Cup, two World Championships and a pair of Olympic Games help round out his Team Canada resume.
Unfortunately for Thornton, he's a centre, which means Canada would need to bump somebody—most likely Patrice Bergeron—over to the wing to make room, and that would leave the team fairly weak on the starboard side.
4. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
The 'Taylor or Tyler' debate has been going on since the lead-up to the 2010 Draft, and in this case it is Dallas Stars' forward Tyler Seguin who has the edge on Taylor Hall.
Primarily, it's by virtue of position. Seguin has seen extensive time at right wing over his NHL career, which makes him a better fit for Canada's needs than Hall. He also has more international experience, having spent the 2012 NHL Lockout in Switzerland, where he scored 25 times in 29 games and added 15 helpers for good measure.
Seguin is currently just over the point-per-game mark for Dallas.
3. James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins
An all-Pittsburgh line could be a reality if Canada opts to bring Penguins winger James Neal to Sochi as an injury replacement. Neal can play either wing, and while he generally plays with Evgeni Malkin, he has had some experience with Sidney Crosby and could line up alongside Canada's captain and teammate Chris Kunitz.
One thing working in Neal's favour is that he's a goal scorer, scoring at least once every two games over the last three seasons.
Neal has previously played in two World Championships and has career totals of eight points in nine games at that level.
2. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux was a somewhat surprising omission when the Canadian team was named on Jan. 7. He's flirting with the point-per-game mark right now—the same mark he hit a year ago. He had 93 points during the NHL's last full 82-game season.
Giroux has international experience, too, having represented Canada at the 2013 World Championships (where he put up eight points in eight games). He also played briefly in Germany during the 2012 NHL Lockout, posting 19 points in just nine games in the top league there.
He can play centre or right wing, and while perhaps not an ideal fit for the Sidney Crosby line, he could slot in elsewhere and bump up a player like Jeff Carter.
1. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Perhaps no player has done as much to improve his stock since Team Canada was named as Tampa Bay captain Martin St. Louis, who must be considered as an option to replace teammate Steven Stamkos. Though he's slowed in his last couple of games, he responded to being omitted from the Canadian roster with an incredible scoring binge, which we chronicled in depth here.
St. Louis has a wealth of experience with Team Canada, having represented his country at two World Championships, the 2006 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup. He has also played internationally, starring in Switzerland during the 2004-05 NHL Lockout.
A natural right wing, St. Louis is typically seen as more of a playmaker but can be a shooter as well. He has topped the 30-goal mark six times in his NHL career and is presently on a pace that would see him score 37 times in 82 games.
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