Wednesday afternoon the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that star sniper Steven Stamkos would not participate in the Winter Olympics for Team Canada. His horrificly fractured leg has not healed enough for him to be cleared to play. So the immediate speculation is who will replace the two-time NHL goal-scoring leader.
When the Canadian Olympic hockey team was announced in early January, Flyers captain Claude Giroux was not named to the roster. Giroux had been off to a slow start, but has picked things up significantly in the last month. Also not named to the team in early January was Stamkos’ teammate Martin St. Louis.
So will Giroux be named to Team Canada now?
St. Louis is a winger and a player for Team Canada’s executive director Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay (Yzerman is the Lightning’s general manager). St. Louis is 38 years old but is having an excellent season, averaging almost a point a game. Stamkos was penciled in to play alongside Sidney Crosby in these Olympics. So St. Louis, if chosen, would be playing in his natural position; however, he doesn’t offer the versatility of like Giroux.
Giroux has really picked it up for the suddenly relevant Flyers. Since Team Canada was named, Giroux has 6 goals and 11 assists in 15 games. Meanwhile, St. Louis has cooled off: He’s been goalless in seven games since dropping a four-spot on San Jose. Giroux can also kill penalties and take faceoffs. But it isn’t like Canada is thin down the middle with Crosby, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, the Islanders’ John Tavares and Boston’s superb defensive forward Patrice Bergeron. But only Tavares has more points among Canadians over the past three seasons. And points are what will be needed to replace Stamkos.
But what may really matter is what will be asked of Stamkos’s replacement. Will he be expected to fit in on the top line with Crosby and his Penguin teammate Chris Kunitz, or fill in as a just-happy-to-be-here extra forward. Many Canadians will be excited to see what a skilled winger such as St. Louis could do with Crosby. As for Giroux, would chemistry be an issue with Crosby? The two have had an ornery on-ice relationship with past playoffs featuring heated exchanges and dirty accusations.
If St. Louis or Giroux don’t get the call, Canada could go with Carolina captain Eric Staal or maybe even Edmonton’s young speedster Taylor Hall.
I’d have to give the edge to St. Louis, but Canada wouldn’t suffer by choosing the Flyers leading scorer. The Flyers, on the other hand, might be just fine with their leader resting at home in February.