Steven Stamkos suffered a broken tibia when he crashed into a goal post during yesterday afternoon’s game between his Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins. It’s difficult to predict the recovery time for a broken tibia because there are many variables at play, but the most common assessment seems to be that Stamkos will miss around four-to-six months, which would mean he would not be available for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics in early February.
The loss of Stamkos is obviously a huge blow for the Lightning, Canada and the NHL as a whole. No player has scored more goals than Stamkos over the last three seasons, and it’s not really close either. The good news here is a broken tibia isn’t akin to a concussion or another more serious injury in that Stamkos will likely make a full recovery and be ready for next season at the latest. But that news doesn’t do much to lessen the fears of Lightning fans who will likely see their team fall well out of first place in the Atlantic Division and possibly out of the playoff picture with Stamkos on the shelf.
Olympic hockey fans will also be disappointed Stamkos won’t be making his first-ever Olympic appearance in February. I projected Stamkos to line up on Sidney Crosby’s wing in my roster projection series last summer, but now, his injury leaves a rather massive hole on the team. On the bright side, Canada has no shortage of elite-level forwards who will be eager to prove they belong in that now-vacant spot.
I think Matt Duchene is a player who can jump into a top-six spot on the team with little difficulty. Duchene is one of the leading scorers in the league with 11 goals and 19 points in 16 games. His game is similar to Stamkos in that he has world-class speed and can score at will.
Another player who I didn’t include in my initial projection who I think can sneak on to the team is Logan Couture. Couture is another youngster who’s had a hot start to the season scoring-wise, and also has the required grit to play in the bottom two lines.
Martin St. Louis is on the opposite end of the career arc as Duchene and Couture, but is once again near a point per game this year. Maybe his scoring will dry up a bit with Stamkos out, but even if it does, St. Louis’ creativity and leadership ability will be great assets for Canada to have.
The battle for the last extra forward spot I believe will come down to Ryan Getzlaf and Jason Spezza. Getzlaf is tearing up the league with 22 points in 18 games so far this season, while Spezza has 16 points in as many games. Either of these guys is capable of stepping into a scoring role in case of injuries.
The loss of Stamkos is a huge blow for sure, but with Canada’s outrageous forward depth, they should be able to weather the storm. With Rick Nash still on the shelf with a concussion and his return date still unknown, and Claude Giroux suffering from a terrible start to the season with only one goal, there will be plenty of opportunities for some dark horse candidates to emerge as we inch ever closer to the deadline for the team to be named at the end of December.
Jason Spezza – Martin St. Louis