He’s not the sexiest pick, but Eric Staal makes a lot of sense for Team Canada. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)
By Allan Muir
It was supposed to be a great day for Steven Stamkos, the day when doctors finally gave him the green light to return to the Lightning this weekend, just in time to secure his role with Team Canada for the Sochi Olympics.
Instead, the CT scan he underwent on Wednesday revealed that the leg he fractured back on Nov. 11 has not healed as well as initially thought. He can be re-evaluated in another two to three weeks, but that’s too late for him. And too late for Canada.
For Stamkos, this decision means he now focuses on using the Olympic break to get healthy for Tampa Bay’s playoff drive. But for Canada, it means finding a replacement for the player who was expected to be the focal point of the team’s offense as it aimed to defend its gold medal.
Let’s get this out of the way right here: No matter the depth of Canada’s talent pool this is an absolutely devastating loss. There’s no replacing what Stamkos would have brought to the table. There is no one who can match his release or his shot or his knack for finding space on the ice. That guy doesn’t exist.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t quality options for Steve Yzerman and his staff to consider. There are the snubs whose omission stunned observers as well as others who have played their way into the mix in the month since the rosters were first announced on Jan. 7. The trick will be to find a player who is willing to accept a role as Canada’s 13th/14th forward, but also is capable of playing on the top line if necessary.
Here are the players that Team Canada is likely sizing up at this moment.