Despite promising progress in his recovery, Steven Stamkos’ status for Sochi remains unknown. (Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)
By Allan Muir
It’s been awhile since we’ve dug through the ol’ mailbag, but with the letters piling up and sports problems to be solved, this seems like as good a time as any to address this matter. Here are a few representative examples of the questions that many of you have been asking:
I’m really getting worried about Steven Stamkos and his availability for Team Canada. Wasn’t Tuesday night’s game against the Maple Leafs one of the targets for his return to action? If he can’t go, who is his replacement?
– Rachel Rosenfeld, Mississauga, Ont.
During the next two weeks, the attention that will be paid to Stamkos and his broken leg will likely make the kerfuffle over royal baby No. 2 pale in comparison. Problem is, his healing rate is in no way commensurate with the number of cameras that are following him, or with the questions he’s being asked. He’ll be ready when he’s ready, but there’s a growing sense that he might not be ready before the Lightning’s final pre-Olympic break game on Feb. 8. And if that’s the case, it puts Team Canada’s brass in a tough spot.
We’re already near a point where even if his leg is up to the challenge of playing, Stamkos won’t have the strength or the wind to be truly effective playing at the Sochi tournament’s pace. Still, I think there’s a strong desire on Canada’s part to bring him to Russia and push off any decisions until Feb. 11, the last day that a roster change can be made.
That would be a risky call. Not only would it require flying another player over in order to have a replacement ready (as Canada did in 2010, keeping Jeff Carter on stand-by in case Ryan Getzlaf couldn’t go), but it also sets up a possible repeat of the mistake that Canada made in Turin in ’06, when Chris Pronger played at less than 100 percent … and played poorly.