As the 2014 Winter Olympics begin, Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal is not on the list of people happy to see it.
First, Staal was left off of the original roster of Team Canada. This evoked a lot of frustration as he felt he deserved a spot on the team. Whatever Canada’s reason was for leaving him off the team, that was their decision. There wasn’t a lot to get around there.
With only days before the beginning of the tournament, Tampa Bay Lightning standout Steven Stamkos failed to secure medical clearance to play. Stamkos had been nursing a nasty fracture from earlier in the year and had hoped it would be cleared up in time for Sochi. It wasn’t, and that left an open spot on Canada’s roster. With much speculation as to who would fill it, Staal’s name was on a short list of candidates.
Thursday afternoon, the announcement came that Stamkos’ teammate Martin St. Louis would take that spot, not Staal. As he was more than likely directed to do by some handler in the Hurricanes media department, Staal wished St. Louis luck at the games. “He’s had a great season and he’s had a great career,” Staal said as he expressed happiness for his countryman.
Oh, give us a break.
Whether or not Staal deserves a spot on the team is up for debate. While some might wave his previous Olympic experience in critics’ faces, many others might wave this season’s lackluster overall stats back. While Staal has made a monster comeback in recent months, St. Louis has a better season overall and might seem to be the more reliable candidate. Staal, on the other hand, possesses great leadership skills, but how needed is that in a locker room full of hockey royalty like Team Canada?
Nothing is certain until the tournament begins next week. The one thing Staal cannot do is allow his Olympic frustrations to affect his performance in Carolina after the break. While some might attribute his recent improvements as ‘having something to prove’, there’s no reason this can’t transition into playoff run hockey. Let Staal show folks they were wrong.
Or do whatever works, because the Hurricanes need a playoff spot more than they need an Olympian.