It was announced yesterday that, despite a remarkable run through intense rehab, Steven Stamkos has been ruled out for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Now, with one of the best players in the NHL not being able to play for his country, Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman had to make a decision as far as who would replace Stamkos.
He certainly didn’t have any shortage of superstars to pick from. Claude Giroux, James Neal, Taylor Hall and Eric Staal were all popular names among the “I can’t believe he didn’t make the team” list. However, it was announced today that Yzerman went with Stamkos’ teammate from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Martin St. Louis, as the man who’ll fill in the vacant roster spot.
One can imagine this decision not being an easy one for Yzerman, as the list of scratched Canadian players rivals the starting rosters for some countries. So, now that the call has been made, was it the right one?
To put it bluntly; yes, yes it is.
Currently, St. Louis is proving to be the ageless wonder. At 38 years of age, he hasn’t lost a step, as he’s one of the fastest skaters in the league. Those who think there’s more to the game than speed are correct, but wrong if they intend to use that argument against St. Louis. He’s 11th in the league in goals scored (25), and 16th in points overall (54). He’s also coming off a season in which he became the oldest player to ever win the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring, with 60 points in 48 games.
However, one could argue that some of the aforementioned snubs, specifically Giroux and Hall, have just as many or more points than St. Louis. This much is true, however St. Louis has seen the Olympic stage already in his career, while the others have not. Along with various appearances in the World Championships, St. Louis played for the Canadian National team at the 2006 Torino Games. Said team left without a medal, something that no doubt has been eating at him in the eight years since.
But the biggest reasoning behind why St. Louis deserves this call is simple; none of the other scratches have proven for over 12 years that they can consistently make their teammates better.
St. Louis has. His skills on the ice have always translated in his own personal stat line – six years with at least 80 points – but they also improve the play of his line mates. This tends to happen when you’re playing along someone who’s a former Stanley Cup champion, a six time all-star and former MVP of the league.
If you’ve read all of this and still think someone else deserved the nod over St. Louis, well, agree to disagree. But you certainly can’t say he hasn’t earned the chance to play for his country again.
Yzerman made a great call in tabbing St. Louis as his replacement for Stamkos, and it’ll be hard not to root for the veteran forward during the tournament this year.