The Winter Olympics begin in less than two weeks and there are still a lot of unanswered questions of things to come. Will the athletes be safe? Will any of them use the "twin toilets" that were recently installed? Will Steven Stamkos be ready to go? All these questions are great concerns and have had people debating for weeks. With the first two questions being too difficult to give an answer, we thought we would focus in on the third one. Will Steven Stamkos be ready for Sochi?
Stamkos is one of the best goal scorers, if not the best, in the NHL. In six and a half seasons with the Tampa Bay Lighting, Stamkos has scored 222 goals, surpassing the 40-goal mark three separate times. He scored a career-high 60 goals in 2011-2012 and looked to be on his way to matching that total this year – that is until it all turned sideways for Stamkos.
On November 11 in an early afternoon game against the Boston Bruins, a hustle play by Stamkos proved to be costly. He was backchecking hard on a Bruins' rush to the net. He lost his balance and went sliding into the goal post. Stamkos tried to get up, but immediately fell back down in agony which sent the stretcher and training staff on the ice. Stamkos would be down for several minutes before being carted off the ice.
Here is a look at the video of Stamkos' injury:
An injury that was feared in the moment was made a reality over the next couple of days. A broken fibula which would need surgery. It was possible the injury could be season-ending and Stamkos' Olympic dreams could be gone, but he wasn't ready to give up that easily.
Stamkos underwent surgery a few days later and immediately began his rehab. He kept quiet on the whole matter on how he was feeling and just focused on what he needed to be doing to get back on the ice. On November 25, 2013, Stamkos attended a media session and shocked the hockey world with his appearance. It wasn't the fact that he showed up that shocked everyone, it was that he showed up without the use of crutches, with no walking boot, only two weeks removed from that injury. It was unbelievable.
Stamkos expressed his feelings on the matter:
I can't believe that I'm able to walk without any boot or crutches less than two weeks later.
Steven wasn't alone. No one could believe it. But it was happening. As he continued to make progress in his return from injury, Stamkos' status for the 2014 Olympics seemed more hopeful. The 23 year old from Markham, Ontario, Canada continued to rehab and day-by-day started inching himself closer to a miraculous and speedy return.
With today being January 28, Stamkos is running out of time to return to the ice. He has most recently done contact drills with his teammates in practice, but he still hasn't been cleared to play and seems to be a long way from being cleared. Stamkos' dream is to play in the Olympics, but will Team Canada's Executive Director, Steve Yzerman, who is also the General Manager of Stamkos' team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, allow Stamkos to play? It is a decision that could affect the Lightning's franchise for many years to come if they allow him to return from injury too soon.
Ideally, it would be good for Stamkos to play at least a couple of games prior to the Olympics. The Lightning have four games in February prior to the Olympic break. If Stamkos did return to action, a game to circle on your calendar could be February 6 when the Lightning play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The next game on February 8 is also a home game against the Detroit Red Wings and these games would give Stamkos a chance to get back into game shape.
We trust that whatever decision is made will be the right one. His scoring ability is definitely an asset to Canada and he would give them a strong chance of repeating as gold medalists. Millions of people hope to see Stamkos suiting up in a Team Canada jersey and fulfilling his dream of playing in the Olympics, but it's easier said than done.
There is a lot that needs to happen for Stamkos to be able to play in Sochi in two weeks. But based on what he has been capable of doing in two weeks in the past, we wouldn't write Stamkos off just yet. We expect to see him at the Olympics and playing an important role as Team Canada looks to win gold. It would be an incredible comeback story and a prime example of how focused and determined he really is.
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