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Steven Stamkos surgery fallout, from Olympics to playoff race

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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The Tampa Bay Lightning confirmed the worst on Monday, hours after star Steven Stamkos broke his right tibia on a goalpost in Boston: He’ll need surgery on his leg, scheduled for Tuesday morning.

“At this point Steven will be out indefinitely,” vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman said.

“The medical staff in Boston, in consultation with our team physicians, has made the decision to surgically repair the injury. The procedure is expected to take place tomorrow morning. The biggest concern for me, and the rest of the Lightning, is that decisions are made in Steven’s best long-term interest, and we feel this is the appropriate course of action.”

Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Tribune spoke with the Tampa Bay Rays team orthopedist Koco Eaton, who said that the recovery from this surgery can be anywhere from 6-9 months. We’ve also seen 4-6 months in the time range.

The fallout from Stamkos’ injury is wide-ranging:

The Lightning

The Lightning have 56 goals on the season and Stamkos has 23 points, meaning he’s participating on the scoresheet on 41 percent of the Bolts’ tallies. He scored 10 of the Lightning’s 32 even strength goals.

He had been skating with Marty St. Louis and second-year man Alex Killorn. Jon Cooper moved Valtteri Filppula up to that line against the Boston Bruins following the injury. Stamkos was their third-leading player in power play ice time and kills penalties as well.

The Lightning are off to a 12-5-0 start, thanks in large part to the stellar goaltending of Ben Bishop and the dynamic scoring of Stamkos. One will have to continue to be solid to compensate for the loss of the other. But in the end, there’s no replacing Stamkos; all of a sudden, the top of the Atlantic Division appears to be in a tenuous grip.

(A long-range aside: If Stamkos’s season is at an end, that leaves him with two more years on his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency in 2016.)

The Scoring Race

Stamkos was on pace for a 72-goal season, which would have been the highest total since Mario Lemieux’s 69 goals in 1995-96. Would it have happened? Probably not, but Stamkos was obviously both a Rocket Richard and Art Ross threat, leading the league in goals and points at the time of his injury.

The path was just cleared for Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Alex Steen, Corey Perry and Alex Ovechkin to stake their claims to the postseason awards – including the Hart, which Stamkos could have been up for if the Lightning continued to contend.

Team Canada

One of the supreme bummers about this situation is that Stamkos was left off of Team Canada in 2010, and was tracking to be a top line player for them in Sochi.

The Canadians have tremendous depth up front and a deep bench; at center alone, the team runs about 12 players deep. One imagines this opens up a roster spot for Matt Duchene, who might have made the team anyway. It also might save Claude Giroux, whose early season flop had him on the roster bubble.

There’s no replicating Stamkos’ goal-scoring, which is especially an asset in a short tournament, but this would hurt Team Canada less than, say, losing Roberto Luongo or Carey Price.

One wrinkle to the Olympic question, from Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet: “Early indication is Lightning Stamkos didn't suffer overly complicated break and Sochi Olympics isn't out of question in 2nd week of Feb.”

So there’s hope. Maybe.

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