Martin St. Louis to replace Steven Stamkos on men's Olympic hockey team
Tampa Bay forward named to Canada's Sochi squad
SOCHI, Russia — Martin St. Louis can keep a secret.
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who also is Team Canada’s executive director, informed the scoring dynamo on Wednesday that he will replace the not-ready-for-prime-time Steven Stamkos on the Canadian men's Olympic hockey roster. But Hockey Canada officially didn’t add St. Louis until Thursday when he came off the ice from his team’s morning skate.
When Stamkos released a statement through the Lightning on Wednesday to report that a scan earlier that morning showed his right leg had not healed enough for game action, Yzerman shortly after revealed a four-player shortlist to replace his sniper. Besides St. Louis, Eric Staal, James Neal and Claude Giroux were also in the mix.
Giroux was considered the favourite to replace Stamkos if the Lightning forward wasn't ready in time back when the initial roster was announced. But Yzerman, his management team and the Canadian coaching staff received harsh criticism for leaving the 38-year-old St. Louis off the team.
St. Louis admitted on Thursday that he was bitter.
"Of course I was bitter, but it wasn't motivation. I've been motivated for 10 years," St. Louis said. "If you are not motivated you are not considered for these things.
"As bitter as you can feel at times, you have to put that aside. You only get so many kicks at the can, so you take them."
With that chip on his shoulder, he went out and scored eight times and amassed 16 points in the 14 games since the Canadian roster was announced on Jan. 7.
"Everybody [who] knows me knows I'm a pretty emotional guy. There has been a lot of that the last month. I heard from [Stamkos] that he wasn't going so I prepared myself."
How can you not like the inspiring St. Louis’ late-bloomer story? The five-foot-eight, 180-pound right wing was never drafted. He was cut loose by the Calgary Flames after he scored four goals and 20 points in 69 games over parts of two seasons.
Tampa Bay was the club that decided to pluck St. Louis off the scrap heap. In his third season with the Lightning, he exploded for a 33-goal campaign. In his fourth year there, he helped the Lightning win the 2003-04 Stanley Cup.
Next thing he knows St. Louis is chosen to play for Canada at the 2006 Olympics. He played well. But the team didn’t. Still, he wasn’t selected for the gold-medal winning 2010 Canadian Olympic team.
Yzerman has said many times it was the most difficult decision he’s made as a hockey executive. It may not have mattered because Canada won without St. Louis, but it mattered to St. Louis.
All he did was score 105 times, pile up 310 points in his 284 games since the 2010 Winter Games, a point total that is tops among all NHLers during this span. He also became the oldest Art Ross Trophy winner as the league scoring champ last season, six weeks before his 38th birthday.
It didn't matter to him that he's making the team this way.
"I'm just glad to get the opportunity," St. Louis said. "I feel like my whole career has been a back-door entrance. This is no different. It's a big opportunity and I'm glad to be there."
While Stamkos was happy for his linemate, he admitted shock when he found out the scan on his leg on Wednesday showed that his broken right tibia had not healed enough to be cleared to play. He fully expected good news and felt he was going to suit up with his teammates on Thursday for his first game action since his Nov. 11 injury.
"It's unfortunate, but that's life," Stamkos said. "But everybody goes through adverse moments. As old a cliché as it is, it tests your character and probably makes you a better player and a better person.
"I don't think you can put into words all the feelings I've gone through in the past 24 hours. But I can honestly sit here and say that we as a team did everything possible to give myself a chance."
With St. Louis now in the fold, Canadian head coach Mike Babcock will have to decide who plays on the right side of captain Sidney Crosby. Stamkos was pencilled in that spot and it won't necessarily go to St. Louis. It could go to someone like Matt Duchene or Jeff Carter.
We'll find out next week.