It was November 11, Veterans Day, during a matinee game against the big, bad Boston Bruins. Steven Stamkos and Dougie Hamilton were racing toward the net when Stamkos lost a skate edge and went crashing into the post, breaking his right tibia.
Just like that, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season seemed to be over. Even Lightning "fans" said that the team would be hard-pressed to make a strong run without the offense of Stamkos. Media reports said Stamkos could potentially miss the rest of the season, with the recovery estimated to take 4-6 months.
That was 12 weeks ago today, only three months since the devastating injury. According to media reports, Stamkos looks to be making his return Saturday, the last game before the Olympics begin in Sochi, when the Lightning take on the Detroit Red Wings at home.
Stamkos says his target date to play is Saturday at home vs Red Wings. Will determine Olympic participation off that game.— Damian Cristodero (@LightningTimes) February 3, 2014
But, should he be coming back this soon?
Supporters of his return say that only Stamkos knows how his body is reacting to the rehabilitation process. They say that if he thinks he is able to play without any ill effects, we should trust him.
His critics have said that he is rushing his recovery only to play the Olympics, which is a detriment to his long-term health.
I disagree with this mindset. If Steven Stamkos says that he is ready to play Saturday, then he absolutely should play. Playing for the national team in the Olympics is something that many of these players hold as one of the greatest achievements one can possibly reach (next to hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup, of course). Sure, it would be nice to have those two weeks to rest and rehabilitate a little more. But, who is to say that Stamkos will have the chance to play for Team Canada again?
The Detroit Red Wings, and their fans, are wrestling with this same issue. Pavel Datsyuk, arguably one of the best players in the League, has not played since sustaining a lower-body injury at the Winter Classic on January 1. Reports have said Datsyuk plans to compete in his home country’s Olympic Games. General Manager Ken Holland has said he is "worried" about his star center playing for Russia before getting a few games in with the Red Wings.
So, what do you think? Do you think that it is time for Stamkos to make his return? Or, should he take the two weeks off during the Olympic break (perhaps making way for Martin St. Louis to join Team Canada, but I will eventually let that one go)? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.