Answer This: The Olympic Effect

Ben Bishop is super-awesome but will be resting instead of playing for Team USA. - Richard Wolowicz

Some of the Tampa Bay Lightning's best players are going to Sochi and some are staying home. What effect will the Olympics have on the team in the stretch run? Opinions from the Raw Charge team and from around the Bolt-o-Sphere.

Hark! The Olympic Games doth come upon us and lo, yon Tampa Bay Lightning many players will send, while many other shall remain behind, unable to climb the slippery slopes of Mount Olympus (Sochi branch) and sip the nectar of the gods from the teat of mighty Zeus.

The roster of Mighty Olympic Heroes changes by the day. Stamkos stays, the mightily snubbed St-Louis goes. Mighty Valtteri Filpulla withdraws due to his battle wounds. The powerful Bishop and Hedman stay behind, while the young and valiant Gudas, Panik, Palat, Gudlevskis, and the war horse Sami Salo go.

What means this then for the home team? Will they be torn asunder down the stretch because their young stallions will show the wear and tear of too much battle? Will they be helped by Bishop and Hedman being rested?

To answer these questions, we collected the Bolt-o-Sphere's finest oracles. Some responded before the Stamkos/St-Louis news, but prophesy is prophesy, and it shall not be unwritten. Also, the didn't write their answers in the dick-headed language I'm using.

Clare Austin, Puckology Blog, @Puckologist.

I've thought a lot about this question the past couple of days, and it comes down to—who knows? I mean, there's a reason I don't do predictions very often. And there seem to be two separate questions here, if not more: "How will the Lightning players do in the Olympics?" And "what effect will the Olympics have on the players who go, those who were snubbed, and those who get the time off?"

They'll all do okay, but odds are none will be spectacular. At least not in the areas that you get judged on in an Olympic tournament: Goals and Assists. The players I expect to have the best tournament are Val Filppula and Ondrej Palat, but those guys both play quiet games that won't necessarily show up on the IIHF stat sheet, which favors PIMs and ignores shot attempts. I expect Gudas to have at least one questionable hit, because the standards are a lot different than he's used to these days.

It's possible that Stamkos could play and if he plays that he could be a key scorer for Canada. But he might not even go, and if he does, it's likely that he won't play very many minutes. So I expect he'll have a quiet tournament, too, if it happens at all. Then again, if he is able to participate, it's possible that he'll get more time as the tournament goes on and he gets back in the groove. Maybe. That assumes that he's actually ready to play by Feb. 12, and not just hoping for the best by Feb, 12. Who knows, really?

I don't really think there'll be much you can definitively pin on the Olympics as a cause or trigger, unless it makes Richard Panik suddenly become not enigmatic anymore. These guys are going to be motivated by any number of things, and I tend to think that once the Olympics are over, the idea of playoffs will be a bigger motivating factor than anything to do with Sochi.

But Stamkos will be back on the Lightning roster around this time, and that will probably make a much bigger difference than this tournament. Oh, and also, Ben Bishop getting some rest, because they're gonna ride him like a pony for the rest of the year and he's never played more than 48 games in a season in his entire career.

Clark Brooks, Staff writer, Ridiculously Inconsistent Trickle of Consciousness, .

I don't take the Olympics seriously at all. I enjoy them. They're great spectacle and lots of fun, but I don't get wrapped up in attaching national pride to it. I'll root for whomever can give me the best, most entertaining action. I'm also a sucker for the underdog turning tragedy into triumph and I don't really care what countries those stories come from. So as far as expectations, I have none other than I expect to be entertained and i expect my love affair with curling to be rekindled. I've often said curling has the exact level of fame i would want if i were famous; wildly popular for two weeks every four years and mostly ignored the rest of the time. Beyond that, for the love of Pete, please, nobody get hurt.

Michael Stuart, Hockey Buzz,

The Lightning are sending seven players over to Sochi to compete in the Olympic games. That’s a pretty impressive tidbit of information. It becomes even more impressive when you consider that the team’s three best players this season (Ben Bishop, Marty St. Louis, and Victor Hedman) were all snubbed by their respective countries. The fact that the team has so many quality and sought after assets is a testament to the job that Steve Yzerman and his management team have done to replenish the cupboards, per se.

Further to that, it will be particularly interesting to see how some of the Lightning rookies perform on the world’s biggest stage. Ondrej Palat and Radko Gudas, who will both suit up for the Czech team, are two guys that I’ll be keying in on when watching. They’ve been pillars of the Lightning’s success so far this season, and I’m definitely wondering how they’ll be used in Sochi. It's hard to imagine that they'll be counted on by the Czechs like they are by the Lightning, but both play a style that allows them to be effective in a more limited role.

Personally, I’m really not overly worried about the potential negative impact that the Olympics will have on the Lightning’s ability to compete down the stretch. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, I’m of the belief that the players who are going will be motivated and excited by the experience. Secondly, the unfortunate reality that some of the team’s best players are staying home to rest up might help the group down the stretch. Does that make their snubs a positive for Tampa? Perhaps. How many organizations have players of the Bishop/St. Louis/Hedman caliber staying home? Not too many. It’s not like Tampa is the only organization sending players to participate, so the team really isn’t at any sort of disadvantage here.

At the end of the day, the Olympic competition is something that hockey fans around the world should celebrate. This tournament features the best of the best. The fact that Lightning fans have so many players to watch and cheer for makes it even better.

John Fontana, El Generalissmo Supremo de Raw Charge, .

My biggest concern is the geopolitics surrounding these Games and how volatile they have become. In that regard, I’m worried for everyone participating as they have the potential to become political pawns if things go wrong.

If things go right and everything is played like there is no volatility? I think I’m more likely to just sit back and enjoy the hockey for what it is and leave worries and expectations about the last stretch of the season until the NHL resumes.

I do, however, hope NBC doesn’t try to milk the story about Stamkos’ leg too much. They have that bad habit with the Olympics – to milk a story until people are sick of it.

Chad Schnar, Bolt Prospects,

The Olympics are a huge honor for a player and adrenaline will be pumping, so I'm not concerned about the majority of Lightning players going to Sochi. After all, aside from a couple, these are elite athletes in their 20's playing a handful of games. I worry about Sami Salo, who is always an injury risk at his age and with his history, and maybe Val Filppula a little because he's not on the younger side and he plays a crucial role for the Lightning.

As a prospect follower, I'm most excited to see Kristers Gudlevskis on the big stage to see if he can make a name for himself among NHL followers and casual fans. I think he has a great opportunity to keep Latvia in a lot of games in which they'll be considered underdogs.

I also expect Radko Gudas and Ondrej Palat to play well for the Czechs, and I'm hoping a clean slate of sorts will turn Richard Panik's game around. I wonder how and if he fits into the Slovak's lineup.

I don't like the break for Ben Bishop's focus and "mojo," though the rest will likely do him good in the long run. Goalies are a bit different (in many ways). With the Lightning's schedule, they'll have to hit the ground skating after the Olympics are over. Here's hoping they're ready to go.

Tasha Meares Bolts By The Bay,

There are a lot of things to look at when it comes to the Tampa Bay Lightning players’ participation in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

I think the one that is on the top of everyone’s mind is Steven Stamkos.

While Stamkos has made some amazing strides when it comes to his recovery, I think there is a slight possibility that he may be pushing himself harder than he should be for the sake of being able to represent Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Don’t get me wrong, just like any other Lightning fan, I would love to see him sporting his country’s colors and have a chance at Olympic glory, but in the same respect, I don’t want him to push himself to the point that he ends up re-injuring himself in Sochi, thus ending his already shortened NHL season; or worse, his entire NHL career.

I think it would be in the best interest of not just the Tampa Bay Lightning, but also himself if he sat this one out and worked on getting back on NHL ice.

Now, when it comes to someone like Valtteri Filppula, I think a run at the Gold Medal in Sochi may be just what he needs to get back on track. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like he has jumped the rails or anything, but he has hit a bit of a scoring slump where at the beginning of the season, he seemed to be unstoppable.

With all the talent Finland has on their team, I think it is safe to say that they will find themselves on the podium when all is said and done, maybe even at the top.

For the rest of the Bolts that are heading to Russia for the games, I think this will be an overall good experience for them; one that will allow them to get involved in some international play and maybe shake things up a little bit. For new guys like Kristers Gudlevskis, this is an amazing opportunity to spread his wings and really have their skill tested.

As far as the Olympic snubs are concerned, while it absolutely sucks that these guys won’t get to make the trip with their respective countries, because Lord only knows they earned it, I think this may be one of the best things that could have happened to them. Since this happened, Martin St. Louis, Ben Bishop, and Victor Hedman have been on fire. Marty has been leading the team in pretty much all things scoring, and has carried one of the longest points streaks this season.

On the other hand, Victor Hedman has been much more aggressive in front of the puck. Even without a stick, which he likes to break a lot recently for some reason, he still uses his body to get in front of the player, and more importantly the puck, and block shots from the net.

Ben Bishop, well…I think Sticks of Fire says it best…he’s big, he’s tall, he’s a freaking brick wall. Ben Bishop has been playing the way that he has the entire season, amazingly. I think him being left off of Team USA heading into Sochi only stoked the fire that was already inside of him and made him work just a little bit harder to show the people at USA Hockey what they are missing.

Since the high-profile Olympic snubs happened, I have contended that the best way to show them what they are missing is to play with all the fire in your soul and bring home the Stanley Cup. If the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to play the way that they have been, clean up a few lingering errors, and get Stamkos back into their lineup, I have no doubt that this could very well become a reality for the Lightning this season.

And so, the warriors will go. What do you think will happen? Tell us in the comment section below. Please talk like a character in the Iliad.

-Nolan Whyte

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