On Thursday, Steven Stamkos expounded upon his current injury situation. Unfortunately for Lightning fans, what the captain had to say wasn’t exactly encouraging. As we speculated earlier in the week, it’s looking more and more likely that he won’t be back in time for the regular season.
The quotes that appeared in the Tampa Bay Times article by Joe Smith seemed unusually despondent for Stamkos. Having spent the last 83 days listening to Stamkos injury news, I know that he chooses his words very carefully. There is rarely a moment, if ever, where he says something that he hasn’t already thought about.
So, reading what he said to Smith is a good look into how he’s feeling. From what it sounds like, things aren’t going as smoothly as General Manager Steve Yzerman led us to believe a couple of weeks ago.
What is really odd to read is the doubt in his words. Stamkos is extremely confident in what he does (especially on the ice), so it is disheartening to hear him say:
“If I know I can't play to the ability and be a liability out there because I can't do a certain movement or this movement is painful so I'll shy away from that, it's not fair to my teammates, not fair to myself to go out in that situation.”
It’s almost inconceivable to think of Stamkos shying away from anything when he’s on the ice, and it shows you how tough it is to overcome a knee injury. The knee could be 100% structurally fine, but overcoming the mental hurdle and trusting that it can handle the stress of a hockey game can be almost as difficult as the physical rehab.
“The knee is a tricky situation. It's something I've never had to deal with before. It's all new to me. There's a lot of movements that a knee is a big part of when you're skating. A lot of things you have to teach yourself over again when you're out as long as I was.”
The complete randomness of knee injuries helps compound that doubt. After all, it wasn’t a horrible collision that led to the injury in the first place. It was an innocent play along the boards, one he’s probably been a part of hundreds of times on the ice. In the back of his mind, there has to be the thought that it could happen again.
Stamkos can’t be effective on the ice if he’s tentative, and that’s what he’ll be if he’s constantly thinking about his knee when he’s playing. If he needs another six months to recover mentally, it’s worth it. Rushing back before he’s in the right mind set could alter the way he plays the game permanently. No Lightning fan wants to see that.
Maybe this is all a ruse. Stamkos is sandbagging everyone and he’s just waiting for the right time to come back and lead his team to the promised land. Unfortunately, he’s running out of time to make that dream come true.