Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos spotted on the ice today

I nearly cried (not actually) when Steven Stamkos incurred a broken tibia in early November (he’s on my pool team). You may have been worried too. However, you, like me, probably had an inkling that the superstar would defy the odds and heal as quick as humanly possible, not unlike so many great athletes have done before. It does appear, at this point, that Stamkos’s recovery is in fast-track mode – he was spotted on the ice today in a Tampa Bay Lightning jumper.

The Lightning have performed admirably without their stud centre, earning a (6-5-3) record since the injury, despite not rostering the NHL’s top goal scorer spanning the last five seasons. And if not for a difficult Western Conference road swing, the Bolts record would likely be even more impressive sans Stamkos – Bolts are (5-2-1) against teams from the inferior Eastern Conference since they lost number 91.

Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning in pre-game warmups. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning in pre-game warmups. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Stamkos isn’t practicing – ready to return any time soon. His return to ice is merely a small step in the right direction – obstacle overcome in his recovery – sign that the Olympic hopeful is progressing toward a full heal. However, this being mid December, there is still no publicly set return date.

Team Canada notwithstanding (I’m among those who believe Team Canada can’t replace him), it is the resilient Tampa Bay Lightning who need Stamkos back first and foremost, and if not for Team Canada’s GM being the same man who calls the shots in Tampa, I wouldn’t be surprised if the sniper’s Olympic availability were to have been removed from the realm of possibility at this point. Olympics are great, but it’s the Bolts who pay the bills and will rely on Stamkos down the stretch this season, and throughout 82 games and playoffs for many years to come. That being said, because Stamkos is back on skates, and because his general manager is choosing Team Canada; the Lightning star is still a strong contender to dawn the Red & White at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next February.

By all accounts (I’ve never met the man), Steven Stamkos is a special breed of person – a man of likeable character, class – possessive of a work ethic that couples with his raw talents to form a combination that’s byproduct had some calling him an early season Hart trophy candidate before he broke his leg, on that awful day. And while Stamkos could easily take this time with injury to relax and collect a cheque, Pete Jensen of the NHL reminds us that: