's amazing recovery from his broken leg wasn't enough to save his Sochi hopes. (Getty Images)
By Allan Muir
Steven Stamkos failed to secure medical clearance from team doctors and will not be allowed to join Team Canada for the Olympic Games.
A CT scan taken earlier today showed that the leg he broke in early November has not fully healed, according to Lightning and Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman.
"After reviewing the CT scan this afternoon, Dr. Gutentag made it clear to me and to Steven that the tibia is not completely healed and therefore he should not be participating in game action at any time in the near future,” Yzerman said in a team statement. “Although the doctor
was very pleased to this point with the healing process, he explained that the callus surrounding the fracture site is not 100 percent consolidated, and Steven will not be cleared to play in a game until that happens. It was a pretty clear cut decision, no gray areas at all.”
"Today is obviously very disappointing for me,” Stamkos said. “I honestly believe that we did everything possible in order to have my injured leg ready in time for the Olympics, but I realize you can’t force healing. I know, in the best interest of my long term health, I cannot represent Canada in Sochi, as much as I would like to."
Expected or not, this is a devastating blow for Team Canada, which hoped to use the explosive scorer on the top line alongside Sidney Crosby. The country has plenty of Olympic-caliber options, but no one with a skill set like his. It's even worse news for Stamkos, who clearly did everything possible in an effort to be ready for Sochi.
But there are two clear winners here. Stamkos will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks, a timeline that suggests he should be ready to go when the NHL season cranks up again after the Games. With no risk of him damaging the leg in Russia, the Bolts can pencil him in for the stretch run. That will be a huge boost for a team that remains in the mix to capture the Atlantic Division title.
And then there's the player who's about to earn a last-minute trip to Sochi. No word yet on a possible replacement, although Claude Giroux, Eric Staal, James Neal and Martin St. Louis, Stamkos' Tampa Bay teammate, look to be the favorites to take his roster spot.
The smaller -- though equally important -- question is who will replace Stamkos on the top line? John Tavares, the NHL's second-leading scorer behind Crosby, is a good bet. Jeff Carter, who has terrific speed and a lightning quick release, could also get a look.