Even though General Manager Julien BriseBois was confident that captain Steven Stamkos would return for the playoffs this year, that won’t be happening in the Eastern Conference Finals. Head coach Jon Cooper told the media on Sunday that Stamkos would not be available and would not play in the best of seven series against the New York Islanders;
#tblightning Jon Cooper said Steven Stamkos not going to play in series. Said he didn’t practice with team today. When there’s another update, he’ll let us know. GM Julien BriseBois had said last week Stamkos had not been ruled out for rest of playoffs.
— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) September 6, 2020
This comes at the frustration and somewhat disgust of many Lightning fans who are now focusing their ire on the former first overall pick. In fact, there have been numerous people – whether it be on Twitter or in Facebook fan groups – saying that Stamkos should not only relinquish the “C” on his jersey, but that the team should outright cut ties with the star player due to his injury history.
Those people are wrong.
First of all, no one is more frustrated with all of this than Steven Stamkos himself. His injuries have come at terrible times and as a leader on this team, you all know he wants nothing more than to be out on the ice with his teammates competing for a Stanley Cup.
That’s the thing about injuries – you can’t predict them, you can’t plan for them. However, when they happen you have to do your best to treat them appropriately and when complications happen, you deal with those. And that’s exactly what happened here. With core surgeries, the rehab and recovery process is a tricky one. You begin overcompensating and create new problems. Unfortunately, that’s the speculation of what happened here. Don’t forget – Stammer was a full participant in practices before the team left for the Toronto bubble. It was in those sessions that the complication flared up, causing his current absence.
In no way is this team better off – now, or in the long term – without Stamkos. Yes, the Lightning are 10-3 in bubble play without him, but are they actually a better team? There’s no question that the power play has been lost without him. Beyond that, look at the way the Boston Bruins – albeit in a losing effort – dominated the face-off circle without Stammer there. Even on the penalty kill, we’d see Stamkos out there to take face-offs, win, and get off the ice.
This team is unquestionably a better one when the captain is on the ice. Fortunately for Lightning fans, they have enough talent to mask the deficiencies left from him lack of availability.
With Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, and the Gourde-Goodrow-Coleman line stepping up the way they have, the Lightning have won both of their playoff series in just five games. But a tougher test is ahead of them with the New York Islanders.
Even more guys will have to step their game up to another level in order to oust the Barry Trotz coached squad so as not to relive the nightmare that was the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals against the Washington Capitals that saw Tampa Bay blow a 3-2 series lead by not scoring a goal in the final seven periods.
There’s no doubt about it – Steven Stamkos missing from the lineup hurts this team more the deeper into the postseason they get. They real question is, who is going to step up in this series to ensure Stamkos still gets a chance – no matter how slim – to play in these playoffs?