SCOTT BURNSIDE: Well, my friend, there is more than a little symmetry to Hockey Canada's announcement Thursday that veteran winger Martin St. Louis will replace his teammate Steven Stamkos on Canada's Olympic roster. It just fits in so many ways, no? St. Louis was clearly hurt by the fact he was left off the team when it was announced a month ago -- a second straight snub by Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman, who left St. Louis off the 2010 Olympic roster.
But instead of sulking, St. Louis has continued to play at a high level. He has 16 points in his past 14 games and has been held without a point only twice during that time. So when doctors told Stamkos, Yzerman et al that Stamkos' surgically repaired broken tibia wasn't healed sufficiently to allow him to play in Sochi next week, St. Louis became both a sentimental and in some ways the obvious choice to fill that opening. Makes sense. Unless of course you're Claude Giroux or Eric Staal, perhaps.
PIERRE LEBRUN: Or James Neal. Believe me, the Penguins winger was very much in the mix as well, given that he's a pure sniper, and that's what Team Canada lost in Stamkos. You can easily make the case for Giroux (whom I think should have been on the original roster anyway), as well as Staal, but in the end, St. Louis wasn't only the sentimental choice but also one who came after he absolutely lit up over the past month. So it's not a token gesture. The 38-year-old St. Louis has been bringing it, big time, especially after the Jan. 7 snub.
"Of course I was bitter," St. Louis said during his news conference Thursday after being announced as Stamkos' replacement, when asked about the original roster. One thing about St. Louis, he's not going to lie. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. And you have to remember how bitter he was in 2010, as well, with not making that team.
"I've been motived the last four years,'' St. Louis said. There's still a chip on his shoulder despite this announcement, believe me. What's going to be intriguing now is what exactly his role will be in Sochi. "To be determined," one Team Canada source said. Remember, only 13 forwards will dress, not 14. You have to imagine he's going to play, but who knows. That's up to head coach Mike Babcock. What I like the most though about his addition is that Canada was sending a pretty young team.
When you talk to members of the 2010 gold-medal squad, they'll tell you how important it was to have the veteran voices of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer in that dressing room, especially after Team USA tied the gold-medal game late. Now, we also know there's great leadership in Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, two young superstars who have grown up a lot in four years, but having a seasoned vet such as St. Louis in the room, I think, will greatly benefit that dressing room.
It was St. Louis last summer at the Olympic camp who, I believe, organized the golf game for the 45-plus players on hand. Nobody had asked St. Louis to do that, but he was just taking charge. Just an example of his leadership.