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Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Stamkos was easy call, now replace him with Marty

The Show's over.

At least this one.

It was an easy call.

It was the doctor's call.

Steven Stamkos' Olympic dream is broken.

He isn't going to Sochi.

Marty St. Louis should replace him.

Make it Marty.

Stamkos wasn't medically cleared to play Olympic hockey for Canada.

“It was a pretty clear-cut decision, no gray areas at all,” Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement.

Yzerman, as GM of Team Canada, can now move on to new business, like finding a replacement for Stamkos — and being a sitting duck.

“Wait, you're going to leave Marty off again?”

Make it Marty.

Will Stamkos make it back on the ice for the Lightning this season?

That's the new sign post.

But there is no guarantee.

Ever since he was injured Nov 11, Stamkos' progress had amazed, to the point that Wednesday's news stunned some people when it really shouldn't have. Dig: Guy broke his leg. But Stamkos' five-rings determination made you think it was really, truly possible. His proposed return Saturday night, a dry run against the Red Wings, with a packed Forum hopping, suddenly seemed a certainty.

To me, it seemed risky all along.

This was an easy call.

He isn't 100 percent. His right tibia hasn't completely healed.

And 100 percent is everything to the Lightning.

And more important, much more important, to 91's future.

So that's that.

And it should be.

This never felt right, Stamkos' Olympics push, Stamkos going in cold for gold.

Sochi was never worth taking even the slightest chance.

And now:

Make it Marty.

Here's Stevie Y's second chance, or is it his third, since he left St. Louis off the Canadian team in 2010?

Take control here.

Make it Marty.

Look, I have no doubt that Yzerman was a St. Louis advocate in the room with his Canada staff, maybe the only one. Maybe he thinks he's saving Marty from wasting away on the end of the Canada bench, unused.

Make it Marty.

He's been playing like a maniac since he was snubbed.

Probably just a coincidence, right?

Stevie Y needs to get Detroit and Canada head coach Mike Babcock in a room Saturday.

Enough with committee rule here.

Make it Marty.

Who wasn't looking forward to seeing Stamkos back Saturday? But, admit it, you would have been holding your breath every time Stamkos pushed off, or went into a corner or someone hit him. And you would have worried all Olympics long.

Same goes for the Bolts.

It's crushing for 91. He's only 23, but there now exists a real chance that he'll never play for his country in an Olympics, if the NHL pulls the plug on sending its players to South Korea four years from now, or for good.

But he knows this always had to be about his health, his future, more than Olympics for Canada.

He can take some more time, keep working, get ready.

After Saturday's game, the Lightning won't play again until Feb. 27.

That's three weeks.

How Stamkos' right tibia looks by then is everything right now.

Nothing is worth this kid getting injured all over again.

If the next evaluation doesn't look good, then he works some more. If the one after that doesn't look good, then maybe we start talking about March, or April, or playoffs, or even a shutdown until next season. They're all possibilities.

Wednesday was an easy call, as hard as it was on Stamkos. He'll have the same seat as we do for the Sochi Games, in front of the TV.

But it's truly the only place for him in the name of this Lightning season, and all the seasons he has in front of him.

It was always the right call.

So's this: Make it Marty.

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