If performance leading up to the Olympics means anything, then the choice is clear – and agonizing – for Canadian GM Steve Yzerman in his decision to replace Steven Stamkos.
Unfortunately, he must bypass Martin St-Louis once again and give that spot to Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers. With eight goals and 22 points in his past 20 games, Giroux has surpassed even St-Louis, who has 10-10-20 in his past 20 and eight goals and 16 points in 14 games since the Olympic roster was announced.
Chances are, when the team was picked, the player who will be announced as the replacement was told he would be first on the list. The fact of the matter is there seemed to be real concerns among the management group for Team Canada about St-Louis and, although nobody knows for sure, the feeling is he was not that guy.
But that’s not why Giroux should get the call over St-Louis. It’s because there’s no doubt Giroux would have been on the team and played a prominent role if not for a freak off-season injury and an absolutely abysmal start to the season. But that has changed in the past 30 games and Giroux is back to being one of the smartest, most creative and most productive players in the NHL. (Cruel irony: Giroux is currently one point ahead of St-Louis in the scoring race.)
Giroux is also a right-hand shot, which would replace the righty Canada is losing in Stamkos. It was generally thought that Stamkos would play right wing alongside Sidney Crosby on the top line, a spot into which Giroux could easily and quickly slide.
That’s not to say that St-Louis would be a bad pick if Canada goes that way. He’s a veteran player who has proved himself time and again. But I spoke to a former NHL player this afternoon and he told me that most players, if they were placed in the situation in which St-Louis was when his GM did not pick him for Team Canada, would have made it clear at the time that he would have no interest in being a substitute.
Giroux, on the other hand, would likely jump at the chance. He knows his first quarter of the season was the reason why he wasn’t included on the team and since then, has not only lifted the level of his own game, but has been at the forefront of a revival of a team that not long ago was competing for a lottery pick instead of a playoff spot.
The fact is Canada would likely not go wrong with either choice. But if you’re going with the guy who has the hotter stick, Giroux is the man.