Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos is scheduled to undergo surgery to treat a type of Vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (called Effort Thrombosis) near his right collarbone, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. The procedure is scheduled to be performed on Monday, April 4 by Dr. Karl Illig, Director of Vascular Surgery at Tampa General Hospital. Stamkos is expected to fully recover and he should be able to return to the ice in 1-3 months.
“Obviously this situation is extremely disappointing because I wanted to help my team clinch a playoff spot and prepare for the start of the postseason,” Stamkos said. “During my recovery I will do all I can to help my teammates, and I hope to rejoin them soon in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”
Reaction to the announcement has been swift and consistent. Tampa fans are rightly concerned about the team's chances at success in the postseason with Stamkos and Anton Stralman (fibula) both injured, but they are also concerned about the Captain's health from a non-hockey-related perspective. Some things are bigger than the game, and health is certainly one of them. The outpouring of support for Stamkos from Tampa fans and hockey fans in general is certainly special to see.
Obviously, as mentioned, this Stamkos news serves as a big blow to Tampa Bay's chances this season. Quite frankly, it's difficult to see how this team is going to be able to do any damage this spring with two of its most important skaters out with long-term injuries. The situation is bleak, especially when you consider that teams like Pittsburgh and Washington look very formidable this year. They'll need to rely on a bit of luck if they want to make it through the first round of the playoffs, and even then there is no guarantee that either guy would be ready to come back.
Beyond this season, it's difficult to ignore the reality that Stamkos may have already played his final game in a Tampa jersey. If the team isn't able to make a deep-ish run in the postseason, the fact of the matter is that Stamkos could be wearing a different jersey next time he skates on Amalie Arena's ice surface. That's... sad. While GM Steve Yzerman did reaffirm his desire to get Stamkos signed to an extension, the likelihood of that happening diminishes with each passing day.
At this point, there's not really much that a blogger like me can add as far as commentary goes, aside from wishing Stamkos all the best during his surgery and recovery. Here's hoping he's back on the ice sooner rather than later so that he can get back to doing what he does best.
I'll have some extended thoughts on this tomorrow. As always, thanks for reading.