Saturday, July 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Fennelly: It's impossible not to feel bad for Steven Stamkos

You feel sick for him.

Steven Stamkos has gone down again with an injury. It's a knee. It's more surgery. It's four months — at least. He'll miss most of the Tampa Bay Lightning's regular season.

Rough day in Tampa Bay.

Meantime, investigators are searching for ladders Stamkos might have skated under during his life.

He's a hard-luck fellow, the poor guy.

I don't usually say that about people in the first year of a $68 million contract.

I'll make an exception in Stamkos' case.

The man can't get a break.

This time it's a tear, to the lateral meniscus in his right knee.

The feel-good smash summer hit — Stamkos staying with the Lightning, for less money, in the name of team and title and a town he loves — has returned to a broken record.

Stamkos out. Again.

RELATED: Assessing the Lightning's prospects with Steven Stamkos out about four months after knee surgery.

There was that broken leg in Boston early in the 2013-14 season. There were the blood clots last season that sidelined him and could have threatened his career and even his life.

But it was going so well this season.

No health issues, no contract issues, not a cloud on the horizon.

Only a Stanley Cup to chase.

Stamkos was piping hot. He and Nikita Kucherov were about the best one-two punch in hockey.

Now this.

"Forty-eight hours ago, I'd say (Stamkos) was playing as good of hockey as I've ever seen and some of the best in his career and you're really, really excited," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "He's got his contract and everything behind him and he's leading our team. And for him to go down, you feel sick for him."

PODCAST: The latest Lightning Strikes! podcast discusses how the Lightning will deal with Steven Stamkos' absence.

At the time he cracked his leg against that goal post in Boston on Veterans Day 2013, Stamkos was tied for the NHL scoring lead.

When he scored the other night in Detroit, his last game for a while, he was the leading scorer in the league.

Spooked yet?

Stamkos was injured in the 17th game of 2013-14.

Stamkos was injured in the 17th game of this season.

Shouldn't there be weird music right about now?

Injuries are haunting this man's career.

Stamkos chases greatness with unrelenting desire, as both a player and a captain.

But things keep getting in his way. Injuries keep stopping him.

The Lightning has to suck it up again.

This is what it does and does well.

True, we haven't had the annual Ben Bishop injury.

Getting your front choppers knocked out doesn't count.

Jonathan Drouin and especially Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are going to have to step up.

Meantime, you feel sick for Stamkos. He's the top athlete in town. He's the face of Tampa Bay sports as much as anyone else. Stamkos alone adorns this season's Lightning media guide.

No health issues, no contract issues, eight more years of 91.

Now this.

Saturday, before the Lightning played San Jose, Fox broadcaster Paul Kennedy asked Cooper if Stamkos could have a career year.

Hockey guys hate talk like that.

"When people start saying that, it doesn't happen," Cooper said. "So take that back."

Too late.

Stamkos has been nothing but class since he arrived here as a puppy disguised as the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft.

He has delivered time and time again. Has he come up short a few times? Yeah. The Stanley Cup final against Chicago comes to mind. But mostly he's been a generational scorer.

And he has never come up short as a human being.

Stamkos might be better as a person than he is at his sport.

I'll stand by the statement.

And this one:

You feel sick for him.

Comments
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