St. Louis left off Canada's Olympic team, Stamkos makes it

Published January 7 2014
Updated January 8 2014

WINNIPEG — Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he is not going to worry about how Marty St. Louis will handle being left off Canada's Olympic team.

"It's wasted energy," Cooper said. "Knowing Marty, this is probably going to motivate the snot out of him."

On a day the Tampa Bay organization should have been celebrating the seven players it will send to next month's games in Sochi, Russia — Steven Stamkos (Canada); Valtteri Filppula and Sami Salo (Finland); Radko Gudas and Ondrej Palat (Czech Republic); Richard Panik (Slovakia) and Kristers Gudlevskis (Latvia) — most of the talk was about those staying home.

In another shocker, defenseman Victor Hedman was left off Sweden's team. Goalie Ben Bishop last week was excluded from the U.S. team.

"I'm not going to say we're going to make the playoffs, but if it started today we'd be in," Cooper said. "If you look at the three guys who are driving the bus at each position of our team, it's Ben Bishop, Victor Hedman and Marty St. Louis. It's a shame the hockey world is not going to see any of those guys play in February."

St. Louis' situation is the most intriguing. Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman is Canada's executive director and held the same job in 2010 when St. Louis was left off Canada's gold-medal team.

St. Louis wasn't happy about it then, and he has made it clear how much he wanted to play in this year's Olympics, acknowledging that at age 38 this probably is his last shot. With 17 goals, 38 points in 42 games and with the way he elevated his game after Stamkos was injured, he put himself firmly in the conversation.

"You guys can't imagine how I feel," St. Louis said of his exclusion after Tuesday's game at the Jets. "I'm extremely disappointed and I'll just leave it at that."

Reports out of Canada said the Olympic coaching staff led by Red Wings coach Mike Babcock wasn't sold on St. Louis, and it is believed Yzerman participated fully in the debates.

"I feel bad for all the guys left off this team who were deserving," said Yzerman, who did not get into specifics about why St. Louis was left off. "They are proud, proud guys and Marty St. Louis is one of those guys. He's a proud guy. I understand his disappointment. I was once left off an Olympic team and I understand the hurt associated with that. So I understand. But I had a job to do putting together the best team I could for the Olympics, and I did the best job I could.''

The news was delivered by phone by Yzerman, in Toronto to make the Olympic team announcement. It was crushing for St. Louis, who declined to talk to reporters before the game with the Jets.

"It's tough," said Stamkos, whose participation depends on his recovery from a broken right tibia. "I don't know what more you can do or expect from him to be able to make the team. It's tough to see Marty as upset as he was. He worked extremely hard to get an opportunity to put himself in the mix."

Asked if he was worried about how the news would affect St. Louis' play, Stamkos said, "Time will tell. This was very near and dear to his heart."

Yzerman said his phone call to St. Louis "was not one I was looking forward to doing."

"Personally, it's a very difficult decision," Yzerman said. "It was a tough one in 2010 as well. He's an outstanding hockey player and a high-character person."

That's what the Lightning is counting on.

"Yes, we need Marty to lead us and we fully expect he will," Yzerman said. "He's a great player and we need him to continue being the leader and player he is.''

"He's human, so I don't care if you're one year in the league or 20, he's disappointed as we all are," Cooper said. "But he's a pro, and if there's one guy who can handle it, it's Marty."

"Hopefully, he can bounce back," Stamkos said. "We really need him on this team. He's been carrying the load. He's our leader. He's a warrior, a competitor. He's going to come out stronger, I think."