Watching the Tampa Bay Lightning during the month of October convinced me superstar right winger Martin St-Louis is desperately trying to play his way onto the 2010 Canadian Olympic Team, while teammate and franchise player Vincent Lecavalier is in serious danger of being left off the squad.
For the Lightning to return to post-season play, Lecavalier must start finding the back of the net and ratchet-up his power-forward, two-way game. He must also do the same to put himself back in solid contention for a spot on Canada’s Olympic team. Failure to do so will mean this very proud and sometimes dominant French-Canadian megastar will be vacationing in some exotic locale for two weeks in February, while his countrymen compete for Olympic gold in his home country.
Last season, Lecavalier had a host of issues with which to deal – recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, battling nagging injuries, new owners, multiple head coaches and never-ending trade rumors. Not to mention changing linemates and the expectations created by a new lifetime contract. While the expectations of a $10 million salary remain and his linemates continue to change, Lecavalier’s worries should be fewer this season. If so, that needs to start showing in his production.
I started looking at the October performances of other forwards who were invited to Team Canada’s orientation camp this past summer and have either helped, or hurt, their causes through the first month:
Great Starts: Up the middle, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have all raced out of the gate. Similarly, on the wings, Rick Nash, St-Louis, Dany Heatley and Ryan Smyth have made very strong early cases for being part of the squad.
Solid Starts: A host of potential Team Canada players posted solid, point-per-game type starts, including Mike Richards, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp and Shane Doan. In addition, these players bring other elements to the game and have to be considered decent contenders to make the team.
Slow Starts: Would these players like to be off to a better start? No doubt. Ryan Getzlaf, Jason Spezza and Eric Staal all fit in this category; however, there is plenty of time left for a rebound by each.
Injured: Jonathan Toews, Simon Gagne and Milan Lucic have all been hampered by injuries this season and have not yet distinguished themselves as a result.
On the Radar: Given Team Canada’s potential glut of incredibly talented centers it may not be possible for Brad Richards to play his way onto the Olympic team, but his hot start should attract some attention. When healthy and focused Richards is one of the best setup men in the game, as he has demonstrated with 12 assists in 12 games this season. On the wing, power forward Dustin Penner posted a monster October. If he can sustain that level of performance through the end of the calendar year he will be a lock to make Team Canada. Such an unexpected possibility should add even more urgency to Lecavalier’s game in Tampa.
One month in the books, Canada. Let the Olympic roster debates begin.
Jay Feaster is a former GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he took over in 2002 and helped build the team into a Stanley Cup champion in 2004. As he did last season, he will blog on THN.com throughout the 2009-10 campaign. Read his other entries HERE.