Steven Stamkos is back in Tampa after undergoing surgery to insert a rod in his right leg to repair his broken tibia. A broken leg seems like something that would take quite some time to mend, three to six months as some project even.
That hasn't deterred the ever-optimistic Lightning head coach Jon Cooper from expecting his star forward to not only return to the club this season, but perhaps even by February.
From the Tampa Bay Times:
"In my heart, I know he's coming back. I have no doubt."
Cooper then doubled down by saying, "I don't think the question is going to be, 'Is he coming back to play this year for the Tampa Bay Lightning?' The question is, 'Is he going to be back [in February] to play for the Canadian Olympic team?' I'm the optimistic coach, but that's how it might turn out."
As important as Stamkos is to the Lightning and as big a role as he could play for Team Canada, a broken tibia doesn't seem like something you would want a player to rush back from. Lightning and Canada general manager Steve Yzerman has maintained Stamkos' long-term health is the priority in his recovery from this serious injury.
Stamkos is just 23, so maybe the optimism is warranted. It will probably take some time to rehab, but you never know with the way elite athletes have found ways to get back on the field of play (or ice) much sooner than expected of late.
Tampa Bay is 2-0-0 since losing Stamkos, including a 5-1 manhandling of the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. The long-term outlook for the season is obviously different without the star sniper in the picture, but the Lightning have responded pretty well so far.