The Lightning captain underwent successful surgery on Monday to repair a blood clot in his right arm that will keep him out of the lineup for 1-to-3 months.
Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman made a big gamble at the trade deadline by not trading Stamkos, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Despite it likely being the right move for the Lightning organization, it has now blown up on him.
The question now for Tampa Bay is how big of a hole Stamkos leaves in its lineup. Stamkos is obviously an offensive dynamo, so let’s start there. Since the playoffs are right around the corner, we’ll look at the most recent performances, sticking to the last 25 games played.
It might be a little surprising that Stamkos is just team average in terms of getting scoring chances on net, though it has been fairly well documented that he isn’t shooting as often this year. Yet even with that, he is producing the second most scoring chances on the team after Nikita Kucherov. The other thing to remember is that a scoring chance for Stamkos is not the same as a scoring chance for another player. His finishing ability is a truly unique talent, so factor that in.
Stamkos also creates the second-most scoring chances for his teammates on the roster (after Kucherov), with his passing game seriously improved over previous years.
Stamkos isn’t the best forechecker, as he’s below team and league average in loose puck recoveries in the offensive zone, so that isn’t an area the Lightning shouldn’t be hurting too much from in his absence. The big thing they’ll be missing from Stamkos is the scoring chance creation and finishing ability.
Offensive creation isn’t limited to within the offensive zone, with the ability to transition the puck from the defensive zone forward being a big factor in attacking the offensive zone. Chances off the rush are harder to stop, so how does Stamkos stack up there?
Stamkos is a little bit better than average in terms of passing the puck out of the defensive zone, a little bit worse than average at both skating it out of the defensive zone and over the red line, but you can see right away that he stands out big time in terms of zone entries.
One thing that also stands out is how often Stamkos passes East-West in the neutral zone, something most players very rarely do. That ability to make those passes increases his linemates’ chances to gain the offensive zone with control, and makes things difficult for opposing defences.
That ability to be a threat to enter the offensive zone himself, or make an east-west pass that creates an easy entry for a teammate, is a big game changer for the Lightning, a team that thrives on attacking the offensive zone with speed and rarely dumping the puck in.
With the possible reunion of the “Triplets” line, the Lightning should have no transition problems for their top line, but the ripples down the depth chart will hurt when things get tighter in the playoffs.