Update 11/16 (5:30): While the timeline for a return is unclear, Steven Stamkos has officially been diagnosed with a later meniscus tear, the team reports. As of now, the injury will keep the Lightning captain out “indefinitely”. This injury usually occurs when the knee twists in an unusual way, much like Stamkos’ awkward fall, damaging the cartilage in the joint. While a torn meniscus is a common injury, it does take some recovery time to return to full strength. A conservative estimate of when Tampa fans can see Stamkos back on the ice would be two to three months maximum. Some return earlier than that with surgery (rarely before four to six weeks), while others (see Rick DiPietro) never truly recover.
In tonight’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings, Bolts captains Steven Stamkos picked up his 20th point of the season with a first period goal to put Tampa Bay up 2-0. However, that will not be what most think when recalling this game. Minutes later, Stamkos fell awkwardly along the boards. His right leg appeared to be hyper-extended and stiff as he went down, and he came up clutching the back of his knee. Stamkos skated to the bench, unable to put weight on the leg, and went down the tunnel. The team announced he would not return to the game after suffering a lower body injury.
Stamkos has had bad luck with injury to that right leg already, having broken it about three years ago. Recovery from the injury limited Stamkos to just 37 games in 2013-14 and caused him to miss the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. He also missed five regular season games and nearly the entire postseason last year with a blood clot disorder.
While a talented Tampa Bay Lightning team is capable of winning without Stamkos, a generational talent like his certainly causes a team to suffer in his absence. Stamkos has already contributed nine goals and eleven assists in 2016-17 and has put up 72 and 64 points in the past two seasons. While Stamkos status as a free agent was expected to be one of the biggest story lines of the summer, the two sides agreed to an eight-year, $68MM extension on June 29th, putting to rest any thoughts of Stamkos playing elsewhere any time soon.
The Lightning and their fans certainly hope for the best, but as of now the optics do not look good. Should the captain miss an extended period of time, it will have a massive impact on Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup chances this season.