By Dory LeBlanc
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper joined The Sports Page Thursday and jumped right into how Tampa Bay has been winning without their super star center, Steven Stamkos, who suffered a broken tibia in November.
"Oh gosh, Ben Bishop, Marty St. Louis, Victor Hedman, let me just go down the list," Cooper said, "Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Val Filppula, those guys have been phenomenal - I just could list the whole team. A bunch of guys - I think we were new as a group, kind of a bunch of rookies coming up then with a group of stable vets who wanted to win and then new guys like Fil (Filppula) and then probably a big part of this whole thing, obviously, is Ben Bishop who is kind of having his coming out party in the NHL.
"I've been fortunate enough to be surrounded by a buunch of new guys that have comed together and the Tampa Bay Lightning fans are a definite benefactor of this and we're pretty excited."
Cooper said although Stamkos is ahead of schedule in his rehab and has been skating (non-contact) in morning practices, that isn't a true gauge of when he will return to the ice dressed for a game.
"I definitely believe we will see Steven this year, but honestly, I don't know when," Cooper said. "I don't know if it's going to be one month from now, two months from now. He is a pretty magnificent human being; he's really - when you look at his X-Rays, look at what he's been doing. As you said, he's far ahead of schedule, but what is "schedule?" I've heard three months or six months. Is he ahead of the six months? I think he is. Is he ahead of three months? I don't know, maybe he's on pace."
Cooper also reminded Tom Jones and Rick Stroud that the mental block is just as significant as the physical block, and Stamkos won't take any chances on his progress even with the Winter Olympics in Sochi coming up next month.
"You've got to really take your time to get back in the game, so when he starts getting healthier, his conditioning and everything has to come into play," Cooper said. "I'm deep down really pulling for him to play in the Olympics, but Steven's going to do what's best for the Tampa Bay Lightning and if he's not fully ready to go, he won't go. But, hopefully he'll be back for us after the Olympics."
To listen to the entire conversation with Jon Cooper, click below: