In the early 80′s, when Wayne Gretzky dominated the Art Ross race repeatedly, fantasy hockey pools and leagues were forced to either ban Gretzky entirely or split his goals and assists. Gretzky’s dominance was so total that he sometimes had more assists than other players had points, making Gretzky’s Assists a legitimately good first overall selection in a fantasy draft.
While Team Canada isn’t anywhere near as dominant in international hockey as Gretzky was during the 80′s, but because of the depth of talent in Canada, there is always an argument that a second Team Canada could be created, participate in the Olympics, and finish in the medals. Perhaps that’s hubris, but it’s understandable hubris given how much talent has to be cut from the team.
On Monday, Canada announced their Olympic orientation camp roster, inviting 47 players to attend. Even that generous camp roster managed to upset some hockey fans, as several significant players, such as Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, and Patrick Marleau.
So, I got to thinking. Sure, you could create an excellent B-Team from those cut from Team Canada’s camp. But could you create a viable international team from those not even invited to the camp? In other words, not the B-Team, or even the B-Minus Team: the C-Plus Team.
Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Tyler Seguin
Patrick Marleau – Mike Ribeiro – Evander Kane
Matt Moulson – Vincent Lecavalier – PA Parenteau
Alex Burrows – Brad Richards – Chris Stewart
Nazem Kadri, Jarome Iginla
Benn, Spezza, Seguin, Marleau, and Kane were all significant in their absence from the camp roster, so they’re obvious inclusions here. Spezza has scored more than a point-per-game in the NHL, yet never seems to get much recognition for doing so. While Team Canada certainly has great depth at centre, Spezza absolutely should have received an invite to orientation camp.
Benn and Kane are big, young, talented scorers who are likely to get more chances with Team Canada in the future, as will Seguin, who is an understandable omission at just 21-years-old. Heck, a strong start to the season could see a couple of them on the Team Canada roster at Sochi. Ribeiro has a bad reputation attached to his name that may be outdated, but he is a very talented centre, scoring 49 points in 48 games last season, tied for 10th in the NHL in scoring. He’s an easy addition to Team C-Plus’s second line.
Both Moulson and Parenteau owe their careers to John Tavares, but Moulson has three straight 30+ goal seasons to his name and had 15 in 47 games last season and Parenteau put up 43 points in 48 games apart from Tavares in Colorado. Having them flank an experienced point-producing centre like Lecavalier on Team C-Plus just makes sense.
The fourth line should provide some energy and defensive responsibility, which fits Burrows perfectly. Stewart provides a physical edge to the fourth line and both he and Burrows can score goals when called upon. Richards, though he’s not the player he once was, provides some playmaking finesse for the two goalscorers and can still be a responsible two-way player.
For the extra two forwards, I went with youth and experience in Kadri and Iginla, respectively. Kadri rode some friendly percentages to a very nice season in 2013, but 44 points in 48 games can’t be completely ignored. He can easily slot into the lineup in case of injury. Iginla gets his last hurrah and is still a reliable goalscorer. He can play right wing on any line in case a player struggles a provide some veteran leadership.
That leaves out Sam Gagner, Pascal Dupuis, and Wayne Simmonds, among others. Also missing the cut: Dany Heatley, who was one of Team Canada’s top-scoring forwards at the 2010 Olympics, but has taken a few body blows to his reputation ever since. It’s unlikely he’s even on Team Canada’s radar at this point.
Francois Beauchemin – Dan Girardi
Brian Campbell – Cody Franson
Jason Garrison – Dennis Wideman
Michael Del Zotto, Braydon Coburn
Picking defencemen is a bit of a tougher task, as Team Canada invited a very strong group of defencemen to camp. There were some odd picks, however, like Marc Methot, but for the most part the best Canadian defencemen in the NHL got an invite.
Beauchemin was a notable omission, however, considering he just finished fourth in Norris voting. Pairing him with Girardi gives Team C-Plus a minute-munching top-pairing that can face tough competition game after game. That frees me up for a more offensive-minded second pairing, matching the veteran Campbell with the younger Franson. This pairing also provides point men for the powerplay.
Garrison and Wideman are a balanced third pairing, with Garrison playing the part of a steady, defensive presence and Wideman moving the puck. Both are effective on the powerplay, with Garrison reuniting with his former Florida teammate Campbell to blast one-timers and Wideman quarterbacking the second unit.
The extra two defencemen are again a combination of youth and experience. Del Zotto can provide scoring punch if necessary, while Coburn provides size and the ability to log big minutes if called upon. Stephane Robidas and Andrew MacDonald are late cuts.
Reimer doesn’t get any respect, not even from his own team, who went out and acquired Jonathan Bernier after Reimer carried the Leafs to the playoffs. Of note: the second highest save percentage from a Canadian netminder this season belonged to Reimer, right behind Corey Crawford. While he may lose the starting job in Toronto, he has the starting job for Team C-Plus.
The other notable omission from Team Canada’s orientation camp roster was Cam Ward, who was, at one point, a major part of the future of Canadian goaltending. While he has had an up-and-down career after winning the Conn Smythe in his rookie season, Ward is still capable of being a very good goaltender, who some had pencilled in at number three on Team Canada, behind Roberto Luongo and Carey Price.
Bernier gets the call as the third goaltender, as it seems like a good role for a young goaltender with potential who hasn’t quite proven himself yet. He manages to beat out Devan Dubnyk, Ray Emery, and Brian Elliott for the job.
It should say a fair bit about what I think of Marc-Andre Fleury that he’s not even in consideration for Team C-Plus at this point.
So, what’s the verdict? Could this team compete at the Olympic-level? Maybe they wouldn’t be in the top tier with teams like Finland, Sweden, Russia, USA, and your garden-variety Canada, but I feel like they could compete with teams in that tier and slot comfortably into the second tier, with the likes of Switzerland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
Am I crazy to think so? Keep in mind, this is really Canada’s third tier team, with nearly enough players invited to orientation camp to form two complete teams.
Are there players that, after being snubbed by Team Canada, you feel have been snubbed by Team C-Plus? Well, you probably care way too much about what is ultimately a very silly undertaking, but feel free to let me know in the comments anyway and we can have a discussion about why I think Alex Burrows is better than Troy Brouwer or whoever. It’ll be fun!