Canada's Jason Spezza celebrates after h

(Fabrice Coffini, Getty Images)

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.

Forwards

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 Ribeiro has a bad reputation attached to his name that may be outdated, but he is a very talented centre, scoring 49 points in 48 games last season, tied for 10th in the NHL in scoring.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.

Defence

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.

Goaltenders

James Reimer

Cam Ward

Jonathan Bernier

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!

Comments (20)

  1. That team looks fairly underwhelming to me, but like you mention in your second to last paragraph, the real B team would feature a number of guys invited to the orientation camp who don’t make the cut… Would make a big impact, especially at G and on D.

  2. We were shocked to see that Jamie Benn, Patrick Marleau and Dan Girardi did not make the cut. They should have at least been given the chance to get on the roster. With the Olympics less than 200 days away it will be interesting to see who makes the final roster.

  3. I think Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be a dark horse this season. He struggled a bit last year but from his rookie season you can see the potential.

    I also think Max Pacioretty is a guy to look at as well when considering the top guys to play for the B team. Moreover, it will be interesting to see what kind of season Scott Hartnell has.

    • Pacioretty is American…

    • I’m with you on RNH (certainly ahead of Brad Richards), but Pacioretty may be ineligible on account of his being born in Connecticut.

    • They’re going for speed and skill on the Forwards, and while Hartnell’s skilled, he’s not all that fast. And no one wants to see a #HartnellDown on the big ice.

  4. Lupul? Only has to be healthy for the length of the tournament, 2 and a half weeks or whatever.

    What about Simmonds? Be a pretty dece fourth liner or extra.

  5. Players whom I would include on Canada’s ‘C’ Team that were not mentioned in this article include: forwards Sam Gagner and Joffrey Lupul, while Wayne Simmonds and Nathan Horton deserve a mention. I would also include defenceman Mark Giardano and perhaps Justin Schultz.
    However, the most glaring omission, IMO, is Jeff SKINNER.

  6. I think if you divided up the major provinces (ON, QC, BC) they’d all have teams that could compete with the likes of Latvia and Norway. Latvia has a population a little over 1 million, and hockey competes with soccer as a major sport. Likewise Norway, population around 5 million and has soccer as well as skiing to compete with hockey. Maybe an Ontario team would compete with second-tier nations such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

  7. At this point, I’m gonna chalk up your absolute confusion re: Marc Methot to ‘didn’t watch the Sens play much last year’. When Karlsson went down, Methot stepped up as the team’s best d-man in a big way, and has definitely earned himself a look from Hockey Canada.

  8. I think there is a fairly good argument for Kevin Bieksa to be on the list. I was a bit surprised that he was left off of the original list because him and Hamhuis would make a great pair, but I guess Bieksa and Garrison will work nicely.

    As for forward snubs there are a few that I would have at least like to have seen competing for the final jobs. Among them: Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Lupul, LIttle, Huberdeau. It’s hard to forsee rookie’s over experience, but my darkhorses for team C-plus would be Drouin and MacKinnon.

    There is certainly an arguement that we could ice 4 teams and have them all be competitive!

  9. Thoughts on who would be on USA’s C+ team?

  10. I’m going to do something a bit more ridiculous and pick a team based on those not on team C-plus. Let’s call it team C-minus.

    Coaching Staff (mind you because you didn’t pick one I get free selection): Alain Vigneault, Paul Maclean, Barry Trotz, Joel Quenneville

    Forwards:

    Lupul -Thorton- Pominville
    Dupuis-J. Staal- Skinner
    Gagner-RNH- Horton
    Simmonds-O’Reilly-Hartnell
    Little-Huberdeau

    Notables Invited to camp but cut: Drouin, MacKinnon, Cammalleri, Bolland, Ray Whitney, Raymond, Williams, Stoll, Heatley, Doan, Burns (cut as a forward, kept as a D), , Roy, Hodgson, Weiss, Zajac, Boyes, Brassard, Turris, Conacher, B Schenn, Read, Couturier, Briere, Morrow, Purcell, MaCarthur, Brower

    Defence:

    Bieksa-Robidas
    Schultz-Phillips
    Ellis-Giordiano
    Burns-Souray

    Notables invited to camp but cut: Myers, Fowler, White, Tanev, Corrado, L Schenn, Brewer

    Goalies:, Dubnyk,Brodeur, Emery

    Notables invited to camp but cut: Fleury, Elliot, Allen

    • Pominville is American for the purposes of international competition. Has dual citizenship and played with US WC in ’08

      • In that case, I’d have the forwards look like this:

        Lupul -Thorton- Horton
        Dupuis-J. Staal- Skinner
        Gagner-O;Reilly-RNH
        Simmonds-Little-Hartnell
        Hodgson-Huberdeau

        Obviously this list would change a lot based on the in-season performances, especially for the younger players. I considered moving Lupul back to the right side, but didn’t really want to bump Dupuis up, or break up any current NHL teammates. I added Hodgson due to the fact that he plays top and difficult minutes in Buffalo, and the fact that he has had previous positive experiences playing at the WJHC. There were a number of players however who could have slid in quite easily.

    • Worth noting that Jordan Staal was an invite to Canada’s orientation camp, unless you mean Jared Staal, which doesn’t seem all that likely. And if by “Thorton” you mean Joe Thornton, he was also invited to camp.

      Other than that, that’s a pretty nice lineup, particularly considering it’s the fourth-stringers. Taking out Staal and Thornton though makes them pretty weak down the middle. You might replace them with Roy, Hodgson, Briere, or even take a chance on Mackinnon.

      • Yeah admittedly I should have taken a closer look at the list, while I was doing my lines I did it off the top of my head, and I guess I figured why Thornton wasn’t on the list was cause Dave Hodge on TSN kept going on and on (admittedly he always does) about him and how he can get from the outside looking in onto the team.
        As for Staal it makes sense, I couldn’t really figure out why I didn’t see him, I must have just skimmed over it and figured I read Eric twice.

        In any case, without those guys on my team I would slide up Hodgson into a full time role, and add Roy as well. (He was the last one cut in my books as it was regardless). I would likely roll the dice on Mackinnon for the last spot as you suggested and if he plays well then he could provide a huge boost, and if not then no huge lost as the 14th forward.

  11. post 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Gold Medal – myself and the boys made an over 33 yrs old roster Team Canada. (33 simply so we could sneak the youthful Joe Sakic on the squad) Wish I still had the lineup – Lemieux, Yzerman, Shanny, Roy, Sakic, Belfour etc. This we ended up w/ a legit 3 line, 3 D pairing team – coulda been a contender in the tournament. Rainy days at the cottage…

  12. Some good comments here. Ryan O’Reilly was a pretty glaring omission, I’ll admit. Completely forgot about him. Let’s slot him in on the fourth line in place of Brad Richards. I really like the idea of a Burrows – O’Reilly – Stewart line.

    RNH could certainly take Kadri’s place, but so could Jeff Skinner. Perhaps, considering the larger ice surface, a great skater like Skinner could take Moulson’s place on the third line, considering that Moulson is a bit more plodding.

    Joffrey Lupul could take Parenteau or Stewart’s place, but it’s a judgement call.

  13. Maybe I’m biased but Brendan Gallagher and Michael Ryder.

    Gallagher is small but plays like a lot bigger man and while Ryder’s defence is….suspect, the guy can score goals. I’d take him on the right wing over Parenteau.

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