It doesn’t make a ton of sense to write about a roster that’s going to be assembled after three months of NHL play right now, but it also doesn’t make any sense to read about it, and welp, here we both are. As Bruce Arthur said on Twitter today: Canada’s Olympic camp (and the States’) aren’t going to make a lick of a difference come time for the actual tournament in February, but they will provide us with a little hockey methadone in the meantime, so let’s take our medicine and feel better.
The final team will consist of 25 players, with the most logical makeup being three goaltenders, eight defencemen, and 14 forwards.
If I were Team Canada’s GM, and I had to assemble our team’s Olympic roster before dinner today, here’s who I’d end up with. First, up front:
Because some decisions are absolute no-brainers, I won’t waste your time with many words here:
Well, that’s four centers right there, but I’ve said this before and will again I’m sure: this isn’t an actual problem. A dog could learn to play wing, and I say that as a winger, a position I chose to play because a dog can play it and I liked to focus on other things, like trying to score goals. So yeah, take 14 centers for all I care, and have them play right and left dog.
The Definitely, Yeps
We’re going to need to be definitive about more than five forwards, so let’s just stamp a few other passports:
Sometimes you forget Staal is only 28, six-foot-four, 205, and coming off a year in which he compiled 53 points in 48 games. Woosh.
The Pretty Clearlys
The guy below is basically in the category above, I just need to see him get off to a decent start. I’m a believer though.
We’re at 12, so that leaves us two available spots to fill. Remember, I believe that position shouldn’t play a huge role up front given that there’s a surplus of quality centers, and you know my thoughts on playing wing.
The Group To Keep An Eye On
It’s extremely unlikely that after half a brutal hockey season all the above players are available, and even if they are, their play over those three months will obviously have a huge bearing on the final selections. Here’s who could sneak onto my roster:
James Neal and Patrick Sharp are amazing pure triggers who are strong on pucks all over the ice, but I’d go with Matt Duchene as my first choice because, as @AnthraxJones has mentioned before, the dude is vapor. He’s so quick he creates a ton, and I think he’s going to have a great year. Killed me to leave him off my team.
I was really, really close to leaving Rick Nash off, largely because of the names above. I tend to think that in hockey today, youth goes farther than experience. I realize nobody is picking Rick Nash for his “experience,” but young guys – guys like Jordan Staal – are just so freaking hungry and energetic they’re just a b**ch to play. They keep bringing it in waves, and that tends to overtake defenders.
It’s the Olympics though, and everyone gets up for every game, so I decided not to make the foolish decision to leave a talent like Rick Nash off the roster. I just gave it some serious thought. (I also think he’s not the best at working with linemates after a career of carrying whoever he’s with, but that wasn’t enough for me to give him the axe either.) If he gets off to a slow start though…I may reconsider.
Chris Kunitz (eating off Sid)
Andrew Ladd (not on that level)
Milan Lucic (I’m not opposed to seeing how his year goes and giving him a thought)
Brad Marchand (see: Ladd)
Jordan Eberle (It’s just a dang tough team to make, but if he makes a step, I’d give him the Lucic treatment)
There’s also a number of players that weren’t at orientation camp with a chance – guys like Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, Jamie Benn and Evander Kane. I’ll likely deal with them in a follow-up post, or at the very least the comments. Too many moving parts, so let’s just keep this simple for now.
On to defenders!
I realize there was some fuss over the following tweets from Bob McKenzie today:
Just thinking out loud here: If Marc Staal is healthy/on top of his game, I could see Canada’s projected starting 6 on D as follows:
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) August 26, 2013
Keith-Weber; M Staal-Doughty; Bouwmeester-Pietrangelo. Lots of variables obviously — Petro contract situation needs resolved etc.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) August 26, 2013
No PK Subban, Norris winner. I can see what Bob could be thinking: on a team loaded with offensive talent up front, you might think about going with someone lower risk on the back-end. (To be clear, I have no idea if that’s Bob’s justification for his group, just guessing.)
But come on now. PK Subban is freaking amazing, why would we draw the line at taking our most talented players here? He’s young, fast, hits hard and creates offense. I don’t even hate his defensive game, given his ability to recover when he makes mistakes. He’s on my team without a second thought.
Here’s Your Jersey
It gets tough from here, it really does.
…because I believe he plays bigger than his size, and he makes great decisions with the puck, a huge strength on big ice. I’ve written to explain why here. Also…
I think he’s a crazy-talented future star in the NHL.
Mr. Beige himself is just the picture of reliability. If one of the Canadian d-men gets hurt, I’m comfortable plugging him in and letting him eat minutes.
So, the cuts! I like the top guy in the category below, but…
Close But No Cigar
…but, sometimes I question his hockey sense. I’m not particularly comfortable rolling the dice on a guy prone to mixing in the odd brain fart in a one-and-done elimination tournament.
Hamhuis was real close to making my team, but I imagined a scenario where a couple guys get hurt, and Canada’s 8th d-man is on the ice. Wouldn’t you rather it be Bouwmeester than Hamhuis, even by a little bit?
After last year’s horrific injury, I don’t know what to expect. If he can come back and be who was before the puck to the eye, I think he definitely makes my team.
One thing to note is that the d-men I’ve picked make for six right shots and two left shots, which the Canadian management apparently doesn’t love (according to Bob McKenzie). They want three or four left shots. This probably means that Staal just needs to get back to near where he was, and they’d take him over a right-shot player.
Mike Green (we have enough pure offense on the back end)
On to the goalies.
Whether he starts or not, he’s going to be on the team.
That’s just where we currently sit. These are the best Canadian goalies based on what we’ve seen before.
It all really comes down to the starts these two get off to next year.
Holtby has shown the confidence to play in big moments undeterred, and has never seen an NHL season end without him posting a save percentage of .920 or above. And, if Mike Smith gets off to a hot start early, who knows.
Let’s look at the big picture.
So here we are. I’ve selected 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders. Here’s what my team looks like, though the lines and pairings are completely up for shuffling. Get the right talent on the roster, and figure it out from there.
Stamkos – Crosby – Bergeron
Tavares – Toews – Giroux
Perry – Getzlaf – E. Staal
Carter – Richards – Couture
Hall – Nash
Keith – Weber
Doughty – Letang
Subban – Seabrook
Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
So that’s my Team Canada, as selected from the players who were invited to orientation camp – there’s obviously lots of room for change over the next handful of months.
Weigh in below with what you‘d change, or send me an internet high-five for my awesome decision-making. Your call.