Canada’s Olympic roster dropped today in a ceremony so painful it’s tough to truly describe. It was like getting sandwiched by Shea Weber and Dustin Byfuglien if they were both wearing sandpaper jerseys. The speeches, man. Enough with the speeches.
Regardless, the team was revealed, and the surprises were pretty minimal (I know, I know, that lacks in outrage). The team is absolutely loaded with talent as was to be expected.
First, the generalizations:
Canadians have worried about the goaltender position heading into the Sochi Olympics, but the reality is that if Carey Price stays healthy, their goaltending is as good as any country in the tournament. As fun as it would be to have the depth of some other countries, only one guy can play, and Price is an awfully appealing option. Luongo and Smith are more than capable as backups, so Canada should be a-okay in goal.
Quibbles were unavoidable on the back-end with no clear seventh and eighth d-man, but the top five or six guys are absolute rocks. Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith and Shea Weber are all returning from the 2010 team, with the oldest among them being Keith, at just 30. Mix in Norris-hopeful Alex Pietrangelo and Norris-winner P.K. Subban, and you’re putting together a scary solid group. I’m a big fan of the age of the players who made the squad – not too green that they feel risky, but still young enough that they aren’t in massive decline. If I’m not mistaken, I believe they term that phase a player’s “prime.”
This group skates well, moves the puck well, has experience, and can be offensively dangerous while being defensively sound. You really can’t ask for much more.
And of course, the forward group was always going to be talented-packed. Success just depends on how they work together.
So, to everyone’s favourite part: the specifics on surprises and snubs.
By the time the roster announcement was made, I was resigned to the idea that Chris Kunitz was going to make the team, so I didn’t feel the need to flip my desk angry Redditor-style. What did catch me off-guard, was the inclusion of Patrick Marleau. Turns out my desk is bolted to the floor, which is probably for the better.
Your snub list up front includes Claude Giroux (most point of any Canadian forward since 2011-12, as you can see in that James Mirtle compiled list), Marty St. Louis (fourth on that list), Joe Thornton (fifth), Eric Staal (seventh), James Neal (10th), Taylor Hall (13), Logan Couture (hand surgery cost him). On the back-end you’re missing Brent Seabrook and Dan Boyle, and in net the runners-up were probably Corey Crawford and Jonathan Bernier.
Personally, I’d have rather seen Giroux than Kunitz (Giroux has 32 points in his last 31 after a slow start), Neal than Marleau (Neal is fifth in points-per-game over the past three NHL seasons, third in goals per game, behind only Ovechkin & Stamkos), and I’d have been awfully close to taking Taylor Hall over Jeff Carter. Positions be damned, there’s more than enough centers and these guys can all play wing. On a similar note, I’d have taken Seabrook over Hamhuis/Vlasic based on my belief that talented players can, believe it or not, handle passes on their backhands.
Regardless, I don’t think Canada dropped the ball too badly (especially when looking at the notable omissions of other countries), and there’s no denying the Chris Kunitz has poured pucks in the net over the past few years. Sure, he partially has Sidney Crosby to thank for that, but it’s not as though he’s some garbage player that’s going to suddenly forget how to do the very same thing when the puck drops in Sochi.
I’m just pleased there’s no glaring error (P.K. Subban made it! He really made it!), and this is behind us. The Canadian team looks as good as any country’s out there, as was to be expected. And finally, the 2014 Olympics are starting to get real.