canada hockey

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.

Comments (24)

  1. Biggest dropped ball: not bringing Brent Seabrook. He’s a rock defensively, 3rd among Canadian defensemen in points this year, has pretty much all the experience you would want (Cup rings, Olympic medals, etc etc). Clearly they just over thought the left-right thing. Yes, he shoots right. Yes, there are probably four other better right shooting options (Doughty, Pietrangelo, Subban, Weber). But really, you can’t move one of them to the other side? You probably have a slight decline, but is 95% of PK Subban not still light years better than Hamhuis and Vlasic?

    I also dislike the selective reasoning behind some of the picks. Giroux looks to have been left off because of his slow start. But Rick Nash has had a MUCH slower start, and is on the team. But Rick Nash has been a very good player in prior years, and very good internationally! But somehow that same reasoning didn’t help Martin St. Louis.

    In any case, these things hopefully don’t matter, as we’re essentially talking about fourth liners, third pairing guys, and spares. Same with the Team USA outrage, if all these “snubbed” guys made the teams, they would be depth guys. Not the major players in the grand scheme of things.

    • I’m a Canucks fan (and thus not exactly a huge Blackhawks fan) but I completely agree that Seabrook should be there instead of Hamhuis. I love Hamhuis, I really do, but I don’t see him as a world-class, Canadian Olympian type of talent. Chances are Hamhuis doesn’t see the ice unless there are injuries, and if he does I don’t think he’ll be a liability or anything, but Seabrook should be on the roster over him.

    • As a Hawks fan, I think Seabrook has been pretty bad this year and I was hoping he wouldn’t make the roster. The point production is obviously there but I think Keith’s been able to paper over some of his defensive miscues, and when he hasn’t been able to … WOOF. Hjalmarsson and Oduya have usually been given the top assignments, not Keith-Seabrook. He’s been slow of foot and frequently also of mind, which is an especially dangerous combination on larger ice. It’s strange because I thought he was GREAT most of last season. Unfortunately you get stuck relying on the eye test, where reasonable people may disagree, because his without-Keith sample size this season is hilariously tiny.

      That said, I haven’t seen much of Dan Hamhuis this year.

  2. I’m really pleased that Hamhuis made it. He’s a guy who the Eastern-based fans probably aren’t aware of. Heck, I’m sure even many Western fans are only vaguely aware of him. He’s a very quiet, low maintenance, reliable player. You can trust him to make smart decisions out there. He’s got strong possession numbers too. He’s also a bit of a quiet personality who doesn’t seem to like to attract attention to himself, so it’s nice to see him get recognized.

    • Amen! I watch a lot of Canucks games (mainly to make me feel worse about my Maple Leaves’ roster decisions) and he really anchors the team. I think that him going down in the finals was what cost them the cup. Amazing player, never gets enough credit.

  3. The only real head-scratcher is bringing along Jeff Carter. He’s obviously not going to be put in the top six so what’s his role going to be? Is he really going to be a better third or fourth line player than let’s say Giroux or Hall? Obviously it’s not a huge deal because Carter is still very good but it’s a questionable call.

    • Not taking Giroux is a huge mistake. If you’re looking for a guy with enough skill to score on his own, without Sid holding his hand (Kunitz), who you can plug anywhere in your lineup and can play whatever role you ask of him, it’s Giroux. He’s an absolute demon in the playoffs, it has been proven that as the intensity level goes up, he plays better.
      You can say it’s/ he would be only bottom six forwards, that’s fine, then take players who can play that role as well. I would take Giroux as a shut down forward over any of these guys, save Bergeron. Sid probably told Stevie not to take him, yup, because of that series as few years back, that’s the reason… SoFuckinDumb
      Glad Benn made the team, dude is unreal.
      Hamhuis shoudn’t play a second so I don’t even care that he has no business lined up with or against this kind of elite talent, as much as I view him as a valuable NHL level D man.

    • Wacky conspiracy theory time! Someone on Second City Hockey jokingly said that the reason that Thorton didn’t get selected was because he and Toews don’t get along (aka fights and bad hits). Wonder if Sid’s the reason that Giroux wasn’t selected…

      • Another Olympic hockey conspiracy: Dan Bylsma forces Crosby to play with Kunitz, hoping this will cause Canada to waste an Olympic roster spot on Kunitz in 2014. This strategy pays off in spades. Sneaky sneaky Americans.

  4. Couture told the media today that the injury had nothing to do with it (that was what was relayed to him by the Team Canada brass). If that’s true, then the biggest snub controversy was narrowly missed by a hand injury. Crazy not to take him.

  5. Subban’s going to be the 7th or 8th defenceman and probably only play against Norway or whoever.

  6. Why Rick Nash? Why?

  7. Nash, Marleau and Kunitz are out for me. St. Louis and Giroux easily beats out any of those 3. The other should have been Couture and if he isn’t healthy change him out last minute.

    I am fine with Carter as he is a pure sniper and could be a PP specialist or the extra forward who can fit in wherever if needed.

    Dmen I am ok with. Seabrook is too slow for the big ice. The big ice is a massive difference. There is a reason we have won 2 golds on NHL ice and didn’t even medal on 2 big ice Olympics.

  8. Pep

    Most people forget that Team Canada won the gold on big ice in Salt Lake City. Team Canada also won the 2003, 2004 and 2007 World Championships on big ice. I’m not stressed one bit about the big ice… my biggest worry at Sochi is another Nagano… running into a hot goalie.

    I think in a best of seven, Team Canada wins 7 out of 8 times because of their depth. However, in a winner-take-all one game final… it’s anybody’s game.

    I like the team… though I wish they had chosen Neal. He’s in beast-mode right now.

    • Really? SLC was big ice?? I stand corrected then. Thanks.
      I don’t really count world championships as much since most all teams are missing some pretty key pieces. I totally agree about the hot goalie syndrome. It almost got them in 2010 as well.

  9. Канада сосет Россия золота медаль

    • Sergei, Canada sucks do they? Russia will have a heck of a time handling the Canadians and the Swedes for that matter. No defensive focus (aside from Datsuyk) or goaltending

  10. I really dislike the Carter addition. He is an immature and petulant man-child that has had his life handed to him thanks to his superior hockey ability. How will he do on a team without Mike Richards to party with?

    • Well, he does have Doughty to rip lines with, after all…

    • I’ve been covering the LA Kings for a few seasons now. Since Carter became a King. He gets some tough assignments on the ice. He kills penalties. He steps up huge in clutch moments. He’s a responsible player. He has played most of this season on a line with Kopitar and Dwight King. He has a wicked shot. He back-checks. He’s a very good two way player for the Kings. He doesn’t need Richards to be successful on the ice.

      I don’t know where your opinion stems from in regards to his off ice behavior. But, it sounds like bitter resentment that is based on media spin or that of a man whose gf/wife got freaky with Carter a couple times behind their back. Regardless, it has nothing to do with his play on the ice.

      • Wow – resentment? I’ve never been affected by him. Perhaps you get to pleasure him in the shower while you “cover” the Kings? Sheesh – talk about a media spin!

        His sulkiness in ‘lumbus pissed me off. He forced a team that gave up solid pieces to acquire him into basically dumping him to LA. He is supposed to be a professional athlete. As I said earlier, he has superior hockey skills, but is extremely self-centred with an ego that’s huge even for a professional athlete.

        Get off your knees and watch how he behaves when something doesn’t go his way on the ice or if there is some implied ‘unfairness’ in a check that he received.

        A 12-year-old in a man’s body making millions of dollars a year.

  11. >> 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)

    My only question about this: does Neal kill penalties?

    Because looking at the same link provided for Claude Giroux’s numbers, Marleau isn’t that far behind Neal, but I suspect he’s more versatile a player: he can play center or left wing, he’s on the Sharks’ first power play unit and plays regularly on a PK unit.

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