NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Pittsburgh Penguins

After months of speculating, debating, and rosterbating, Team Canada finally unveiled its Olympic hockey roster on Tuesday. So naturally, it’s time for more debating. While the arguments over how someone like Chris Kunitz, Dan Hamhuis, or Marc-Edouard Vlasic would get the nod over say Claude Giroux, Martin St. Louis, Eric Staal, Mike Richards, Joe Thornton, Dion Phaneuf, Brent Seabrook, or -insert favorite Canadian player’s name here-, are many and in some cases legitimate concerns, this is the roster until injury dictates otherwise.

Taylor Hall is my personal glaring omission. I want him there for his speed and I want him to land a shot to play with Sidney Crosby. I am neither heartbroken, surprised, nor enraged that this will not be the case.

After a look over the roster, I started thumbing through my copy of Lee Clarke’s Worst Cases: Terror and Catastrophe in the Popular Imagination. Clarke, a sociologist at Rutgers, has written and spoken extensively about how we weigh probabilities versus possibilities. In his fantastic narrative non-fiction work About a Mountain, essayist John D’Agata cites Clarke’s theories in his writings about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. “It’s dangerous to concentrate so much on probabilities that we forget about possibilities,” Clarke has written. Of course, Clarke’s approach focuses on the chances of entirely negative outcomes. Hockey couldn’t be more far removed from the threat of terror or nuclear disaster, although there’s probably a metaphor for Hockey Canada in there somewhere. Still, his approach can be applied in a reverse-like approach to Canada’s roster selection.

Kunitz wasn’t necessarily competing for a roster spot like everyone else. He was in competition for the opportunity to play with Sidney Crosby. Steve Yzerman could not enter a throng of reporters and admit that Kunitz was awarded a spot based on his success playing alongside Crosby, but it’s rather obvious that Kunitz’s inclusion, while no one in Hockey Canada will say it, is at last partly based on his experience in Pittsburgh.

Thus it’s Kunitz, not Hall, or Richards, or whomever else may have been in the running to skate with No. 87, who lands the gig. This is where I believe some of Clarke’s message, albeit in a reverse manner focusing on the positive side of possibilities, can be applied. The selection of Kunitz was the safest play for Hockey Canada. Why risk breaking up a good thing? Crosby and Kunitz have effectively dominated some of the world’s best competition night in, night out, for parts of the past six seasons. Mike Babcock and the Canadian coaching staff have to play Kunitz with Crosby, at least out of the gate. The probability of Kunitz and Crosby finding success on Olympic ice, whether it’s with Steven Stamkos, Jeff Carter, or any other sniper-type ends up on the right side, is high. The possibilities that a player like Hall, who plays like a younger, faster, more skilled Kunitz, playing with Crosby will be left to our collective imagination. That’s not to say that Kunitz couldn’t flop on the big stage, thus giving us a look at someone else with Crosby, but it speaks to the safe approach that Hockey Canada took with handling the best player in the world.

It comes down to opportunity, and Kunitz has had the opportunity to play with Crosby and prove that he is an adequate linemate. One can only imagine Taylor Hall skating with Crosby for an 82 game season could possibly generate the greatest offensive totals of this generation.

I don’t have an issue with Kunitz on the team. I do have a problem with his selection representing a fracture of sorts compared to the rest of the roster’s construction. Yzerman et al had no problem breaking up Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, or Stamkos and St. Louis, or Patrick Marleau and the rest of San Jose’s Canadians despite the proficiencies they have all demonstrated while playing together. Maybe we’ll see Jay Bouwmeester pair with Alex Pietrangelo, although the former would be my nomination as a press box dweller.

The Crosby-Kunitz connection may flourish in Sochi, which is all the more likely when we consider the uptick in talent that they’ll be flanked by. Still, it would be interesting to see how Crosby fares with the likes of Matt Duchene, Patrick Sharp, or John Tavares. However inexplicable some may find the inclusion of Kunitz, it’s still the safest play. It’s just not in line with Hockey Canada’s approach to the rest of the roster.

Comments (13)

  1. It really doesn’t make any sense. Where is the consistency? Why leave Seabrook? Why leave St. Louis?

  2. Kunitz also had success with Getzlaf and Perry, he could play on that line as well.

  3. Marty probably went through the same shit as a kid, always being picked over. But he perervered & proved them all wrong, eventually making it to the big league. His record speaks for itself.

    But hockey is an old boys club. Its not so much what you do rather than who you know. How many times Marty played on big rinks. This guy has talent, heart & drive. Unlike a guy named Nash.

    The f…ing Art Ross winner from 12/13. Just like when Yzerman was screwed over, pretty boy Stevie is doing the same to Marty.

  4. I don’t know how the Canadian Olympic team can pass up on Mike Richards. The guy is a great two way player, he plays a top six role on a heavily stacked LA Kings roster where he’s relied on the pk and pp. Not only that, the guy knows how to win. Out of all the candidates for the Olympic team his resume is up there with the best of them. World Junior Championship, Olympic Gold medal, Stanley Cup. I don’t know if you can call it a big mistake by not taking him just cause the depth at center but if I were making the team, Mike Richards would be on it.

  5. Odd to exclude Marty St. Louis–seems almost as if they went out of their way to look for a reason (size, age?) not to include him. On intensity, commitment and leadership alone, he would rate serious consideration. But the reigning points champ versus, say, specifically Rick Nash (and I’m a huge fan of the old Rick Nash)? Wasn’t the Babcock message that their play in this few months would essentially determined whether they were on the team? If Marty and Rick are both summer invites, how does Nash play his way on and St. Louis play his way off, based on their play since then?

  6. As a follow up, I no longer see Nash as even trying to be a difference maker. I see him comfortable in a depth role, but who would doubt that Marty would still try to be that guy?

    I don’t really think it’s a version of Clarke saying it was Lindros’s team (read Crosby here) and that Gretzky would have to take a back seat, but I do wonder if Marty has too much leadership drive for someone….?

  7. Is it ridiculous to speculate that Sid may have given Hockey Canada some “suggestions” regarding the roster and possible linemates? That could explain the inclusion of Kunitz and the omission of Richards and Giroux.

  8. Not a conspiracy threory or anything; just conjecture on my part. He’s certainly got the clout.

  9. Commenting just to applaud you on the creation of the word “rosterbating”. That is beautiful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *