Photo credit: Sportsnet
Tomorrow, Hockey Canada will unveil their roster for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. In advance of their announcement, scheduled for 8:00 AM PST, we at CHB got together and put together our own version of Team Canada.
Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks), Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens) and Mike Smith (Phoenix Coyotes)
Our thought process: Because Luongo backstopped the gold medal-winning team in 2010 and Price is among the NHL’s leaders in most goaltending categories, we agreed pretty quickly on these two guys.
However, there was considerable debate on who should be the third goalie. Josh Harding, who wasn’t invited to the Team Canada orientation camp in the summer, currently leads the league in GAA (1.65) and is 4th in save percentage (0.933), and received some consideration. Ditto Marc-Andre Fleury, who not only currently leads the league in wins (24) but has also won a Stanley Cup and was a member of the 2010 team, and Corey Crawford, who won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. In the end though, we decided on Mike Smith, who has performed consistently well, especially in the last 3 seasons, and whose puck-handling ability may come in handy on the larger international ice surface.
Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis Blues), Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings), Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver Canucks), Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks), Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues), Brent Seabrook (Chicago Blackhawks), PK Subban (Montreal Canadiens) and Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)
Our thought process: We quickly locked in Keith, Weber, Doughty and Pietrangelo. (Thanks, Bob Mckenzie.) Shortly after that, we locked in Jay Bouwmeester, who’s on pace for a career year with 27 points in 41 games so far, and P.K. Subban, who ranks 3rd among all NHL defensemen in points (33 points).
Like most other armchair Team Canada GMs, we had far more difficulty determining the last couple of spots in the back end. We considered Kris Letang, but ultimately thought he’s been injured too often recently, and plus, we didn’t think Hockey Canada would take both Subban and Letang.
Next, we considered the composition of the group so far. With only 2 lefties and 4 righties, we thought at least one of the remaining two spots should go to a left-handed defenseman; we could see HC going with 3 lefties and 5 righties, but not 2 lefties and 6 righties. That in mind, we looked at Dan Hamhuis and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Vlasic has had a good season, but then again, so has Hamhuis. Homers that we are, we chose Hamhuis.
For the last spot on d, we looked at Vlasic and Brent Seabrook. Like Subban, Seabrook is on pace towards a career year. Including the lockout-shortened season last season, he’s averaged around 30 points a season; this season, he already has 31 points in 44 games. Plus, we factored in his obvious familiarity with Keith.
Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins), Jeff Carter (Los Angeles Kings), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers), Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh Penguins), Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks), Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks), Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning), Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning), John Tavares (New York Islanders), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)
Our thought process: With the composition of the 2006 team still in mind, we looked for speed (lots of speed) and youth up front. (Remember that Team Canada, following up on their gold medal win in 2002, fielded a bigger, slower and
older veteran-laden team in 2006 – a formula that didn’t translate well to the larger ice surface in Torino.) Unsurprisingly, there was immediate consensus on the four guys lining up the middle: Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf and Bergeron. Perry, Tavares and Stamkos (assuming he’ll be fully-recovered from his injury) were no-brainers as well. To this group, we decided to include 22-year old Matt Duchene, who has 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) in 38 games, and 26-year old Claude Giroux, who has 12 goals in his last 27 games. And to complement Crosby, we added Chris Kunitz, who, thanks to Crosby, ranks 4th among Canadian forwards so far in scoring this season (47 points in 44 games) and was ranked 5th last season (52 points in 48 games).
With the top 10 forwards already locked in, we then looked for flexible, multi-purpose players for the next couple of spots. This meant eliminating guys like Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand (for reasons other than being Bruins), and Rick Nash (who’s had a subpar year anyway), Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle from consideration. We talked about Patrick Sharp (5th among Canadian forwards in scoring) and Jeff Carter, both of whom can play multiple forward positions and can play on the PP and PK. Ditto 2010 veteran, Eric Staal, but is currently on the shelf with a lower body injury. Mike Richards probably should’ve been a bigger part of this discussion, but he’s slowed down considerably recently (1 point in last 11 games). Same with Andrew Ladd, who’s having a solid year, but is well off his pace last season. In the end, we settled with Sharp and Carter.
For the last couple of forward spots, we amazingly reached a quick consensus to add Martin St. Louis (who doesn’t love this guy?), but with a lot of good players still on the board, agonized over the last player. We put Staal back on the board, and looked at him, Joe Thornton, Jamie Benn and Logan Couture. Thornton is tied for 3rd in NHL scoring, but we’re not certain he unseats Toews or Getzlaf for the second or third line center spot. He perhaps could play on the 4th line with Bergeron on the wing, but Jumbo Joe’s game isn’t suited for that role. One of Benn and Couture seemed like a better fit here – Benn has 36 points in 41 games, while Couture 35 points in 43 games – and in the end, we decided to add Couture.