Olympic Hockey Preview: Canada Unveils Roster; St. Louis and Giroux Omitted

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 Sidney Crosby

Jan 5, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) passes the puck against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 6-5. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadian roster for the men’s hockey team in Sochi was announced Tuesday morning and there are some notable names both on the team and off the team. It’s been a topic of debate for at least six months now as to who will or won’t make the team, and there are some notable names that were left off.

Here is the roster, by position:

Goaltenders

Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith

There aren’t many problems or surprises when you look at the three goaltenders taken.

The only issue with these three is obviously the health of Roberto Luongo. After injuring his ankle in a game against the Los Angeles Kings, Luongo is expected to be out up to two weeks. That would put him well in line to return to get some NHL games before they take off to Sochi.

The question then becomes who would be the starter. The logic would be that Luongo gets the nod until he falters, as was the case in 2010 with he and Martin Brodeur when Brodeur was the starter. Luongo has played well enough that he’s earned the right, Canada had just better hope they don’t figure that Luongo doesn’t “have it” in one of the elimination games.

Defensemen

LH: Duncan Keith, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Dan Hamhuis, Jay Bouwmeester
RH: Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Alex Pietrangelo, P.K. Subban

As had been expected, Canada went with an even number of left-handed and right-handed defensemen.

The names that are a surprise all come from the left-handed side, but again, given the conditions for what they wanted in defensemen, none of them should be a surprise.

Both Vlasic and Hamhuis might be a little lesser known to some hockey fans, but there’s no doubt they are excellent hockey players. Vlasic has been as good, if not better, than Dan Boyle for a few years now in San Jose, he just doesn’t put up the point totals that Boyle does. The same goes for Hamhuis in Vancouver; both these guys make their teams better when they’re on the ice and do so against top line competition.

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The same cannot be said for Jay Bouwmeester. When Bouwmeester is not playing with Alex Pietrangelo, his possession rates plummet, and that’s been the case since he’s gotten to St. Louis. Essentially, Bouwmeester is to Pietrangelo what Kunitz is to Crosby; he needs is buddy, who is a much better hockey player, to carry him or he’s much less effective.

Of course, the big one was P.K. Subban. It had been rumored since the summer that Subban was on the bubble for Canada, which is crazy considering he’s established himself as one of the top five or six defensemen in the entire NHL, not just in Canada. This is a guy who can change games in the blink of an eye, and don’t be surprised if he ends up as one of Canada’s backbone players by the end of the tournament.

Forwards

Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews, Jamie Benn, Matt Duchene, Chris Kunitz, Rick Nash, Patrick Marleau, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp, Steven Stamkos

There has been a lot of hubbub over the last several months about whether or not Sidney Crosby’s buddy, Chris Kunitz, will make Team Canada. And he did.

Not that he’s a bad hockey player, but over Kunitz’s last 92 games, which have been the most productive of his career, he’s been worth about 1 even-strength point more than Pascal Dupuis every 10 games. So it’s obvious that Kunitz is there with the only intention of having him be Crosby’s line mate, and that brings some problems.

  1. What if Kunitz doesn’t mesh well with Steven Stamkos, Crosby’s likely right-winger? Does that boot Stamkos from the top line?
  2. What if Crosby – who has never been a beacon of health – gets injured and can’t play in Sochi. Where does Kunitz go? Does he bump whoever is on Getzlaf’s line, and if so, what about the winger that was on Getzlaf’s line? Now you’re re-arranging your lineup just to make room for Chris Kunitz. These are contingency plans they have to have, and there aren’t any good ones, other than leaving him in the press box if Crosby does get injured which essentially wastes a roster spot.
  3. I’m still waiting for someone to explain why the Kunitz/Crosby chemistry is more important than the Stamkos/St. Louis chemistry.

I know some people will clamour as to why Rick Nash was on the team, but some food for thought: he was among Canada’s best forwards in 2010, he’s 10th in goal scoring in the NHL since 2005 and is shooting a career-worst 7-percent this year. I’m not going to condemn a guy who was elite for over 700 games but average for the last 27. He’s too good.

The snubs of this team, who should both be there over Chris Kunitz and one of Jeff Carter/Patrick Marleau, are Claude Giroux and Martin St. Louis.

The first of those guys has proven himself to be among the elite in the NHL for a few years now. Giroux is fourth in the entire NHL in points since the start of the 2010 season. Even crazier is that Martin St. Louis is first in the entire NHL in points since the start of the 2010 season. That’s right, Canada left off the #1 and #4 scorers in the entire NHL over the last four seasons off this team. They got most of the team right, but they made mistakes here. There is no excuse for leaving off the leading point-producer in the NHL for the last four years who is coming off a season where he led the NHL in points.

All in all, it’s a solid team from top to bottom, as you can see by the players named. That said, there are glaring omissions when there were much better options available, so Team Canada had better hope they take home the gold, because they’ll have a lot of questions to answer if they don’t.

Michael Clifford was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada and is a graduate of the Unviersity of New Brunswick. He writes about fantasy hockey and baseball for XNSports and FantasyTrade411.com. He can be reached on Twitter @SlimCliffy for any fantasy hockey questions.
2 comments
@SlimCliffy
@SlimCliffy

It's hard for me to imagine why they left Giroux off the team as well. Basically, they should have left Kunitz/Carter/Bouwmeester at home and brought St. Louis/Giroux/Seabrook. These seemed to be pretty obvious choices. They need a RH play-maker and Giroux would have fit very well with, say, Duchene/Tavares.

DanC
DanC

I hate the Flyers, but the exclusion of Claude Giroux is inexcusable. He brings all the elements desired: speed, skill, defense, leadership and versatility. Who cares that he started the season poorly as he recovered from that golf injury?