Hockey Canada’s Roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics with Analysis and Speculations

 

With the coming of the new year, hockey fans and hopefuls eagerly waited for the chance to see their country showcase some of their best talent at the upcoming Winter Olympics. The United States kicked it off at the end of the Winter Classic with the revealing of their roster while other countries followed suit until the January 7th deadline. However, with rosters being revealed comes great scrutiny by fans, coaches and analysts alike. The United States left off some players from the silver medal winning roster from Vancouver, namely Bobby Ryan. The management team has come under fire from many people who believe Ryan got snubbed when he shouldn’t have been. Canada, waiting until the last day, finally revealed its roster, and subsequently, some hot topics to debate about who got snubbed or not. Without further ado, here is my analysis of the roster, with some very interesting picks by Steve Yzerman and the rest of the brains of Hockey Canada.

Let’s start off with the goalies shall we?

Here is Canada’s current depth chart on goalies:

Roberto Luongo
Carey Price
Mike Smith

 

Luongo backstopped Canada to a gold medal back in Vancouver is back for more as Canada’s leading goaltender in Sochi. He is having a decent year so far with the Canucks, albeit recent injuries might hamper his performance. He’s rebounded nicely from a rough couple of years where his name was surfaced in trade talks with almost every team. As what Martin Brodeur says, the job is Luongo’s to lose. Carey Price is also another decent goalie option for Canada. His numbers are nothing to be scoffed at and should provide much needed depth at this position. Mike Smith is kind of an interesting option as he was almost guaranteed a spot in the roster following an invitation to the orientation camp back in the summer. However, his subpar play with the Phoenix Coyotes put his spot at risk. However, since Corey Crawford (the other potential pick for the third goalie) was injured recently, it made sense to have Smith back Canada up in the third string role.

My Rating: A

Moving onto a bunch of more controversial picks for Team Canada, let’s talk about defencemen.

The following are the picks and pairings that should be used in Sochi.

Duncan Keith

Drew Doughty

Jay Bouwmeester

Shea Weber

Marc-Édouard Vlasic

Alex Pietrangelo

Dan Hamhuis

P.K. Subban

 

During the weeks leading up to the announcement, everybody was talking about how P.K. Subban should either be included or left out as a defender for Canada during Sochi. People argued that he is a beast on the powerplay, but others counter saying that he is a defensive liability. To me, choosing Subban was the right choice, as he can infuse energy and offense into the line up. His electric presence on the powerplay have helped the Montreal Canadiens to a 20.1% success rate with the man advantage. With so many other defensive minded players on the Canadian roster like Hamhuis and Weber, Subban’s shortcomings as a defensive anchor might not be felt as much. Another couple of controversial picks to me were the additions of Vlasic and Bouwmeester. Vlasic is having a decent (although not spectacular) year with the Sharks, which are blazing forward as a team. His defensive stats don’t scream at me but he should be useful as a depth defenceman, getting large minutes on the penalty kill. Bouwmeester is also another surprise pick to me because of his history. His largest ever point total for a full 82 game season was 46 points, and that was back in 2005-2006. Although he is technically having a breakout year with the Blues, he still wouldn’t have made it in my books. The rest of the picks are sound with me, as they have proven themselves over the past few years but there is one defenceman that got snubbed: Brent Seabrook. Seabrook, who won gold with Canada back in 2010, was left off the roster, and it just doesn’t make sense to me. He already has great chemistry with current invitee Duncan Keith (they play on the first defensive pairing in Chicago). He’s third in scoring among Canadian defencemen and even leads them in the plus/minus category. Seabrook has a physical presence that cannot be ignored and I cannot fathom why Steve and co. would leave him out of the equation.

My Rating: A-

Oh boy, here we have the gold mine of controversy: the forwards selected to represent Canada at Sochi. The current picks and projected lines are as follows:

Chris Kunitz

Sidney Crosby

Steven Stamkos

Patrick Sharp

Jonathan Toews

Rick Nash

Jamie Benn

Ryan Getzlaf

Corey Perry

Matt Duchene

John Tavares

Jeff Carter

Patrice Bergeron

Patrick Marleau

 

There are the obvious locks for the team such as Toews and Crosby but some questionable additions and omissions make this pool of players a great topic for debate.

The addition of Nash and Kunitz drew some raised eyebrows from fans, as they were not expected to make the roster for different reasons. Rick Nash, having finished dealing with his THIRD concussion in recent years, is having a down year, with only 9 goals on the season. His production has obviously fell from when he was a leading scorer with Columbus, but he does provide solid two-way play for Canada that is valuable at even number and shorthanded situations. On the other hand, Chris Kunitz is having a monster year, totalling 47 points with the Penguins. However, most of his success can be attributed to Crosby so he must be paired with him on the wing at all times. The chemistry is there and they have played with each other for a long time. If Crosby gets injured or the pair gets broken up, nobody knows how well, or badly, Kunitz will play.

There is always the situation where Steven Stamkos can’t recover from the injury fast enough and Team Canada has to replace one of the best goal scorers in the NHL with another player. However, there are plenty of potential and deserving candidates for the job. Claude Giroux, whose play has picked up of late, got snubbed by Team Canada but he should be there. He is almost a point per game player after a sluggish start to the NHL campaign and his abilities complement Team Canada’s roster well. Another huge snub was Martin St. Louis being left off the roster again by Steve Yzerman, who is the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. St. Louis has been lighting it up this season and before, even winning the Art Ross trophy last year. His play, even without the scoring threat of Stamkos, is carrying the Lightning into playoff contention and should be enough reason to include him in the roster.

The rest of the forward picks included mostly carryovers from the 2010 Olympics but there are some new additions in the young rising starts in the NHL which include Tavares, Duchene and Benn, who are all having great years with their clubs.

My Rating: A/A-

Overall, the roster for Team Canada is quite strong for Sochi. Although our goaltending is a question mark as to whether they can backstop Canada to another gold medal and there is some controversy on some forwards and defencemen being snubbed, the core of Team Canada is there and should flourish in Sochi. The scoring is there in Crosby, Kunitz and Sharp, the defence is there with Weber, Doughty and Keith and if the goaltending can replicate what happened in Vancouver, Canada will be looking to bring home gold in the game of hockey for the second time in a row.

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