Well it’s November 30th and in a little under 1 month this country will have 1 favorite team once again. None of the NHL squads, not an AHL team, not a CHL crew, not even a loveable local AJHL club (shout out to the Lloydminster Bobcats). No, of course I’m speaking of Team Canada and the under 20 world Jr. team. MAYBE the most clichéd open I’ve ever written, how humiliating…
The camp invites got sent out Monday so I thought it would be a good time to look at what we might have. There are a lot of questions surrounding this year’s group, and will they be able to regain the gold medal after a 2 year hiatus? Will they even be able to make it back to the gold medal game for the 11th year in a row?
First of all let’s focus on that. Talk about the most underrated streak not just in hockey, but in sports. 11 straight years of being in the gold medal game. Unreal! Yet so much gets put on the fact that they COULD have won another 4 gold’s, SHOULD have won another 2.
Then again you could say we shouldn’t have won in 08 or 09, and could have also gone either way in the 07 shootout vs the Americans so let’s chill and appreciate how far our program has come!
Now let’s hit on last year for a minute. This isn’t why I’m writing this blog, but this has bugged me since around 8:30 PM MT on January 5th. “We sucked, weren’t good enough to win”. I heard that from a lot of fans and media. And then in some cases, the same people, “we choked.” WHAT?!?! It literally can’t be both boys and girls. We choked.
Hate saying that about 19 and 18 year old kids but it’s the fact of the matter. They choked and it happens a lot in sports. But they were good enough to win. It was a well constructed team, and for the most part Dave Cameron did a good job. They should have won, it sucks they didn’t…big time sucks they didn’t…but it happens.
Thank you for letting me get that off my chest, now back to regularly scheduled blogging. Starting in net, and the question is will he return as the starter in net? Mark Visentin without a doubt will face a lot of scrutiny especially if he is back as the starter…and he likely will be. My good friend Pete Loubardias has forgot more Jr hockey than I will ever know, so if you want to know more about Visentin and his ability to bounce back check the blog he wrote goldengoalsportsblog.com
If you ask me, Tyler Bunz should be the other goaltender on this team. Maybe it’s a WHL bias, an Oilers bias, I don’t know, but I know this kid has been awesome the last 2 seasons. And notice I said other, not 2nd. I think Bunz could take the number 1 gig and if that happened TeamCanada would be fine between the pipes. I don’t know if Bunz could be a Manny Legace or Roberto Luongo for this team, but he won’t be Olivier Roy or Jake Allen.
The blueline is once again going to be the strength of the club like it was last season. Ryan Murray has been invited to camp and if he is healthy he will be on the team. Dougie Hamilton is a lock, Brandon Gormley is a lock, and in my opinion the kid who will have his coming out party is Red Deer’s Matthew Dumba. You ask the people that see this kid often and basically they will tell you he has very few flaws in his game and he has an eye for the open ice hit much like former Rebel Dion Phaneuf, despite only being listed at 6’0, 185.
Up front in my opinion is a BIG upgrade. Jaden Schwartz is back (and will almost assuredly wear the C) and will join 1st round studs Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Strome, and Mark Scheifele. My guess is it’s Huberdeau that moves to the wing out of the 3. But this year’s forward crop is a lot more talented than last beyond those 4. Mark Stone, Ty Rattie, Tyler Toffoli, Ryan Spooner, and you still have guys like Quinten Howden (captain?) and Brad Ross to bring some nasty.
Last year we had great size. It was built like a playoff team last year because that fit Cameron’s style and quite frankly it was the only way to do it. That’s why a kid like Ryan Nugent Hopkins got left off the roster.
The end all be all maybe this year more than ever is goaltending. If someone can step up in net we will win. And I know that sounds cliché, but last year for example it was a huge question mark, but so was the talent up front. This forward group will be much more talented and being a little bit smaller shouldn’t be an issue (though they won’t be much smaller).
If there is something lacking up front and on the backend it’s experience in this tournament. Only 2 forwards returning up front, and no d-men (although had he been healthy Gormley would have been on the team last season). Of course Visentin will likely be back, but a lot of you will say it’s not experience it’s baggage…we will see.
Here is what I SOMEWHAT expect the roster to be on December 26th. This is what I would do with the lines but there are a lot of different scenarios you could roll with, I’m just trying to make the pieces fit.
Huberdeau – Scheifele – Schwartz
Spooner – Strome – Toffoli
Howden – F.Hamilton – Stone
Ross – Jenner – Bulmer
D.Hamilton – Gormley
Murphy –Murray(if healthy)
Pysyk – Beaulieu