2014

 

This is a big stretch considering there won’t be a world by the end of this year.  But hey, I’m a dice roller!  If you are on this site, all 6 of you, then you know I like picking games and this is just as big of a gamble but by George I’m going to do it!

With all the BS of the lockout going on, nobody seems to notice that in 12 months the hottest conversation in hockey will be the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.  Now, of course this is assuming that the NHL players will go to Sochi next year (can you believe it’s NEXT year already?!), but I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret….they’re going.  It will be part of the CBA deal, the players will have made certain that the owners sign off on them going.

That deal will get done….eventually….and many Canadians will then have the 2014 Olympic team on their mind, if you don’t already.  So with not a lot of pro hockey to talk about and me with a little time on my hands I figured I may as well do a piece on the team and what it may look like.  Of course the big question will be weather or not Sid will be healthy.  For arguments sake lets just say he will be.  Here is what I came up with up front:

John Tavares – Sidney Crosby – Steven Stamkos

Taylor Hall – Jonathan Toews – Jordan Eberle

Eric Staal – Claude Giroux – Corey Perry

Mike Richards – Jordan Staal – Patrice Bergeron

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Things that I was looking for was getting lots of centre’s on the roster (10 of the 13 are natural centre’s).  Not just that but I know they’ll want RH shot centre’s and I got 3 of them on the team.  Lots of speed (I will get into that in a bit), and experience will be big with the selection process here, even if its just WJC or World Championship experience.  Any “big ice”/international experience is big with the people picking this team.

The first line is very scary.  Sid with 2 sheer snipers like Tavares and Stakmos would be scary.  Might think about having Stamkos and Tavares playing their off wings on that line.  Stamkos especially I think would thrive in that role with Sid.  Another option I had was Stamkos-Crosby-Giroux which would be a better line, but Giroux is needed elsewhere.

The 2nd line might be a case of me being a little too close to it all but my thought is that Hall and Eberle would be perfect linemates for Toews.  However JT was used on an elite checking line in 2010 so perhaps Babcock (who I’m certain will be the coach again) would want to use him in that role again.  In that case you wouldn’t have him with Hall or Eberle.  If not Hall in that spot, Rick Nash, Logan Couture, Jeff Skinner, Patrick Sharp, James Neal, Jamie Benn, Alex Burrows, Matt Duchene, lots of other options.  Eberle I’m certain will be on the team, I think Hall SHOULD be simply because he has the speed built for the big ice and yet can play a power game down low.

When I originally did this I had Tavares with Getzlaf and Perry on the 3rd line.  But the fact of the matter is while I’m a HUGE Getzlaf fan, I found the team I had just didn’t have enough speed.  And speed is SO vital on the big ice and in the Olympics period.  It’s just a different game.  Even on the NHL ice in 2010 a guy like Chris Pronger got exposed.  The game is just so much quicker.  So Getzlaf ended up being the odd man out for me, but that could easily change in a year.  And again anyone from that list of LW’s you can’t go wrong.  I just think Eric Staal has the experience to win this spot.

The 4th line is obviously a sheer checking line.  Mike Richards was great in that role in 2010 and that won’t change come 2014.  He has the speed, grit, experience, you name it and Mike Richards brings it to the table.  I really love Jordan Staal as the 4th line centre.  I’ve been a bigger fan of his than most, and I think he is one of the elite defensive centre’s in hockey and would be perfect in this role.  So would Patrice Bergeron.  Back in the same role as he was in 2010, only now he has a Stanley Cup ring.  He was the weak link up front in 2010, but Bergeron has gone to another level since and I think he would thrive in that spot now.

And finally RNH as the 13th forward I think is a must mainly due to his vision on the PP.  If you had a 1st unit of RNH-Crosby-Tavares with Stamkos at the point with Keith….WOW!  Only the 1 RH shot, but I can’t see that being a big issue.  Also by 2014, RNH could easily be one the elite forwards in the game, he’s that talented.

As for some of the younger kids, I just think it’s too soon for a kid like MacKinnon.  It will be his rookie season, and he’s not in the same league as Sid was and Sid didn’t make the 06 team.  I don’t really know where Tyler Seguin would fit.  The only spot I can think of is in a battle with one of Eberle or Tavares.  He isn’t going to win a checking role, and the Bruins use him on the wing, not centre.  But he will have to prove he is willing to go into traffic if he wants a shot to play on this team.  Jason Spezza is a possibility if he repeats his 2012 season.  RH shot centre, great playmaker, has finally shown a commitment to playing a 200 foot game, so he has a look at this team.  I’m a big Brad Richards fan and don’t think you can go wrong with someone who is that experienced, that clutch, and brings everything you could ask for in a hockey player.  I only question his age and if his skill set will be in decline a year from now

One other thing you may have noticed here is that I didn’t worry about getting guys that have chemistry.  It’s such a flawed theory that hockey Canada believes in yet it’s never worked.  2010 WJC, they took the Windsor line and Greg Nemisz didn’t help the team in anyway and that line was broken up by the gold medal game.  The last Olympic team you had the Shark line, that had 2 players known for choking in big moments and were our 4th line at best while one of the best centre’s in hockey (Brad Richards) watched from home.  It is an absurd theory.  It is a brand new team.  Different coaches, different d-men, different goaltenders, it’s all different no matter what and it has never worked when they’ve done it.  I have no issue when it is players that are worthy of being on the team (like Getzlaf and Perry in 2010), but just make sure you got the best players, THEN look for chemistry.

On to the defense.  It will be great no matter what, and it will be right handed heavy.  For whatever reason there seems to be more and more d-men coming up in this country that are RH shots.  Here is what I’m going with as of right now:

Duncan Keith – Shea Weber

Marc Staal – Alex Pietrangelo

Kris Letang – Drew Doughty

Mark Giordano

The first one that may surprise some is the last pick, Mark Giordano.  Again, big ice surface so it’s a different game.  He has experience on the big ice, he has great wheels to be effective on the big ice, and he is a LH shot d-man and quite frankly there aren’t many of them.  Some might think I’m nuts to take Giordano over guys like Tyler Myers, Brent Seabrook, maybe even Justin Schultz who looks like the real deal right now in the AHL.  I really believe Giordano is on par with all these guys right now and will roll the dice in believing he will keep that up.  He kind of gets over looked with the Flames being viewed as such a mess by people like your’s truely, but he has turned into a great d-man and a guy that can be put in all situations.

On the right side, we are splitting hair’s as to 1st pairing, 2nd pairing, 3rd pairing.  We all know that anyone of Weber, Pieterangelo or Doughty can be on the top pairing.  All 3 of these guys I believe are locks to be on this team next year barring injury.

On the left side Marc Staal also may leave some people scratching their heads.  Look, he’s not flashy in any way, but anyone that watches him will tell you that Marc Staal is phenomenal defensively.  And again this team will need some LH shot d-men, he is one of the best.  The best LH shot d-man produced by this country currently playing is Duncan Keith, who is another lock for this blueline.

Kris Letang is a RH shot d-man but plays the left side most of the time and Letang has developed into a guy that you can’t leave off this team.  He is great at both ends of the ice and again has the speed and experience on the big ice that these games will be played on.

While I love the blueline I just put together, lots of other guys out there.  Dion Phaneuf is the first name that may come to mind when talking about LH shot d-men.  First issue I can think of is that while he is a LH shot, he plays the right side so it nullifies it.  He will undeniably be on Team Canada’s radar, but I personally don’t like Phaneuf on the big ice, and I question how good of a guy he would be in the dressing room.

I guess Ryan Murray has a shot.  LH shot d-man, he would have to put on quite the show both whenever this season gets going and of course in the first 2 months next season.  But if he did that, he would get consideration.  Murray is the kind of kid that could step in as a 20 year old and be as composed as a seasoned vet.

Then there are a ton of other guys to keep your eye on.  Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Dan Girardi, Dan Boyle, Brent Burns, Dan Hamhuis, Karl Alzner, Justin Schultz, Jay Bouwmeester, Tyler Myers, and I would maybe even give a similar shot as Ryan Murray to Dougie Hamilton, Morgan Rielly, and Brandon Gormley.  The problem with those latter 3 is that even IF they had amazing starts to their careers, they’re RH shot d-men and as I’ve already discussed a ton there are just so many elite ones already.

Finally we come to the tendy’s.  Most people that I have tried to discuss this with disagree with what I’m about to say, but I very strongly believe in the 3 guys I’m going with here:

Carey Price

Marc-Andre Fleury

Cam Ward

To me, Price is the best Canadian born goaltender on the planet right now and it’s not even close.  He has the composure, he has international experience, he may not have Stanley Cup experience but he has enough big game experience for me at least to trust him in a big moment.  I love his demeanor.

I know Fleury struggled in the playoffs last year against the Flyers.  But I have seen this guy struggle in spots before, but he has a care free attitude.  The Pens played horrendous defensively last spring, and while that doesn’t make everything ok for Fleury it should be pointed out and all the blame shouldn’t be put on him.  More often then not he gets it done at playoff time, gets it done in big moments, and is still viewed as one of the best goaltenders in the game by most.

Finally there is Cam Ward who is always forgotten when it comes to Canadian goaltenders, but again he is a guy that is unflappable.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Ward played poorly in a big game.  I bet you didn’t know that in addition to owning a Stanley Cup ring that Ward is 4-0 in game 7’s in his career.  2 at home, 2 on the road, the guy is MONEY.

Of course the big omission was Luongo.  Look, he obviously could play his way onto this team, but I quite frankly roll my eyes when people tell me they think he HAS to be the starter on this team.  Most said that in 2002 about Curtis Joseph, we won gold with Brodeur.  Most said that with Brodeur in 2010, we won gold with Luongo.  See a pattern here?  It is 4 years latter, and just be honest about 2010, they won because they had an amazing team not because Luongo was anything great.  He is a great regular season goaltender, and has come up big the odd time in big games.  But more often than not he falls on his face and I just don’t believe the players would trust him back there.  Make no mistake though he will be in the mix.

Another glarring omission might be Mike Smith.  Mike Smith is a product of Dave Tippett’s system.  Now, perhaps the Team Canada brass won’t see it that way, but I sure do.  The one thing I will admit is that if he is still with the Coyotes (UFA after this season) and he is red hot, that confidence might carry over for a 2 week period.  I don’t think I could trust him in a big spot though.  Not at THIS level anyway.

As always, team Canada should win on paper.  It is ridiculous the options we have in this country and without a doubt we could make 3 teams that could compete for a gold medal.  This is my predicition for the team that will be named in a little over 12 months from now, I did a ton of homework on this, yet I know I will be proven very wrong about some of it.  I have to say though, feels good to talk about hockey without discussing Don and Garry.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

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