2022 Team Canada Roster Projection 2.0

Back to back days with a blog out.  That’s nothing.  You should see how many pieces I have that I’m currently working on.  It’s making it quite the bitch to do a new podcast.  It’s also making it quite the bitch to set this up as a business as I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.  I’ll get around to it, just need to get ahead of things!

Anyway, we are now HOPEFULLY a little over a year away from teams being selected for the 2022 Olympics!  Obviously, we can’t even be certain that they’re going to take place with the way things have gone, so this is a bit of an assumption on my part.  And I know what they say about people who make assumptions, but I feel as though I’m already an ass, so what difference will it make?!

Lot’s to get to, so I won’t waste any more time with an opening.  But before I begin, don’t forget to:

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Forwards

Connor McDavidBrayden Point – Mitch Marner

Jonathan Huberdeau – Sean Couturier – Nathan MacKinnon

Brad Marchand Sidney Crosby – Mark Scheifele

Jonathan ToewsPatrice Bergeron – Mark Stone

Bo Horvat

Alexis Lafrenière

So the first thing you notice with my lines is the configurations, and even though this is more about projecting the roster than giving my opinions on it, I believe the brass would at least give this consideration.  This started while I did this piece and was giving thought to where I should spot Bo Horvat.  And the more I looked at it, the more I liked the idea of putting our best 200-foot centres in the middle, and allowing are perennial Hart Trophy candidate burners on the wing.  The big thing I believe it does is gives them a max amount of offensive freedom. Does that make sense?

What I went for here is McDavid, MacKinnon, and Crosby to be anchoring their own lines.  That’s why you don’t see a line of McDavid – Crosby – MacKinnon.  The four centres I have actually in the middle are four of the best defensive centres in the game, and the less defensive responsibility both McDavid and MacKinnon have (the way they currently play), the better in my opinion.  But there is no doubt that you can argue it would be risky to play McDavid and MacKinnon out of position.  That’s fair, but I would say to that, you’re going to be doing it with a few centres anyway, so what does it matter who it is?

The other thing you may have noticed is that while I did that, each line has both a natural LH centre and a natural RH centre.

They’ll be very careful to ensure they ice the fastest team they possibly can.  I really learned this with the 2010 Olympics.  It’s not the bigger ice surface, it’s more so the competition.  In 2010, Chris Pronger was still a number one defenceman in the league, and he was essentially a pilon in the Olympics.  The same guy led the Flyers to the final that spring.  I had never seen Pronger look so ordinary.  So you need tremendous speed.  Bo Horvat, passable.  Mark Stone, JUST passable.  The other guy I’d love to have on here is Ryan O’Reilly, but already you’re looking at running the risk of not having enough speed!  He’s one of my favourite players in the league, but if I’m picking the team right now I have to go with Toews over him.

While I’m at it, let’s not sleep on Toews for this team.  And no doubt, some of it is the amazing experience and leadership he brings to the table.  But the guy can also still really play!  His skating hasn’t fallen off much over the years, he’s still one of the best defensive forwards in the league in my opinion, he should be on this squad if he maintains the level he is currently at.

I personally would prefer Bergeron teaming up with Toews and Stone to form an incredible tough minutes line (as I have it), but you know full well that if Bergeron is still at a level good enough to make the squad (very questionable given his age) that they’ll be pretty tempted to put Bergeron with Marchand and Sid.  Completely understandable, but man…I just love the way I have the lines and feel as though they’d be impossible to match up with.

Alexis Lafrenière as one of the extra forwards I’m sure will be controversial, but obviously, I’m projecting here.  He’s entering the league as a 19 year old, and on a team that is ready to win.  So he is likely to have a monster rookie season.  I just think the hype that’ll be surrounding him combined with the thought of giving someone so young the experience will be too difficult for the brass to pass up.  No doubt though, at this point he is the easiest player to take off and replace with someone much more establish who is still in their prime.

Obviously, I’m not so narrowminded to say “this is the team, and nobody else is a candidate.”  Hell no.  First and foremost you have to remember, this is me projecting.  We’re splitting hairs here with so many players.  Here is who else I had under consideration:

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Mathew Barzal – Here’s a guy who is a perfect example of how I’m projecting and not what I would do.  Barzal is too terrific of a skater and a talent for me to keep him off my team.  But I don’t know how the brass will view him.  Barry Trotz being named head coach (very possible) would without a doubt help his cause.

Travis Konecny – I love Konecny.  I’d have a tough time keeping him off mainly because I believe he’s a perfect complimentary player.  One reason I believe it’ll be extremely difficult for Barzal to make the team is that he’s a pure driver who might have trouble playing that complementary role.  A guy like Konecny won’t.

Pierre-Luc Dubois – Underrated player, and playing for this team where he’d get to move to the left side, he could be to this team what Jamie Benn (his draft year comp) was to the 2014 team.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – I’ll be called an Oilers homer for this (and several things throughout this), but he’s better than most think.  It appears as though Dave Tippett is permanently making RNH McDavid’s LW moving forward, and that will without a doubt help his case as we all know how badly some overrate players having chemistry.

Ryan O’Reilly – Another extremely difficult player to leave off.  This is one of the best 200-foot players in the league today.  But this is the Olympics, this is big ice, this is a different speed.  I think he is going to be in tough.  Having said this, if he can sustain the level of play that he is currently at, I’m not sure they can keep him off the team.

Steven Stamkos – Most will hate this, but his stock was shot thanks to that playoff run by Tampa.  I’ve said forever, he’s the most overrated player in the league.  Don’t confuse THAT with me suggesting that he’s not amazing, I just never believed he was one of the top players in the league as he was advertised to be.  Still, I barely left him off this roster and believe that he could have a great 2nd act if he stays with Tampa and simply settles into a complementary role.  Still one of the best snipers in the league.

Jaden Schwartz – Basically…see Konecny, except Schwartz is a better defensive player.  I am such a massive fan of Schwartz and believe he’d fit with anyone on any line.

Rising

Tyler Bertuzzi – Pretty big dark horse candidate obviously.  He might be my new Brad Marchand eight years later in that I pushed so hard for Marchand in 2014, and they have similar games to each other.  I talked about Marner and Barzal being able to play without the puck, well Bertuzzi can do that.

Anthony Cirelli – Don’t sleep on him.  Might be too out there at the moment for some, but the way he is progressing I believe he is going to warrant heavy consideration.

Kirby Dach – I was livid that the Hawks kept him last season.  I was a massive Dach supporter going into the 2019 draft and really liked the pick.  But he needed a year in Saskatoon in my mind.  It started out well, then he hit the wall early and hard, so I felt like I was correct.  Wow!  The way he played in the playoffs, and not just the fact that he looked terrific, but the role he played for the Hawks, it was as impressive of a performance that I’ve seen from a 19 year old kid who wasn’t a phenom.

Nick Suzuki – After the playoffs, all of a sudden Suzuki was the second coming of Henri Richard.  It became flat out absurd what people were claiming they see him becoming.  Having said this, if you’ve followed my draft rankings over the years then you’d know how highly I thought of Suzuki going into the ’17 draft and it’s never gone away.  I need to see much more before I’m ready to start seeing him as someone you build the franchise around, but no doubt Suzuki has everything needed to be on the radar for the Olympic team.

Robert Thomas – The only question I have is whether or not Thomas can reach the level that I believe he is going to get in the next 13 months.  If he can, he’s on the team.  But that is a pretty tall task.  Make no mistake though, I believe Thomas is going to become one of the top centres in the game very soon.  Tyler Bozak is on the last year of his deal, Ryan O’Reilly is getting older, Brayden Schenn is getting older, the Blues are likely going to be leaning more and more on Thomas both offensively and defensively.

Fading

Jamie Benn – I believe most know this by now that he’s nowhere near the level he once was, but I still felt the need to point it out.

Taylor Hall – I don’t mean that his game is fading as much as I just believe his stock in general has.  And he has never had the support of the Team Canada brass as he was passed over multiple times for both the 2014 Olympic team and the 2016 World Cup team.  By the way, the 2016 World Cup was a disgrace and everyone involved with putting that tournament together should be deeply ashamed of it.  I said it before the tournament, during the tournament, and clearly still feel that way today.

Tyler Seguin – A hybrid of Benn and Hall really.  He’s peaked.  Still a very good player (not worth the money he’s getting, but very good), but not Team Canada good.

John Tavares – Never been a massive fan of him on the big ice (though for a while, loved the thought of him on a line with Stamkos and Sid for Canada), and he’s now 30, 31 by the time the team is selected.  Much like with Seguin, not saying he now isn’t great, just not Team Canada great.

 

Defence

Morgan Rielly – Alex Pietrangelo

Shea TheodoreJared Spurgeon

Josh Morrissey – Cale Makar

Thomas Chabot

Drew Doughty

Let’s start with the elephant in the room.  I know Drew Doughty is the Jonathan Toews of defencemen for the analytics community.  But I also do not believe that Doughty’s actual skill has fallen off much, at least not when I’ve seen him play.  He looks like a dude who has his rings, has his contract, and he’s very content right now.  But if you put him in a pressure cooker like the Olympics would be, I think he’d still be incredible.  Maybe that’s very wrong, but it’s the way I see it.  I always say, I’m not anti analytics at all, but I just feel like Doughty has much more to give than they suggest.

Maybe the second most noticeable thing on there is Jared Spurgeon.  He is full value to be on this team.  I just barely kept him off last time around, this time I got him in there.  He’s the most underrated defenceman in the league.

Finally, I said this last time, I’ll say it again: this is a projection, not what I would necessarily do.  Dougie Hamilton, for me, from the outside looking in, should be on the team.  I don’t believe he will be.  The guy was in trade rumours AGAIN this season.  He is clearly not a popular dude around the league.

Again, I’m not putting this opinion in stone by any means, so here are the others I looked at for the blueline:

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Matthew Dumba – Dumba is likely much further off than the others I’m putting in this section.  But I’ve always been a big fan, and the guy has all the tools to really pop at some point.  So while I really doubt it happens in the next 13 months, it wouldn’t stun me.

Aaron Ekblad – Has really bounced back.  The big thing that keeps him off for me is the foot speed on the big ice, but I love him.  Really was torn on putting him on there because what I have isn’t a very big blueline.  For me, that doesn’t matter.  It likely will for whoever is selecting the team though.

Ryan Ellis – We all sleep on him because he plays in Nashville and gets overshadowed by guys like Josi, but he is more than qualified with how he moves the puck.

Dougie Hamilton – As I already laid out, he should make it, but I bet he won’t make it.  If this is me simply picking a team, I have him on there.

Jake Muzzin – Barely missed for me.  Very much so on the radar though.  He is so underrated.

Darnell Nurse – There is an Edmonton writer who is nice enough to follow me on Twitter (a few actually, but one in particular).  Shortly after I released my first roster projection back in early July, that writer then was discussing how Nurse has a shot at making the team, for the exact same reasons that I had laid out in my piece.  If that writer is reading this and IF that writer did in fact get the idea from reading my last piece…I’m not mad at all.  I’m actually flattered.  BUT…I would like a DM on Twitter because I believe I could be a very good contributor for you…ANYWAY, Nurse.  He has to take steps this season obviously for this to get serious.  As I’ve said a thousand times by now though, I believe he is going to continually get better and that we still won’t see Nurse hit his peak until 28 or 29.  He turns 26 in February.

Colton Parayko – We are really going to see what he can be now with Pietrangelo gone.  But Parayko was already logging more of the tougher minutes for the Blues.  He has all the tools to not only play on Team Canada, but still become a Norris candidate.

Devon Toews – I can’t believe the Avs stole him from the Islanders and only had to give up a couple of 2nd round picks to do it.  This kid is so solid and I believe will get a good long look from the brass, especially playing for a team like the Avs, who enter the season as perhaps the favourites in the West.

Rising

Bowen Byram – Byram will be full-time with the Avs next season on a blueline that will likely be viewed as the best young blueline in the league.  He has a great chance to be on the radar.

Jakob Chychrun – Big, can skate, and can defend.  Chychrun isn’t going to get much publicity playing in Arizona, and even less so with what a shit show they’re becoming.  But they need to keep an eye on him.  I have him as “rising”, but could easily put him as “close”.  Some will no doubt argue him over Josh Morrissey and I understand it.  As for the whole “isn’t he American?!” thing, he represented Canada at the U-18’s in 2016, so I believe he’s considered Canadian internationally.  Having said that, the U-18’s aren’t the deciding factor on that.  I believe the U-20’s are, so I’m not 100% on this.

Noah Dobson – I realize he hasn’t had a great start to his career this season, but what I know is that I was super high on Dobson in his draft year, and he did nothing to hurt that opinion in his draft +1 season.  Big, moves it extremely well, and is a terrific skater.  It won’t be long until he pops and is in these discussions.

Fading

Brent Burns – Even at his peak, I’ve never been the biggest Burns fan.  Not that he wasn’t great, but he’s never been good in his own zone and felt he got overrated.  Now, he’s purely a PP weapon.

Mark Giordano – He’s fallen off this season from what he was last season, and he’ll be 38 by the time the team is picked.  I’m not writing him off because this guy has defied the odds his entire career, but you have to think that he’s going to lose a step in the next 12-13 months.

Duncan Keith – Love him, but he’s not what he was.

Shea Weber – Of the players in this section, he might have the best chance.  As we speak, while he isn’t what he was, the fall hasn’t been anywhere near what it was expected to be.  As much shit as I give Marc Bergevin, the Weber/Subban swap was actually a home run for the Habs.

 

Goaltenders

Carey Price

Jordan Binnington

Carter Hart

I don’t believe I need to spend much time explaining the tendy’s.  For Price not to be their guy, it would need to be a combination of him dramatically falling off, and someone else (most likely candidate being Carter Hart) to have a monster season.  Binnington is straight-up recency bias on my part, and Hart is straight-up projecting and believing that by the fall of 2021 he is in the mix of the best goaltenders in the game.

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Braden Holtby – I’m not going to remove him from consideration yet.  A) they’ll love his experience.  B) let’s see how he’ll do with a lighter workload in Vancouver.  I have a feeling that it could do big things for him.

Darcy Kuemper – Since arriving in AZ, he has been tremendous.  I worry though that it has much more to do with Rick Tocchet’s system than anything else.

Cam Talbot – Nobody noticed apparently (seemingly, not even the Flames), but Talbot got his career back on track in Calgary last season.  He was spectacular from about December on.  His 2017 workload set him back in 2018, which likely hurt his confidence in 2019.  It appeared that as the 19-20 season wore on, Talbot’s confidence continually got back to where it was.  If it can stay there, he’ll have a shot to make this roster.

Rising

McKenzie Blackwood – Was last year for real?  If it was, the Devils not only have their goalie of the future on their hands, but Blackwood may have an opportunity to win gold for Canada again after his bid with the 2016 World Junior team came up short.

Tristan Jarry – He had an INCREDIBLE start to the season.  Keep an eye on him because if he can regain that form with some consistency, he’ll be on the radar.

Fading

Marc-Andre Fleury – Not even sure it needs to be explained at this point, but just in case.  No way he can play through that sword injury he suffered.

Matt Murray – Call me crazy, I actually believe Murray will get his career back on track.  No doubt, Pierre Dorian got flat out stupid with both the acquisition price he paid, and then the contract he gave Murray.  Having said all this, his game and stock are fading at this point.

General Manager

George McPhee – There are MANY reasons why I believe McPhee would be a very good selection, but the three biggest reasons I like him for this is A) “hockey man” (you know Tom Renney will want that)  B) he had success doing something very similar when he put together the 17-18 Golden Knights roster, and C) he is in a situation right now with the Knights that he doesn’t need to be so hands-on with Kelly McCrimmon now the GM.

I’d love to give you other options, but the issue is that I’m not sure how many GM’s would be willing to take on the 2nd gig.  Yzerman did in 2014 and then immediately stepped down once the Olympics were over.  I have to think someone like McPhee who in his case can defer some of his work, or perhaps someone who was a GM and currently is out of a job is going to take the job.  So yes Oilers fans, and yes Canadian hockey fans…Peter Chiarelli is going to be considered for this gig in my opinion.  He is out of a job, has the experience, and was with the 2014 management team.  So he has the resume to get the job (as much as that both pains me to type and makes me cringe).

 

Coach

I’m not going to call this one, I’m just going to give you what I believe will be the list of candidates.

Mike Babcock – Oh?  You don’t think they would?  I do.  Especially if he doesn’t have a full-time gig with anyone.  He never did anything that was incriminating, just stupid and disrespectful.  It doesn’t take away from the guy being one of the best coaches in the league since he took over in Anaheim for the 02-03 season.

Jon Cooper – Also a candidate to coach the U.S. in this tournament.  Obviously, you can’t ignore the job he’s done with the Lightning over the years.

Ralph Krueger – He needs to have one big season with the Sabres.  If he does, you better believe the media specifically will be pushing HARD for him to get the gig.  I don’t know if a coach in league history has been more overrated than Krueger.  Having said that, I don’t think it’s bad logic having a guy who knows the big ice well and that the players will run through a wall for in a short tournament.

Dave Tippett – Call me a homer, that’s cool, I get it, but look at the job the man did with the Oilers this season.  And look at the job the man did with Arizona when he stepped into a complete mess in 09-10.  And look at the job the man did his entire tenure in Dallas.  He is an incredible coach.

Barry Trotz – Plain and simple, I believe he’s the best coach in the game today.  He’d be my choice.

There are a TON of other options.  If George McPhee is the GM, then both Gerard Gallant and Peter Deboer will be heavily considered and are both fully qualified to do the job.  Alain Vigneault is often forgotten about as one of the top coaches in the game, but look at the improvement in Philly this season.  Bruce Cassidy, Joel Quennville, Jared Bednar, Bruce Boudreau, lots of guys who are either highly respected or are continually gaining that ground.

 

Who knows how this roster is going to shake down though?  I’m sure everyone reading this has their own thoughts, which makes this topic so much fun!  It is very difficult to say even when the winter Olympics will take place, and therefore when the teams will be selected.  And who knows?  They agreed to go, but it will obviously need to make sense for health purposes for the league to go.  So we’ll see what happens.

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