Category Archives: Team Canada

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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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Team Canada 2022 Roster Projection 1.0

Crosby.  McDavid.  MacKinnon.  All on the same team.  We’re finally going to get it!

Yesterday the news came out that NHL players would be going back to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026!  Now, this for me and anyone else who has paid close attention and weeded out the BS was a confirmation, not a surprise.  This goes back to before the decision on 2018 was made, and I can’t recall who was saying it (likely several people), but the word was they would skip 2018, and go to China in 2022 because they want the Chinese market (which after the whole Daryl Morey thing last fall and now the pandemic, I’m not sure if those feelings are as intense as they once were).

It must have been back on February 8th when Elliotte Friedman reported that the IOC and NHL had a breakthrough in their negotiations because according to my site, I started writing this piece on February 9th.  In the days that followed, several insiders were coming out with stuff trying to squash the league’s interest in returning to the Olympics, but it was clear that it was simply a case of the league trying not to kill any leverage they might have gained in their negotiations with the IOC.  I honestly never bought it, but also never got around to finishing this blog.

So when the pandemic hit I remember thinking “what a perfect time for me to put out my roster projection now that things are stopped.”  ANNNNND TSN did their own like a minute later.  I still have never seen it and don’t want to because I want to do my own thing.

So here I am, doing my own thing, the day after the news has broke that the NHL will be going to China.  What might team Canada look like in 19 months?  Let’s find out!

Before I begin, don’t forget to:

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Forwards

Steven Stamkos – Connor McDavidMitch Marner

Brad Marchand – Sidney CrosbyMathew Barzal

Jonathan Huberdeau – Nathan MacKinnonMark Scheifele

Jonathan ToewsBrayden Point Mark Stone

Ryan O’Reilly

By the way, only doing a 13th forward, 7th D, and 3rd tendy.  The rules get changed every Olympics so I’m not going to guess at this point what they might be.  The big thing for me with this team is going to be speed.  I’m willing to sacrifice some high-end players to ensure Canada has the fastest roster possible.  Truth be told, I cringe at even putting Mark Stone on this team because of the speed.  But I want Stone in that spot because he is far and away the best 200-foot player Canada has on the wing.

Stamkos with McDavid for a few reasons.  Obviously McDavid’s vision and Stamkos shot (especially on his off wing where I got him) could be lethal.  They’re also very likely to have good chemistry with each other being such close friends.  Whether or not Marner fits with them, I don’t know.  He’d need to be able to defer and play “off the puck” so to speak.  That can be a tough adjustment for some players.

Barzal on Crosby’s wing, same potential issue.  Remember how awful Kessel was on Sid’s wing?  Also remember who has worked best with Sid internationally?  You need guys who play a give and go game to play with Sid, and that isn’t Barzal’s game.  Marchand on the other hand, we already know how well he fits with Sid.  I just about had Marchand off the team as he’ll be 33 (over halfway to 34), but I can’t see his drop off being THAT steep.  Bergeron scares me for that more than Marchand given he’s three years older.

Love the MacKinnon line.  Really don’t have much to add, I just think those pieces all fit well together.

Then the 4th line, while skilled and definitely can be a threat, is the shutdown line.  People sleep on how good Jonathan Toews still is.  I’m sure most will argue that he’s not worthy of being on the team, but with how he still plays I’d say he is, and his experience in big games shouldn’t be understated.  He has been incredible in the biggest of moments over the last decade, and as long as his skating is still solid and his 200 foot game is among the best, he should be on the team.  O’Reilly is the 13th forward because (again) I have concerns about the speed.  I’m as big of an ROR fan as you’ll find, but for the Olympic team and especially on the big ice, you just shouldn’t be sacrificing speed very much…if at all.

Obviously I’m not so narrowminded to say “this is my team, and nobody else is a candidate.  Hell no.  We’re splitting hairs here with so many players.  Here is who else I had under consideration:

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Sean Couturier – The gap between Toews, O’Reilly and Couturier for me is so nominal.  All three have a strong case for a 4th line spot on this team.  Toews experience far exceeds any of the other candidates, but obviously we will see where his game is at in two years which I do not have the same concerns with Couturier.

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.

Taylor Hall – It’s always been weird when it came to Hall and whoever the Canadian brass was.  There is no doubt that while his play away from the puck has improved, it’s not where you’d like it to be when talking about the Canadian Olympic team.  I’d have him there because that combination of speed and skill is too good to pass on, but I would guess he’s at best on the bubble.

Bo Horvat – He falls into the same category as Toews, O’Reilly and Couturier, but Horvat at this point lacks experience AND the type of foot speed you’re craving for that role.  He’s going to get a very hard look though.

Travis Konecny – He keeps getting better and better and he’s the type of player who’ll do anything to help his team win, and is very easy for other players to gel with.  I thought hard about swapping out Barzal for him.  Barzal is much more skilled but could be much more difficult to play with.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Same thing with RNH as Konecny.  The one thing I’ll add is that now that Hopkins is playing the wing, he might be one of the best 200-foot wingers in the league.  I’ll be called an Oilers homer for this (and several things throughout this), but he’s better than most think.

Jaden Schwartz – Love him.  It was between him and Lafrenière for that 3rd line spot on the left side.

Tyler Seguin – He has the skating ability, and everyone knows how skilled he is despite a down season statistically, I just wasn’t sure where he fits.

John Tavares – I love him, but again I’ll state I’m not too eager to take guys who struggle skating, even though JT has one of the highest IQ’s in the game today.

Risers

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.

Alexis Lafrenière – He’ll be VERY close by the time the team is selected.  I took him off my roster at the last second.  Truth be told, this part is one of the last things I’m typing for this piece because he was such a late scratch.

Robert Thomas – A personal favourite of mine, and a kid who is getting a lot of exposure on one of the best teams in the league and the defending Cup champs.  Thomas game is growing rapidly.  I think he’s a legitimate number one centre at some point, and he’s going to be a very complete centre too.

Potential Fallers

Jamie Benn – Is Benn a POTENTIAL faller, or has he fallen already?  I don’t think he has the foot speed for international ice these days.

Patrice Bergeron – Only question here is whether or not he’ll hold up.  He has had an extremely slight decline (though it might help that he plays with two of the best wingers in the game), and the combination of his skating ability and experience is going to give him a big edge when they’re scouting for this team in the fall of 2021.

 

Defence

Morgan RiellyDrew Doughty

Shea Theodore – Alex Pietrangelo

Josh Morrissey – Cale Makar

Thomas Chabot

I think this is pretty self-explanatory.  If the team was being picked tomorrow I’m pretty sure this would be my group with the exception of Chabot maybe being replaced by a guy like Muzzin.  But the theme here is that six of these seven guys are incredible skaters, and all seven are among the best puck-movers in the game today.  And while I’m sure some are going to argue that some guys I left off are better, you have to KNOW while doing this exercise that lefty/righty will be everything on D.  So while some of you might not like that I have Josh Morrissey on the team (I’d strongly advise you to go watch a Jets came if you don’t), he’s one of the best LHD Canada has right now.

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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.

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 – This is where I remind you that this is a projection and not what I would do.  He SHOULD make it.

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

Darnell Nurse – Quit laughing!  And I know, this might be a bias on my part, but I have maintained for a long time that we haven’t come close to seeing the best of Nurse.  Right now, obviously he isn’t worthy of being in the discussion.  But the talent is so enormous that if/when he puts it all together, he is going to be something special.  Plus for Nurse, you know they’ll be big on lefty/righty, and Canada is much thinner on the left side of their D.  He’s not that far behind guys like Morrissey or Chabot as is.  Some Leaf fans would tell you he was better than Morgan Rielly this season.

Colton Parayko – I already have seen his name brought up as essentially a lock for the team.  It is so funny in the Edmonton market in particular.  They will rip the hell out of Darnell Nurse, and at the same time, they will crave Colton Parayko when they are virtually the same guy.

Jared Spurgeon – You might be looking at whatever type of screen you’re reading this on right now with an eyebrow raised pretty high, but I actually like Spurgeon for the team more than Ellis, because Spurgeon can not only skate and move it extremely well, he is a terrific defender.

Risers

Evan Bouchard – Is he worthy?  I don’t know, and I don’t want to be bias.  But the thing I’m pretty certain of is that Bouchard is likely to put up big numbers starting next season that will gain him a lot of attention.  The passing ability and the bomb from the point could be tough to overlook.

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.

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.

Potential Fallers

Brent Burns – Same story with all of my “potential fallers”, I think by the time we get to the point of the team being selected, they’ll have dropped off too significantly.  Burns is still a terrific skater for someone so big though.

Mark Giordano – It probably goes without explaining, but just in case…he’s fallen off this season from what he was last season, he’s 36 now, 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 by November of 2021 when the team is in the late stages of being selected.

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

Shea Weber – See Keith, Duncan.

 

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.

Close

Braden Holtby – It sucks to say that he has digressed since…well it actually started before winning the Cup as his 2018 season wasn’t the same as it had been (remember, Philip Grubauer started those playoffs for the Caps).  But I also strongly believe that it’s been the workload that has killed Holtby’s stats.  So I don’t think it’s far fetched that in two years time, he could be back to his Vezina form if he starts getting a lighter workload.

Darcy Kuemper – Since arriving in AZ, he has been tremendous.  We are going to see shortly if he can pass another test as he returns from injury.  Was he just red hot, or was he the real deal?

Matt Murray – He’s really been bitten by the injury bug the last few seasons.  Still, when he’s healthy, he’s pretty good.  And oh yeah, two rings won’t hurt his cause either.

Risers

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.

Potential Fallers

Marc-Andre Fleury – He will be 36 by the time the team is selected.  He hasn’t been the same since his incredible 2018 season where he carried the Golden Knights to the final.  But like Holtby, how much of that is work load?  The Knights didn’t get Lehner to replace Fleury, they got him to lighten his load.  So we’ll see.

 

General Manager

George McPhee

Remember, the Bob Nicholson run Hockey Canada days are done.  So the celebrity GM is likely done as well.  I know that Yzerman was an actual GM the 2nd time around in 2014, but he got the gig simply by being Steve Yzerman in 2009.  I would think that Tom Renney will pick a “hockey man” for the job.  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” 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 in Vegas.

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).  Another option: Tom Renney does it himself.  I’m not sure he would, but it’s an option.

 

Coach

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, there is just no doubt anymore.

Obviously 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.  Claude Julien was on the 2014 staff and has proven over and over that he’s one of the top coaches in the league.  Bruce Cassidy, Joel Quennville, Barry Trotz, Jared Bednar, Bruce Boudreau, Craig Berube, 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!  And in a time of so much shitty news, at least yesterday we found out that we have something to look forward to!

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They Gave me Nothing to Bitch About This Year!

So I always write a postmortem on the World Juniors.  And since I started doing this in 2012, I’ve had a lot of negative shit to chew on with Team Canada!  That year I basically said they were still the best even though they lost.  In 2013 I destroyed the job Steve Spott did coaching a super team as the two previous super teams (lockout year teams) had obliterated the tournament and they ended up finishing 4th.  In 2014 my theory became that they had lost their mental edge and that other countries were now confident they could beat Canada while Canada wasn’t confident they could win anymore.  2015 it was finally a gold and I discussed whether or not it was the best non lockout team ever.  2016 it was more so about how the team wasn’t nearly as bad as they got made out to be (lost on a 5 on 3 PP goal caused by a fluke penalty to the Fins who went on to win it all).  And finally last year I talked about how it really wasn’t much of a loss, just sucked that they had to lose a great game and it had to be to the Americans.  So I had a main topic to chew on all of those years.  This year, I’m lost!  I don’t know what one thing to hit on, so instead I’ll cover a bunch of different things, not just from Canada, but from some of the other countries too.  So if you’ve stayed with me thus far, you’re a true friend because both the title and that opening were pretty terrible!

 

I’m actually going to start with the performance of the Americans.  Is it just me or are the Americans actually not that great, but rather just play way over their heads when they play Canada?  Because you watch any of their non Canada games, and if they happen to win, they seem to just barely scrape by most of the time.   It wasn’t just this year, last year they had trouble with the Swiss and the Russians.  Of course this year they lost to the Slovaks, nearly blew the game against an overrated Finnish team, even against the Russians they had trouble before they bowed out to the Swedes.  They’re developing a lot of damn good talent, but it’s very much so like winning the tournament is 2nd for them to beating Canada.  As long as they beat Canada, that’s the main thing.  Gold would be cool too, but beating Canada is the real victory.  It’s odd.

 

That’s not the Swedes deal, and despite losing that heart breaker had nothing to hang their heads…or toss their medals away…about.  Great team, would have been full value for a win in that game also.  But the big takeaway from the tournament is just how special Rasmus Dahlin is.  I wrote this back in October:

The initial reaction with Dahlin is to go nuts with this comparison (Drew Doughty).  It’s so rare we see a defenceman who can excite you at both ends of the ice like Dahlin can.  And remember, he’s playing against men.  He can play either side of the ice, tremendous wheels, loves to play physical, great vision, I wouldn’t say he has a bomb but he has a very good shot, he’s just got elite/number one defenceman written all over him.  I know some are gun shy on taking D-men high in the draft, and history proves that it’s risky, but this kids the exception to that rule.  I believe that because he’s a D-man that some have been slow to realize just how special this kid is, but I believe by late June he’ll be the clear cut top pick and a franchise changer for whichever team is lucky enough to land him.

I got one right.  Well, I write a lot of shit, so I get a few right, but if you check out my Saturday picks I get a lot more wrong!  I think I’m even higher on Dahlin now than I was at that time.  There were people who actually thought Andrei Svechnikov was a better prospect.  A one dimensional winger over one of the best defence prospects we’ve ever seen.  The kid does it all, and while he’s not in the McDavid class, he’s going to have a tremendous impact on whichever team drafts him (please Edmonton if they’re going to be this bad, it feels like they never win the top pick…)

 

As for the other big story from the Swedish end of things, I go back and forth about Lias Andersson chucking his medal in the stands.  On one hand, I don’t know if I like the gesture of tossing it in the stands like he did.  But listening to his post game interview, it’s simple that the kid doesn’t want silver, and what’s wrong with that?!  When Canada gets silver, most of the country wants to rip the silver medals off our kids and I’m sure a lot of people take issue with nobody doing something like that.  But then when someone from another country does it we should piss on it?  Again, maybe don’t toss it in the stands as it made a spectacle of it, but as a guy who can’t stand losing and is labelled as over emotional, I totally get it.

 

How about the re-emergence of the Czech’s!?  For an old guy like me, it seems like just yesterday the Czech’s were the gold standard for the dead puck era, perhaps the worst era hockey’s ever seen.  Back to back golds in 2000 and 2001.  But it’s been a long ass time since they were relevant in this tournament.  This was just their second 4th place finish since 01, and that’s the highest they’ve finished since.  They’ve obviously still got a ways to go to get back in there with the Swedes, Russians, Finns, Americans and of course Canada.

 

Ok, Canada.  What a win!  That was the best final game that Canada has won since the 2008 final.  Canada never wins those!  17, 11, 10, 04, 02, 99, we always lose the heart breaker….except if we get the Swedes apparently.  And who better to get the winner than Tyler Steenbergen?!  A team where nobody really stood out, just extremely solid everywhere, and it’s the 13th forward who snipes the winner.  Just awesome!  It was the exact Team Canada win that I expected when first writing about the team back in November.  Great goaltending, best blueline in the tournament (though I didn’t see that coming from Conor Timmins!  And I was higher on him than most going into the draft last year, but I had no clue he was even on their radar!), and very balanced up front.  No doubt they caught a break with the Czech’s upsetting the Finns, and not seeing the States again was likely a good thing because as I talked about earlier they seem to be hell bent on beating Canada, but this was the best team in the tournament.

 

As always, I take a look ahead at who could be on the team next season.  And much like on Rasmus Dahlin, I have to do a bit of bragging.  I had no idea I wrote all this last year at this time, but I guess did ok at predicting 2018, so maybe 2019 will go the same?

It’s always so difficult to project.  You just never know who’ll end up making their NHL club.  But I would guess that seven of the nine potential returnees will be back.  I’d say Carter Hart, Dillon Dube, Taylor Raddysh, Michael McLeod, Jake Bean, Kale Clague, and Dante Fabbro are close to locks to being back with this club.  The two who I believe are unlikely yet eligible would be Tyson Jost and Pierre-Luc Dubois.  Dubois wouldn’t disappoint anyone if he wasn’t back, he was very underwhelming in this tournament.  Jost, who as you know by now I’m a massive fan of, started off amazing and really cooled off as the tournament went on.  He is your captain in 2018 should he be back, I guarantee that.

 

The key there though is a 19 year old Carter Hart.  That COULD be the difference, though in 2004 I remember thinking there was no way goaltending would be a problem with Marc-Andre Fleury coming back after nearly carrying Canada to gold by himself in 03.  Anyway, Carter Hart and then I’m guessing at this point Mike DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires looks like he would be the backup, but it’s still way too early to project other players on the team.  If you want some names who appear to be safe bets for next seasons team….Brett Howden, Sam Steel, Cliff Pu, Dennis Cholowski, Jordan Kyrou, Owen Tippett, Cale Makar, and Maxime Comtois.  But again, who in the freaking hell knows at this point what’ll happen.

For the record, DiPietro being left at home for Point was a complete joke and Canada is damn lucky that decision didn’t severely bite them in the ass, and also Maxime Comtois I felt the whole way through probably shouldn’t have been on the team over a kid like Nick Suzuki, Cody Glass or Owen Tippett.  Not like he played bad, but probably shouldn’t have been on the team.  ANYWAY…2019…

 

It’s actually ironic that this tourney will be back in Vancouver, because if you recall the team which won in Vancouver in 06, this team could be built a lot like that team was.  Less skill, more grinders, talented but young blueline, great goaltending.

 

Robert Thomas is the captain should he be back.  He’s tracking like he could play in the show next season, but the Blues have a deep organization.  Jordan Kyrou was good enough to make the show this season and was sent back because the Blues were too deep.  So I’m thinking Thomas will be back and the 1st line centre/star of the team.  Joining him as returnees will be Comtois, and I believe Alex Formenton.  I know Formenton came close to making the Sens out of camp, but he’s not ready to make the jump and there is no need to rush him.  The aforementioned Suzuki and Glass will likely be in Vancouver as well.  No need for Vegas to rush them having the success they’re having.  Owen Tippett I believe is a toss up at this point.  He nearly stuck with the Panthers, so we’ll see.  Gabe Vilardi, Michael Rasmussen, Morgan Frost, Shane Bowers, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan are kids who at least at this point and time I would say are good bets up front.

 

The blueline is likely going to be pretty young with no returnees and the highest picked kid from the 17 draft likely being Pierre-Olivier Joseph.  Ty Smith, Evan Bouchard, Noah Dobson and Jared McIssac are all probably locks.  And again, so much can change, but those four actually all fit real well together, and this 18 draft is defence rich.

 

At the moment, it doesn’t look like Canada will have near the team they were able to ice this year.  But for me, the big key is going to be starting goaltending, I’m calling it now, it’ll be Michael DiPietro.  He should have been on this years team, a part of me believes he was left at home so there couldn’t be a goaltending controversy because I believe DiPietro was that good currently where he could have stole the job even with how good Carter Hart was.  This team will have a punchers chance against what’ll be very talented American and Swedish teams, not to mention the Finns and Russians always being solid.  DiPietro is the type of goaltender who can steal a tournament for a team.

 

For all the talk of the Americans passing Canada which the Canadian media just seems so horny to write about, Canada is a shootout loss away from winning the tournament in three of the last four years.  The Americans have passed Canada in shootouts, I’m not sure they’ve passed us in any other way.  As one of my good friends used to say “they can f***ing have it”.  We’ll enjoy the gold which was won by scoring in a hockey game.  (hell yes that was a petty cheap shot at the Americans winning in the skills competition last year!)

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WJC Team Canada Preview

It’s getting to be that time of year.  The time of year where just about all of you go from not ever having seen one of these kids play, to experts on their game and knowing them inside and out.  Yeah, the World Juniors really do bring out the absolute worst in all of us as hockey fans!  Even myself.  I know these kids a lot better than most, but I’m up front about not watching these kids play most nights.  Maybe a few times a year, and I follow them closely, but I’m still a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to how to use these kids.

 

Having said this, I do know these kids, I do follow their development paths, and I probably know what I’m talking about a lot more than most on this subject.  So with camp invites just days away, let’s get it going and we’ll start with my projected forwards:

 

Sam Steel – Michael McLeod – Jordan Kyrou

Dillon Dube – Nick Suzuki – Taylor Raddysh

Matthew Phillips – Robert Thomas – Owen Tippett

Brett Howden – Cliff Pu – Cody Glass

Boris Katchouk

 

Looks damn good.  The big ? is going to be Tyson Jost.  The Avs have him in the AHL right now on a conditioning stint, but that conclusion will coincide with Team Canada’s camp starting up.  So I’d probably say he’s 50/50 to be in Buffalo at the moment, but for this piece I’m going to keep him off.  Should he be there, I’d look at Katchouk being the odd man out, which is why I have him as the 13th forward right now.  For me, the guys I’m a little unsure of with this roster are Katchouk and Cody Glass.  Cliff Pu was on that list probably as recent as ten days ago, but he is on fire of late.  As for guys who could take those spots away?  Obviously I brought up Jost, Michael Rasmussen, Kole Lind, Tyler Steenbergen, Morgan Frost, Jonah Gadjovich, and then the big wildcard for me is Tyler Benson.

 

I went over it in my “Hot Takes” blog from yesterday, but I’ll say it again that I strongly believe that Hockey Canada needs to give Benson an invite to camp and take a serious look at where he’s at.  15 points in 10 games, 14 of those points in his last 7 games.  And it’s not out of nowhere, it’s a case of a very high profile prospect having fallen on tough times thanks to injuries, but has somehow picked up where he left off after missing a large majority of the last two seasons.  In seeing clips of him playing, a lot of his production is coming on the PP, and his skating (which has always been his ?) doesn’t appear to be great, so I doubt he’d make it.  But what he’s done since returning and his track record warrants a look in my mind.

 

Overall I really like the forward group.  I don’t think they can go wrong with it, although I have been fooled in the past.  Jost would help a ton though because I really believe that they need someone to emerge as the offensive catalyst.  Mike McLeod has that ability, but I personally believe Jost as both the ability and the determination to do it.  As for the blueline, I’m really excited about the look of it as well:

 

Kale Clague – Dante Fabbro

Jake Bean – Cal Foote

Dennis Cholowski – Cale Makar

P.O. Joseph

 

Much like the forwards, the only concern is that I worry there isn’t a standout guy.  Last year of course, Thomas Chabot was a superstar and carried the entire team.  I don’t believe any of these kids can duplicate that, but I’ll tell you this…and maybe I’m just being a homer for the Lloydminster kid, but Kale Clague has been outstanding so far this season.  He stepped up and played great after Phillip Myers went down last year, and he might surprise a few people in this tournament with the level he’s currently playing at.

 

Victor Mete is in the same boat as Tyson Jost, except that I don’t see Montreal sending him back for this tournament.  Sure the Habs are struggling, but Mete has been rock solid for them and it’s a team that needs everything it can get on the blueline right now.  I guess Sam Girard is also a possibility, but with the Avs keeping him up past the 10 game mark it sure seems as though all signs point to him staying with the Avs during the holiday season.

 

As for the 7th defenceman…Josh Mahura would be my pick.  The kid would have been a first round pick in 2016 had it not been for an injury that cost him most of his regular season, but he bounced back from that and had a great playoffs and Memorial Cup for Red Deer, then had another deep run with Regina last year where I felt he was outstanding.

 

But this is me trying to project the roster, so I have P.O. Joseph as the number seven guy.  Not because I believe he is the right guy, but because I’m a very honest guy.  And I look at the roster and notice that we don’t have a kid from the Q on there and I can’t see Hockey Canada picking an entire team of kids from the WHL and OHL, even though that should be the case as this is a rare circumstance which it’s warranted.  In today’s PC society, nobody wants to cause a stir.  But I don’t know what to say to those who will, the Canadian talent which is WJC eligible just isn’t in the Q this season.  Kids like Maxime Comtois, Pascal Laberge and Antoine Morand simply aren’t good enough, and Pierre-Luc Dubois would be on the team but there is no chance the Jackets are going to release him.  Thankfully this comes the year after the tournament is held in Montreal.  I can only imagine what an uproar that would have caused…

 

As for a few others who could possibly steal a spot on D, I can only see two guys other than Mahura and Joseph and those are Nicolas Hague, and possibly at this point the top Canadian prospect for the upcoming draft Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs.

 

Last year I was one of the few heading into the tournament who was really high on Canada’s goaltending, and for the most part I feel as though I was right.  Hart definitely didn’t lose the gold medal game for Canada in regulation or OT, and he appears to now be peaking as the WHL player of the week last week.  So it’s just a matter of who’ll join him:

 

Carter Hart

Mike DiPietro

 

Oilers fans might be asking right now “where is Dylan Wells”.  Dylan Wells….MUCH to my dismay, has been awful so far this season.  G.A.A. over 3.50, Sv% below .900, his adj. G.S.A.A. last season led the CHL at 31.87, this year it’s at 2.69 as of writing this.  I’d be shocked if Wells gets a camp invite at this point, which is quite a shame because in the summer it looked as though both he and DiPietro had a chance to knock off Hart for roles on the squad.

 

Hart is good, and being the returning guy he’ll get the best chance to be the starter.  But I’m a massive Mike DiPietro fan and fully believe he’ll steal the starting job and run with it in this tournament.  We saw him shine in the Memorial Cup last spring, the kid seems to love the pressure.  To me, the goaltending this is year is probably as good as it’s been in 10 years (Mason/Bernier).

 

As always, there are five or six teams who are fully capable of winning it all.  The Swedes will be very strong, especially on D being led by Rasmus Dahlin.  The Fins will have a ton of motivation after last year’s embarrassment and the talent to be a threat.  Obviously the Americans have been the most successful team in the tournament over the last eight years with three golds and even in years that they don’t win have given Canada specifically a lot of fits.  Not as skilled of American team this time around, but don’t sleep on them.  The Czech’s after so many down years are starting to get back to where they were.  Martin Necas, potential top five pick Filip Zadina, Oilers 4th rounder Ostap Safin who currently sits 10th in the Q in scoring, they’re starting to develop some high end kids again.  And finally the Russians, whom for whatever reason show up in this tournament.  The big star will be potential top three pick Andrei Svechnikov assuming he’s healthy (he’s supposed to be back shortly so no reason to assume otherwise), but they’re starting to develop the right kind of players in Russia over the last few years.  Seeing a lot more D-men and two way centres come out of their system in the last two drafts.

 

But having said all that, this Team Canada squad looks like a gold medal team to me.  Top to bottom, at least at the moment, I’m not seeing much of a flaw with them.  Four lines deep, three pairs deep, and as good of goaltending as any team in the tournament.  I counted 15 of the 22 players being 19 year olds, 13 of the 22 being 1st round picks, and perhaps most importantly seven returning players, and the possibility of those numbers all moving up one if the Avs release Jost.  It’s going to be a very complete squad barring some strange selections or injuries occurring.  2 PM MST on Boxing Day, Canada vs Finland.  A great test to kick things off.  As always, it’s going to be a blast to watch.

 

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Team Canada 2018 Pt.1

In the fall of 2012 there was no NHL hockey in sight.  The third lockout in the last 18 years was ongoing, so outside of tracking what most of the Oilers were doing in Oklahoma City (specifically Justin Schultz who got all Oilers fans hot and bothered with 48 points in just 34 games in the AHL that season), there wasn’t a lot to talk about.  One blog idea I did come up with however was looking at what the Team Canada roster might look like for the 2014 Olympics 15 months out.  Today, I have a lot of stuff I could talk about, and have talked about.  But these are the type of pieces that are fun to write, fun to read, and fun to look back at down the line.

 

I would say it’s 60-40 right now in favour of the NHL not going to Pyeongchang next February.  So this piece could easily be for not.  But really, who cares?  You simply can’t go wrong talking about a potential team Canada roster for a best on best tournament.  I didn’t talk about it when it came to the World Cup of Hockey (did I ever bother to mention that I believed it was a gimmick tournament?)  But this is the Olympics.  An ACTUAL tournament.

 

Should they go to the Olympics, and be healthy, this easily could be the best team Canada of all time.  I’m not saying that for shock affect either.  The stars aren’t aligning for the players to go right now, but if they do, the stars will have aligned for Canada to be amazing.  So here is the forward group I would project about 10 months out from being named.  I should add that I’m assuming that it’ll be 14 forwards, 8 defencemen and 3 goaltenders as it was in 2014.

 

Marchand – Crosby – Bergeron

Tavares – McDavid – Stamkos

Benn – Toews – Carter

Couture – Seguin – MacKinnon

Duchene

Marner

 

I think the first thing which is noticeable is no Getzlaf or Perry.  Now Perry didn’t make the gimmick tournament team originally and only was added because of injuries, so perhaps he isn’t all that surprising.  I’m still wanting both guys on my NHL team any day of the week obviously.  But the foot speed is fading and as we’ve seen in the last two Olympics you just can’t afford to sacrifice speed in this tournament.  Personally I was worried about both those guys the last time around!  They were terrific as you know, but four years down the road I just think there Olympic days are done.  Having said that, they’ll without a doubt be in the discussion for the squad.  More so Getzlaf who might be looked at for that 4th line centre role.

 

Another very large omission I have is Mark Scheifele.  I originally had him on the team.  The guy is damn near a point per game player and has done nothing but improve since coming in the league.  His 200 foot game is still a work in progress, he’s still weak in the dot, and while he’s not slow by any means, look at the wheels the three guys I have on that 4th line have.  That’s too sweet to pass up in my opinion.  Some people will scoff at having two players currently on the Avs on this squad, but again I’m looking towards next season.

 

Finally for omissions I have to talk about Taylor Hall.  It just became clear through injury after injury after injury at the gimmick tournament and how Doug Armstrong and the team Canada brass continued to pass on him that he isn’t one of their guys.  So if they passed on him in 2014 for St. Louis, and passed on him in 2016 when they had several chances to add him to that roster, there is zero reason to believe they’ll take him this time around.  Hope I’m wrong, I’m a big Taylor Hall fan, but I just don’t see it happening.

 

I really wonder whether or not the brass would have the balls to pick two guys like Seguin and MacKinnon for the 4th line.  Neither of those guys are great away from the puck, but both have next level wheels that I personally would have a lot of trouble leaving off the squad.  All that skill, all that speed, and I just don’t know how you say no to either of them.

 

Bergeron on this club might be a little sketchy with his play dropping off a bit this season, but I just think that he has to be on this team because he does too many things for you.  Worst case scenario is he’s your 4th line centre who wins virtually every draw and is your top penalty killer.  But we’ve seen how well he plays with Crosby, and he is great with Marchand, and those three together were unstoppable at the gimmick tournament, so I believe he would need to have a major decline between now and November to not be named to this team.

 

As for Marner, he’s a kid with an insane amount of skill, and Mike Babcock obviously knows him well.  Some of the thinking with Marner as well is that by November he will be viewed as one of the top wingers in the game.  Also, you always want to take younger guys where you can to get them some experience.  It’s not overly likely that a 14th forward would be needed, so it’s a safe spot to put a kid like Marner.

 

Lots of omissions who easily could make this squad (other than Getzlaf, Perry, Scheifele and Hall).  Ryan O’Reilly, Sean Monahan and Claude Giroux I would say are right there.  Sam Reinhart, Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Huberdeau, Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher, Ryan Johansen, Sean Couturier, and Bo Horvat are all kids I believe you have to keep your eye on moving forward.  Horvat specifically is a guy who is currently really emerging.  He’s another Bergeron.

 

Then you have the defence, and at this time it would take a miracle for the other countries for Canada’s blueline to look anything other than incredible.

 

Keith – Doughty

Vlasic – Burns

Brodie – Pietrangelo

Rielly – Subban

 

Could be one of the top Team Canada bluelines of all time.  This is a lot more balanced than 2014 was, because we know that in 2014 they insisted on lefty/righty combos and Canada was weak on the left side.  While the left side still isn’t AS good as the right, there is nobody on there who isn’t worthy of being there.

 

Can they finally get it right and have one of Brodie or Giordano on this team?  In 2014, Giordano should have been there.  It was bizarre that they were so desperate for left handed shooting D, yet Giordano was left off the team for Jay Bouwmeester whom by the time Bouwmeester was dealt from the Flames in 2013 was very clearly the better of the two D-men.  In 2015, T.J. Brodie emerged as another elite LH shooting D-man for the Flames, yet for the gimmick in the GTA (as it should have been dubbed) last fall neither guy was anywhere to be found…and Jake Muzzin was on the team.  Get it right people.  I would only take one, I would take the better of the two at the time of the selections and I believe it’s a complete coin flip as to who could be that guy.  I’m guessing Brodie, but it’s a complete guess obviously.

 

Morgan Rielly’s selection would be similar to Mitch Marner’s.  Babcock knows him, he’s had all the tough minutes for the Leafs and has held his own.  The offensive numbers haven’t been as great as expected this season, but those will come.  On the big ice he would thrive.

 

Omissions obviously include Shea Weber (losing foot speed much like Getzlaf and Perry), Aaron Ekblad, Kris Letang, Giordano (as I mentioned), Bouwmeester and Muzzin.  But again, all of these guys will be in the mix and you could easily substitute anyone of them for a guy I have on the team.  Kids/dark horses to watch for over the next year could be Josh Morrissey, Ryan Murray, Darnell Nurse, Thomas Chabot, Ryan Ellis, Damon Severson, Colten Parayko, Jared Spurgeon, and Chris Tanev.  Of course you never know, especially on defence, who could completely come out of nowhere.

 

Think about this too.  This could be the 1st PP unit for team Canada:

Crosby

Stamkos Tavares McDavid

Burns

Maybe put Benn in Tavares spot for that net front presence, maybe Subban goes to Burns role if they prefer more of a bomb coming from the blueline.  Regardless, I’ll just let you drool about this for a minute…

 

Done drooling?  It was good wasn’t it?!  Ok, so finally we have the tendy’s.  And unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’re going to get the hot debate that we had going into the 2014 games.  Even if Carey Price went down…or Price and Holtby went down, things are a lot different than they were back then.

 

Price

Holtby

Jones

 

Yeah….they’re seven or eight deep now.  I don’t have Devan Dubnyk on this team, and he just might be the best goaltender in the league to this point of the season!

 

The third spot in my opinion would be between Matt Murray and Martin Jones.  Total toss up in my mind.  Jones has been incredible this season, but Murray has played incredible when he’s been healthy.  I said Jones, but by November, especially if he has a 2nd ring, people might be screaming for Murray.  And the beauty of it with both of them is that they both have pretty good experience too.

 

You might be asking yourself “why one of them and not two time Cup champ Corey Crawford?”  Simply because of age, but make no mistake I’m a massive Corey Crawford fan.  Then you have Cam Talbot who I think is clearly on the outside of this picture, but would anyone be fearful of Talbot being as high on this food chain as the backup?  I wouldn’t.  The guy has been pretty damn consistent for a year now.  A hiccup when he first got to Edmonton, but since that adjustment he’s been outstanding.  Hell, if Mike Smith keeps up the way he’s played this season I believe he would warrant a look, and you likely have forgot that he was the 3rd man in 2014 (not even a question in the infamous words of Ken Holland who apparently can’t scout goaltenders because Jonathan Bernier was miles ahead of Mike Smith that entire season).  Even my man Cam Ward has his game back this season!  So there are zero issues between the pipes for Canada anymore, although I never really agreed that there were, but Canada is as deep as they’ve been since 2002.

 

And circling back to Dubnyk, he could easily be that 3rd guy too.  He might even be the backup over Holtby.  But I believe they would pretty much cement Price as the starter, Holtby as the backup early on in the process.  After that, it’s more of a chess game and they would likely lean towards a younger guy in that spot seeing how the likelihood of the top two guys getting hurt are pretty slim.

 

It’s insane with the club I just laid out.  There are literally no holes, and superstars all over.  John Tavares is essentially an afterthought on this club, and he would be the first line centre for most other countries.  I wrote it hours after the 2014 tournament was done, this could be the best team Canada of all time.  At that time I was more so focusing on McDavid teaming with Crosby, Toews, Stamkos, Tavares, and MacKinnon (who is surprisingly not going to be a sure thing for this squad).  You add in that the goaltending and LH shooting D depth has improved greatly, which were the only spots people could SOMEWHAT point at as holes the last time around, and it just leaves no doubt that if they’re healthy it might be disappointing should they not only win, but exceed the domination we saw in Socchi.

 

IF the NHL decides to go that is…

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

The Red & White is Blue Today

Well that sucked.  Not the game, the game was incredible.  Quite literally one of the best hockey games we’ll ever see.  And from a growing the game or growing the World Juniors aspect, it was a perfect outcome.  And if we want this tournament to mean something, we can’t win all the time (we also can’t give it to the same area three times in four seasons IIHF…)  We have to go through stretches where we only win gold once in eight years.  But that pesky outcome, as a Canadian, that was a pretty good kick in the balls.

 

And yes, I was wrong.  I puffed my Canadian chest out and declared Canada would win and win decidedly yesterday.  Meh.  I’ve been wrong a TON on here, and I’ll be wrong a TON moving forward.  Canada was just as good as I suspected they would be, but full credit to the Americans for having tremendous resiliency.  I in no way believe they were a better team, but they weren’t a worse team, and there were a few times (4-2 specifically) where they could have easily folded their tent and gone home.  Nobody would have said shit to them.  They didn’t, and now they’ve won three World Juniors in the last eight years…to Canada’s one.

 

Ironically now, we’re on basically the same eight year run as we were from 1997-2004.  One gold in eight years, four silvers (we’ve only got three silvers in this stretch), one horrible finish (8th in 98, this time around it was the 6th last year), and two bronze medals (this might be the most troubling for people this time around, as we’ve only got one bronze in three trips to the bronze medal game).

 

It seems like I’ve been writing this every year now since I’ve started this blog, but it feels like the reminder always needs to be there.  We’re still pumping out much more talent than anyone else, but for whatever reason with the World Juniors our country just goes through these stretches where we get away from doing things right.  And I really do believe a lot of it is mental.  When the pressure is off some of these teams, they’re unbeatable.  You can point to goaltending, and that is the main thing for sure, but it wasn’t last night, and last night you could always tell with the Americans that they weren’t fearful of the situation.  Zero pressure on the States, all the pressure on Canada.  The States have been getting the best of Canada lately too, so even though these are completely different teams then in years past, it still plays a factor just like it does with the Swedes never winning elimination games, yet dominating the round robin.  In 09, the States had a pretty similar team in terms of talent as they did this year, yet when they played Canada on New Years Eve and jumped out to a 3-0 lead, you had zero doubt Canada was going to comeback.

 

So once again, we’re left looking forward to next year.

 

It’s always so difficult to project.  You just never know who’ll end up making their NHL club.  But I would guess that seven of the nine potential returnees will be back.  I’d say Carter Hart, Dillon Dube, Taylor Raddysh, Michael McLeod, Jake Bean, Kale Clague, and Dante Fabbro are close to locks to being back with this club.  The two who I believe are unlikely yet eligible would be Tyson Jost and Pierre-Luc Dubois.  Dubois wouldn’t disappoint anyone if he wasn’t back, he was very underwhelming in this tournament.  Jost, who as you know by now I’m a massive fan of, started off amazing and really cooled off as the tournament went on.  He is your captain in 2018 should he be back, I guarantee that.

 

The key there though is a 19 year old Carter Hart.  That COULD be the difference, though in 2004 I remember thinking there was no way goaltending would be a problem with Marc-Andre Fleury coming back after nearly carrying Canada to gold by himself in 03.  Anyway, Carter Hart and then I’m guessing at this point Mike DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires looks like he would be the backup, but it’s still way too early to project other players on the team.  If you want some names who appear to be safe bets for next seasons team….Brett Howden, Sam Steel, Cliff Pu, Dennis Cholowski, Jordan Kyrou, Owen Tippett, Cale Makar, and Maxime Comtois.  But again, who in the freaking hell knows at this point what’ll happen.  In 2013 I guessed Max Domi, Tom Wilson, and Ryan Pulock would all be on the 2014 team….very wrong, though Domi definitely should have been!

 

I don’t like writing this piece.  I like the one I did two years ago talking about how that may have been the best team Canada ever in a non lockout year.  Man, I’ve done every type of piece on Canada losing the World Juniors now you can imagine.  In 2012 it was how we just had a few bad bounces.  2013 it was how many things needed to change (which they have thankfully).  2014 I talked about how more than anything the losing had become mental both for other teams believing they could beat Canada, and Canada not believing in themselves.  Last year I think I spoke about how things weren’t near as bad as they seemed as they were a bad bounce away from possibly knocking off the Fins who went on to win it all.

 

So forgive me if this piece is a little all over the place, but I’ve wrote about all the other reasons before.  Nothing really left to be said.  Hats off to our boys.  This is one of the few years that we had a damn good team, and just lost to another damn good team.  A shame that it wasn’t decided in a better way, but in fairness:

He’s right…that was pretty sweet.  Let’s close with that video, and hope more fun like this is on the way for Canadian hockey fans.

NOTE: Steve Downie misses the opening shot.  I’m certain this was Don Cherry’s fault for not showing enough shootouts on Rock’em Sock’em videos…

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

 

UH OH! It’s the Big, Bad Americans Again…

I’ll never forget the piece I wrote 3 years ago.  It was the 2014 Olympics, and for the entire tournament all you heard from the media was how great the Americans were.  And all their arguments for this had pretty much no basis.  They were digging deep for any flaws Canada possibly had, and looking for any excuse possible to anoint an American team which actually was quite flawed as the top hockey power on the planet.  It wasn’t my most intellectual piece, but I tore the media to shreds in that blog, and going into tonight’s gold medal game it has a very similar feeling.

Oh No!!! It’s the Big Bad Americans!!!

 

 

First things first, it is a major advantage now for Canada to have lost that first game on New Year’s eve.  They’ll have an underdog feel coming into this game.  There is no chance they’ll take the US lightly coming into this game.  These are a couple of the reasons it is insanely tough to beat a team twice in this tournament, or really any other tournament.  The States did just do it against Russia, but they BARELY did it against Russia.  In 2010, Canada won the New Year’s eve game, then the States won the gold medal game.  In 2013, Canada again won the round robin game against the States (I believe that was also NYE, but I honestly can’t recall), and then the States won in the semi finals.  Canada won easily over the Russians in the opener in 2011, and we all know what happened in the gold medal game in 2011.  Think about the 2010 Olympics.  Canada lost to the US in the round robin there.  What happened in the gold medal game though?

 

Another reason it’s a major advantage, because you’re then the team that’ll make the adjustments needed.  When you play a team you just beat, the message from the coach is always “play the same game you just did against these guys, we’re not changing a thing”.  And if he does start making adjustments, what is he basing it on?  So you’re hands are basically tied as a coach.  You tell them to come out hard and get the jump, but you know that initial push will come from the opposition.  It always does, as they’re the team looking for “revenge”.  Eventually the game will settle down and become more of a chess match, but you have to weather the storm.

 

On New Years eve, the initial push came from an American team who had a lot more to win than Canada did.  They wanted to spoil the party for Canada by winning on Canadian soil.  What did Canada get out of it had they won?  Playing the Russians in the semi’s I guess, but it was clear at that point this tournament was a 4 team race assuming the Russians were doing what they always do.  So the US had a big initial push that made the difference in the game.

 

And let’s be honest about something.  In that first game, Canada was tight as could possibly be.  Connor Ingram wasn’t good early.  Canada controlled a large portion of that game.  They blew two 5 on 3’s (if you don’t score on a 5 on 3, it’s more on you than it is about the PK).  So are the people picking the Americans tonight doing it with logic, or are they doing it out of fear?  Or are they doing it because subconsciously it’s a win-win for them?  Canada wins, it’s forgotten or they can say “I’m so glad I was wrong!!!”  Canada loses, “I told you so.”  In their mind it gives them something out of the deal.

 

Fuck that.

 

This comes down to Carter Hart tonight.  If Hart carries over what he did last night, I don’t think this will be that tight of a game.  If he’s on again, the rest of the teams confidence will grow and we seen last night that when this teams confidence is high that they can roll anyone.  That was a freaking BEAT DOWN last night, against what was supposed to be the top team in the tournament.  5-2 was flattering.  It really should have been a 4, 5 or even 6-0 Canada win.

 

I’m not meaning to piss on what the Americans have done in this tournament, but they haven’t been close to that level Canada played at last night, and I don’t see how that momentum doesn’t carry over.  They seemed to stop being sad and started getting mad so to speak.  You can’t sit there and say “here we go again” when things start going shitty.  You have to get pissed about it and find another level.  At 2-1 last night, they did that.  In recent years, other Canadian teams would have crumbled in that moment.  That was a turning point moment, that’ll make Canada tougher mentally, and the US hasn’t had the benefit of going through.

 

Just be honest, and have some damn balls would you?  Can the Americans win this game tonight?  Absolutely.  With everyone going like they should, who has the better team?  Canada.  Should be a great game, but I’m calling Canada to win this game 4-1.

 

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Prognosticating Team Canada

2015_wjc_can_herewego_crowdSo now we know.  I started this piece last week, but without knowing who was going to at least be invited to team Canada’s WJC training camp it would be ridiculous to jump the gun with that information coming out soon.  But here we are.  The list has been released, and now it’s time for the brass to build a winner.

 

A winner?  What am I talking about?!  I’m certain the fans and media have already written Canada off, as is the trend these days.  Fans and media have a tough time grasping the fact during down periods for Canadian hockey that they aren’t the underdogs, they’re just simply on par with the other four contenders (the United States, Sweden, Finland and Russia).

 

The truth that not many want to admit is that if one of these countries get a hot goaltender that they’ll likely take the tournament.  Last year none of them did, which played in perfectly to the style the Fins were playing and they took it.  Everyone thought Canada was so horrendous, yet they lost to the Fins thanks to a fluke penalty by Joe Hicketts on a clearing attempt.  That doesn’t happen and Canada gets the one goal, there is a pretty good chance they go on to win gold.  But because that didn’t happen, they’re awful and the sky is falling.

 

This year, in addition to the tournament being back on home soil, the goaltending to me looks better than it has in most of the last seven years (I’d say Fucale/Comrie in 2015 is the one exception).

 

I would GUESS that Carter Hart is the starter in goal.  Yes he plays for Kevin Constantine and there for he doesn’t get much action.  But watch the kid play.  How does he move, how is his quickness, how technically sound is he, this isn’t tough to track.  If you’re scouting a goaltender, why would you care about what the shot clock says at the end of the night?  Track the quality shots, the quality saves that get made.  Anyone who watches Hart will tell you he’s a stud, and the only thing that is a concern moving forward is his size and the trend which is going on in the NHL of wanting bigger goaltenders.  Make no mistake though, this kid is an elite junior goaltender.

 

Connor Ingram should be the backup, but keep in mind that Michael NcNiven is a Montreal Canadiens prospect.  It wouldn’t be just that, he has real solid numbers this season too for Owen Sound this season, but that little added bonus could push a kid like Ingram or even Hart to the side.  I hope not, but Hockey Canada doesn’t exactly have a track record of pushing politics aside (*cough* Steve Spott/Ryan Murphy *cough*).

 

I don’t really like to get into omissions.  I used to.  I used to get extremely rattled at guys who I thought needed to be on the team when really I was just loving everyone who was a first round pick like a complete d-bag.  Having said this, I’m really not getting why Connor Hobbs or maybe even David Quenneville weren’t at least invited to this camp over a guy like Victor Mete.  There are only three right handed shot D-men on this list, and none of them are great PP guys.  Hobbs and Quenneville, in the WHL….not the Q….the dub…are well over a point per game this season (Hobbs has 29 points in 21 games, Quenneville has 31 points in 24 games).  I’m really not getting that one.  I know Hobbs isn’t the best skater, and Quenneville is a really small kid (5’8), but having these kind of weapons to put out on the PP to me is too valuable to pass up in my opinion.

 

Having said that, this team still has enough to make a pretty good defence core.

 

Getting Jakob Chychrun back from the Coyotes would be nice, but I don’t see it as a necessity.  More often than not, guys coming back from the NHL to play in the World Juniors is a bit of a let down.  They’re living their dream, and then it gets taken away from them.  Not to say that the World Juniors isn’t a dream too, absolutely it is, but it’s not as big of a dream as the NHL.  So what tends to happen is a lot of these kids don’t perform the way many believe they will.  Plus, this team is pretty deep on the left side of the D.

 

Chabot and Juulsen seems like a lock to be the top pairing.  For me, Dante Fabbro as long as he’s back to 100% by the start of the tournament should be on the 2nd pair with either Chychrun or Jake Bean.  Fabbro isn’t an elite skater, but his hockey sense is off the charts and he’s a kid who just does everything very well.  I was extremely high on him going into last year’s draft, and felt he should have gone much higher than 17th to Nashville.

 

Reading between the lines on what Bob McKenzie was saying yesterday, it sure sounds like they’re set on having Jeremy Lauzon and Philippe Myers as their 3rd pair.  I’m….OK with that.  I worry though, because Hockey Canada for the last seven years or so seems to get hung up on getting guys with chemistry on the team, passing over bigger talents in the process.  And I’m the guy who always harps on building a team rather than amassing talent.  But blindly taking guys just because they play together isn’t the answer either.  It’s new coaching, new systems, new teammates, it’s completely different from what those two or in some cases a full line of guys have been playing with.  But Lauzon and Myers have pretty good credentials, so I’m good with that as the third pair, just as long as both guys actually deserve to make it.

 

As for the 7th guy (should Chychrun not return), I’d probably get homerish here and say it should be Kale Clague, but I’d like to think I’m saying that more so because he can play either side, where a kid he’ll undoubtedly be competing with in Samuel Girard, doesn’t normally play the right side.

 

Up front this year, especially now with Strome and Barzal back in junior, they’re loaded.  Easily the strength of the team.  I had trouble getting the forwards down to 16 let alone 13.  Again, much like Chychrun, Lawson Crouse would be nice to have back, as would Anthony Beauvillier, but I don’t think either guy is needed.  I would personally prefer to have Tyson Jost centring the 3rd line, but they’re so deep down the middle that they can afford to put Jost on the wing, and Pierre-Luc Dubois would be the top LW on most World Junior teams yet should they get those two back he might be pushed down to the 3rd line as well.  Nolan Patrick is likely going to be pushed to the wing, Sam Steel will likely get pushed to the wing if he even makes the team (I would sure as hell hope so, but stranger things have happened), Nic Roy could get pushed to the wing too.  This team is just insanely deep down the middle.

 

So in talking about all this, I THINK this is the roster that I would go with today, ignoring the lines as this is more of a depth chart, and I’ll suggest that they don’t get any of the NHL kids back:

 

Jost – Strome – Gauthier

Dubois – Barzal –  Stephens

Steel – Roy – Raddysh

Howden – McLeod – Joseph

Patrick

4 QMJHL, 4 OHL, 4 WHL, 1 NCAA.  Perfect balance that should keep all the leagues happy.  Left Blake Speers off seeing he only has played one game this season, yet it sounds like they want him on the team.  So then I didn’t know who I take off.  They might end up putting a right handed shot on the left side which would leave a kid like Brett Howden at home.

 

Chabot – Juulsen

Bean – Fabbro

Lauzon – Myers

Clague

No OHL D-men.  Does Victor Mete make this team because of that?  I hope not, because he’s not as good as most of the other LH shot D-men, but don’t be shocked if it happens…

 

Hart

Ingram

McNiven

Obviously the only thing to find out here is the order.  All three kids are having great seasons.  I think without a doubt Hart should be the starter, but a case can be made for Ingram.

 

But let’s be honest.  None of us really care that much who is on the team, we just care that they win.  As I said off the top, they have all the ingredients.  They always have all the ingredients, but it’s brand new teams in a short tournament which is always unpredictable.  It comes down to getting a hot goaltender, good coaching, and good special teams.  If those things happen for Canada, it’ll be the 2nd gold in three seasons, and maybe some people can shut up for a few minutes about how the sky is falling for Canadian hockey.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Bad Mix

1297789286707_ORIGINALWell what is there to say after that?  As I said on twitter, a lot of the fingers are being pointed every which way.  Didn’t play as a team, too many passengers, awful D, awful goaltending, awful coaching.  The fact of the matter is that if a puck doesn’t bobble on Haydn Fleury in the dying seconds of the 1st period, Canada goes to the room with a 2-0 lead over the Fins after a perfect period of hockey.  That is a completely different game, and I’m very likely not writing this piece.

 

But that did happen, and Mackenzie Blackwood let in…not a bad goal, but a puck that probably should be stopped off the stick of potential top 5 pick Patrik Laine.  The momentum after a brilliant 19:45 of play by Canada is completely with the Fins and their fans going into the 1st intermission.

 

Before I get into it all, let’s point out a few more things.  1, Joe Hicketts penalty that led to the 5 on 3 and led to the goal, that’s as shitty of luck as a guy and a team can have.  And really, it should be an exception to that rule.  If that happens 5 on 5…and I’m being honest here….in a no touch icing world that should be called icing before it’s called for a penalty because the puck has already gone over the goal line, shouldn’t it?  I’m honestly asking, but I would think that should be the case.

 

Add to this, the spirit of the rule is to stop players from simply dumping it into the crowd when they are in trouble in their own zone.  If a player is in trouble in his own zone, the last thing he is ever going to have time to do is to shoot it 200 feet into the crowd.  I would just simply adjust the rule to say, if the puck makes it past the opposing goal line and clears the glass, it isn’t a penalty, however it is treated like an icing in that the team cannot change.  Might sound like sour grapes, but is it not an absurd penalty in that scenario that cost Canada a game?

 

Here is another one that is already being forgot.  Patrik Laine should have been kicked out of the game.  And AGAIN, it’ll sound like sour grapes.  It’ll sound like I’m Jake Virtanen (true Vancouver Canuck).  But I can’t help but think if it’s another player, at another point in the game, he gets tossed for that hit from behind.  Granted, Strome was selling it.  But it was still a very clear cut hit from behind.  When it happened my initial thought was “that’s 5”.  Not outraged, but I’ve seen enough international games by now to know what is often called in that scenario.  Because it’s late and because it’s Laine, it’s 2.

 

Let me make it perfectly clear though, unlike some of the kids have come out and said.  Canada didn’t lose that game because of officiating.  I’m just pointing out that maybe we shouldn’t lose our minds about how this all went down because the bounces didn’t go our way.

 

Now, having said all this….for the 6th time in 7 years we are left dissecting what has gone wrong for Canada at the WJC.  I wouldn’t put 2010, 11, or 12 in the same group as 13,14, or 16 though.  You can easily chalk those first 3 up to a bad bounce or 2.  These last 3 of 4 years though, it’s not pretty.  And you can say that the rest of the world has caught up to us, but you would have said the same thing from 98-01, or 04 depending on how pessimistic you are.

 

1 thing we can all likely agree on is that this is no longer an aberration that Canada’s goaltending is weak.  We have a big problem in this country producing goaltending right now that needs to be fixed.  Even the kids like Subban and Blackwood who are higher picks are viewed as projects on draft day.  Fucale and Comrie have been exceptions to the rule (unfortunately for Canadians they came along at the same time).  We just simply are not producing goaltenders, especially young ones.

 

So what is the answer?  I truly don’t know.  Finding ways to make goaltending more appealing and affordable would be a start.  Also another maybe small thing to consider is that when I was growing up (get off my lawn!) goaltenders had personality and were fun to watch.  Roy, Belfour, Hasek, Potvin, Cujo, Richter, Ranford, Moog, all these guys were fun to watch play.  They had unique masks (well, Hasek’s was unique in that it was awful), and gear that made them appealing to kids.  It’s just not the same any more.  Not to say that THIS is the problem, but I really do believe it plays a part.

 

But isn’t it weird that goaltending shows up on weaker rosters…is the roster weak because of bad goaltending, or does the goaltending get exposed because of a weak roster?

 

This team had FAR too many passengers.  Brayden Point….like I hate to say this about a 19 year old kid, but he might go down as one of the worst captains in Canadian history at this event.  I do wonder if Dave Lowry felt he couldn’t name Hicketts as his captain just because of the look (being his head coach in Victoria).  But no doubt Hicketts was the leader of this team and Point was a passenger.  Jake Virtanen, wow.  All I can say is that Craig Button warned us all in 2014 that Virtanen didn’t have the hockey sense.  Button had Virtanen 43rd in that draft while the rest of the hockey world was looking at him sideways.  He more than any other skater cost Canada today.

 

They weren’t the only 19 year olds.  Perlini, Fleury, Quenneville, I can’t think of a 2014 drafted kid that played well other than Roland McKewon (remember, Hicketts wasn’t drafted).  I don’t know what’s happend to Michael Dal Colle, but is he REALLY worse than Brendan Perlini?  When they were drafted, viewed as pretty similar guys except Perlini was extremely soft, that hasn’t changed.

 

Something also brought up today that shouldn’t be ignored, I believe it was Bob Stauffer who pointed it out on twitter.  Dave Lowry coaches the most penalized team in the WHL in Victoria.  So we really shouldn’t be surprised that Team Canada lacked discipline.  And that is on coaching.  Tougher to emphasis in a short tournament with a new team, but it can be done.

 

When Canada rattled off 5 straight, coaching was a much bigger deal.  Brent Sutter got appointed the head coach before the 2005 WJC, and when he was appointed he was going to be THE guy moving forward.  Once he stepped down, it became Craig Hartsburg who had been his right hand man and he led Canada to back to back golds.  Finally, Pat Quinn was the perfect coach for the 09 team.  If the tournament had not been on North American ice, would probably be better served going another direction.  But Quinn was perfect that time.

 

The big ice factor cannot be overstated.  It hurts our kids more than most.  Only the U.S. might be effected as much, but they draw from a lot more NCAA kids than Canada does.  We are so used to playing along the wall because it’s a must on our ice.  European teams know to avoid the wall and use the extra room to their advantage, we don’t.  That Team Canada we saw today didn’t look much different from the one in 2013 and 14 who had the same issues.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Canada’s best move when putting together WJC teams when the tournament is on European ice might be to get a coach from one of the European teams.  Ralph Kruger?  Guy Boucher?  Marc Crawford?  Doug Shedden?  Lots of good candidates.  It would still be an adjustment, but Brent Sutter, Steve Spott, Dave Lowry, they aren’t used to coaching or playing on the big ice.  Might not hurt to have someone behind the bench who is.

 

As for next year’s group, it is always difficult to tell who might be there.  I would guess Matt Barzal will be the catalyst up front.  Travis Konecny will be the captain should he return, but Philly is going to have a tough time keeping him off the team.  Beauvillier, Chabot, Gauthier depending on who drafts him all should be back.  I would guess though that Strome, Marner and Crouse are all in the NHL.  Nick Merkley should be a lock (I’m guessing his skating kept him off more than anything this time around, next year on North American ice it isn’t AS big of a deal), Nolan Patrick is likely a lock and should be one of Canada’s most vital forwards.  Again though, at least at this point, goaltending looks bleak, and the D doesn’t look much better although Chabot with Jakob Chychrun would give them a few studs that they lacked this year.

 

Once again, it sucks.  3 of the last 4 WJC Canada has come home without a medal.  Then again, if Canada won every year what would be the point in watching?  A little adversity isn’t a bad thing to face in the long run, but there hasn’t been this poor of a medal run since Canada went 3 straight years (79-81) without a medal.  Still not a case where we should lose our minds, or have say have a summit….

 

But Hockey Canada needs to start coming up with answers to these questions.  Shit will happen here and there, but 3 out of 4 years with no medals, not by coincidence on European ice, something needs to change.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Might Sound Crazy But…

mcdavid-canada-usa-gettyI’m going to get right to it.  I believe it is in the Edmonton Oilers best interest to trade Connor McDavid.  We all drool about what he will do for this organization.  But the team is already solid without him.  All this talk of trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a D-man is nice, but McDavid brings back a legit number 1 D, probably two or three 1st round picks, a top 9 centre and if it’s the right team a potential power forward.  Think of a team like the Panthers.  If the Oilers were to add a Griffin Reinhart to the deal, I don’t see why the Panthers wouldn’t do Ekblad, Crouse, Bjugstad, and three 1st rounders for McDavid.  This gives the Oilers the pieces needed to round out the hockey club.  Still great down the middle with Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and Bjugstand.  The blueline is solidified with Ekblad joining Nurse and Klefbom not to mention he has that big RH bomb from the point on the PP which the Oilers have lacked.  Crouse will step in next season and give the team that big body and edge in the top 6 that this team has lacked forever.  And finally while getting these 3 pieces you also load up the system by adding the 1st round picks. With all that added to the Oilers, they would be in just as good of shape to win multiple Stanley Cups moving forward.

 

You didn’t really buy that, did you?  IDIOT!!!  (like what I did with the picture and how it ties into both?  I know you’re all thinking “Soups you sly little devil”)

 

What might sound crazy, isn’t that crazy (actually what I suggested up top probably isn’t overly crazy either, but from a business point of view it’s insane when you have other valuable pieces you can use to fill in around McDavid).  I’m personally going to be pulling for the U.S. to beat Canada in the opener at the WJC on Saturday morning.

 

Why?  Well it’s pretty simple.  Historically teams that face adversity early in these tournaments are better off later on.  I think back to the 2010 WJC in Saskatoon.  Canada played a sloppy game and yet somehow managed to beat the U.S. on NYE 6-5 in a shootout.  When they faced off in the gold medal game, the U.S. got down early but really controlled a large majority of that game.  Now people will say it ended 6-5 in OT so it could have gone either way, they’ll say that Jake Allen was awful that night, and both are true statements.  But the U.S. had the better team that Tuesday night in Saskatoon, and you could feel it.  Even after Jordan Eberle tied it with 2 late goals I recall texting with one of my buddies and saying “I still don’t feel good about this”.

 

And that was far from the only time, especially in recent years.  2012 we steam rolled everyone in the round robin, then faced a good Russian team and had no answer for them until it was too late.  Again with the U.S. in 2013.  We got them in the round robin, then got punted in the teeth by them in the semi final.  And I really believe what happens is that the loss forces teams to re-evaluate themselves.  They put in that extra bit of work, they’re a little hungrier the next time around, they don’t have that invincible feeling.  Sometimes that invincible feeling is good to have…when it’s true.  In 2005 that team was head and shoulders above everyone.  Last year, even though the gold medal game got tight nobody would debate that team Canada was the best team all tournament by a pretty wide margin.  This years team isn’t nearly as loaded as last years team though.

 

Marner and Strome give Canada an awesome offensive duo up front.  I really don’t care who is put with them (Point, Crouse, whoever), those two are going to drive this team offensively.  But this is such a young team, and it has holes.  The blueline is talented, but it has a lot of the same guy and nobody stands out.  And between the pipes they’re solid, but both McDonald and Blackwood when he returns are unproven guys.

 

We saw it today.  They went up 5-1, and sure it’s an exhibition game and so it isn’t going to harm anything if they let off the gas.  But they’re flawed.  So a loss to one of the tournament favourites right off the bat might not be a bad thing at all.  I don’t think Dave Lowry would mind, it gives him something to work off of.  That way the players can’t say “we’ve won every game so why change anything?”  The coach can say “remember the U.S. game?  You guys can be beat, so here is how we’ll avoid it”.

 

Of course Canada can win Saturday morning and win the tournament.  They can go undefeated.  They can go undefeated every year.  That’s the dirty little secret of this tournament is that we are always the best, we just don’t always come together the best or play the best, but talent wise even without some of our best under 20’s we are still the most talented team.

 

Just a hunch, but I think this could be one of those years where the team that faces adversity early, overcomes it to win gold.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups