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
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:
Stamkos Tavares McDavid
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.
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…
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