I can’t personally believe it has been almost 4 years since we witnessed Sidney Crosby whip the nation into a frenzy with the overtime goal in the 2010 gold medal game at the Vancouver Olympics. It was a proud time to be a Canadian. However, we have a task ahead of us that is going to be difficult. We need to win the gold in Sochi, Russia for 2014. The players will have to experience a culture shift from the normal Western way of life, not to mention a serious time shift and without the benefit of 18,000 screaming fans rallying behind you. We can do it though, and if you ask me, on paper, we have the players that by all rights should do this. Detroit Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock is already slated to coach this team and there couldn’t be a better candidate. I also trust Steve Yzerman’s judgement since he is the one overlooking the selection of this team – and he did a fine job in 2010. So let’s start with the goalies:
Things have changed a bit haven’t they? The National Hockey League used to overflow with Canadian goalies and the decisions were easy when selecting our goalies for the Olympics. There was Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Curtis Joseph or Ed Belfour to choose from. However only Brodeur is still playing out of that group and will be 42 in 2014. I love Marty, but he isn’t cracking this roster. First and foremost you have to give Roberto Luongo the #1 spot to lose. He’s been treated rotten in Vancouver despite still being an elite goalie in the NHL. Despite some shaky moments it was him who backstopped Canada to gold in 2010, and while he hasn’t won a Stanley Cup yet he had a great run in 2011. Luongo is my #1 guy, unless something breaks down. The two backups will be between Carey Price, Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Fleury and Corey Crawford. Yes I know Mike Smith and Braden Holtby are in the mix, but neither of them have ever been in a pressure cooker like the Olympics. Price has to endure the pressure in Montreal, Ward won a Cup with Carolina in 2006 and can best be described as “solid” in my mind and not prone to big errors, Fleury won with Pittsburgh in 2009 but is too erratic and prone to allowing untimely soft goals and Crawford had a solid showing most recently with Chicago’s Cup win in 2013. A goalie who wins the Cup the most recently is good enough for contention in my mind and Crawford proved he could backstop an elite team to glory. In my opinion, Luongo, Price and Ward get the nod. Neither goalie is overly erratic and unassuming. I don’t think either of them will cost Canada the gold medal and I think that’s how we have to look at it. Fleury has that ability to either steal a game from under your nose or allow 6 goals on 22 shots. Crawford just simply is getting caught up in a numbers game; there are simply other Canadian goalies better than him right now from a technical standpoint but he’s my next choice. Unless something changes drastically in the first 3 months of the NHL season, my picks are Luongo, Price and Ward.
Defensemen are a little easier to judge and have far less holes. You have to pick Shea Weber, the Chicago pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Drew Doughty and Kris Letang. That’s 5 of them right there. Mike Green is too mediocre defensively and we have enough on the back end to make up for his offense, and Dan Boyle is long in the tooth. So I’ll pick P.K. Subban and Alex Pietrangelo the final two. Subban can drive you nuts but falls into the category of a guy you hate facing off against but prefer on your own team. He’ll be a big part of the power play and as long as he isn’t taking foolish penalties he’ll be an asset. So this defense corps has everything we need. Physical play (Weber, Seabrook, even Subban), size (Pietrangelo, Weber, Seabrook), offensive prowess (Letang, Keith, Doughty, Subban) and they are young. Only Keith is 30 years old, everyone else is in their 20s. Plus we have champions on this team. Keith and Seabrook have won two Cups, Doughty has one in 2012 and Letang in 2009. There are no surprises here and 4 of them played on the 2010 Olympic team. So my picks are: Keith, Weber, Letang, Doughty, Seabrook, Subban and Pietrangelo.
The forwards are almost too good in the sense that there are going to be some very good players that won’t make this team. Yzerman did everything right in 2010 where he picked the best players available and I think he does the same this time. Sidney Crosby headlines this group. The centers that I couldn’t leave off would be Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Eric Staal, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Getzlaf and John Tavares. That’s 7 centers on this team and only 4 spots to fill. With 13 forwards making this team that means up to three of these players are going to have to play on the wing. I’ll put Staal on the left and Stamkos on the right wing. Both would suit that role well. Toews, Bergeron, Stamkos and Tavares fill in the rest of the spots with one of them being a spare (and it just might have to be Tavares for some games). As for wingers, Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis and Jordan Eberle round out who I’d put on right wing. Taylor Hall fills in on left wing so long as he doesn’t injure himself again. I’m not a huge Rick Nash fan and I figure we already have the ability to put a center (Tavares, Staal) out of position on the left wing as it is. I want to add Brad Marchand as a pesky player who steps up in big games and if I have to pick a 13th forward, it’s Jeff Carter. 9 out of 13 of these forwards have won the Cup. My top 4 lines:
The top three lines can score at will. The 4th line can check the other teams’ top lines and Marchand and Bergeron will be used as penalty killers. Maybe Marchand raises some eyebrows, but no one plays their tail off more than him and we’ve also got the faceoff circle covered with Toews, Bergeron and even Crosby as surgeons in that category.
Sorry to Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, and co., your time has passed and we surely have more than enough firepower to make up for it. While I touched on the goaltending situation I should remind people that in 2002 when we had more depth to choose from it is worth noting that when Roy decided not to play there was some apprehension from people with Joseph – who hadn’t won anything – and Brodeur who earlier in his career was thought to be more of a product of the New Jersey Devils than a great goalie. Yet everything in net turned out fine, and I think 2014 will be the same. I predict a gold medal wrapped around our necks.Tags: Alex Pietrangelo, Brad Marchand, Cam Ward, Canada Olympic Men, Carey Price, Corey Perry, Jarome Iginla, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Toews, Jordan Eberle, Maybe Marchand, Mike Green, New Jersey Devils, NHL, Patrice Bergeron, Rick Nash, Shea Weber, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall