The days of trying to impress Hockey Canada's executives and coaches are over. Either you've done enough to make the Olympic team, or it's time to start planning your Olympic vacation.
Canada executive director Steve Yzerman will reveal the country's roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Tuesday during a press conference in Toronto. The announcement is sure to spark intense and emotional debates across the continent. Basically, take what happened in the United States with the controversy sparked by the omissions of Bobby Ryan, Kyle Okposo and Keith Yandle and multiply it by 10, if not more.
That's the conversation that awaits the hockey world Tuesday. The conversation now is still littered with questions about what Canada's roster could look like.
There's no doubt Steven Stamkos makes the cut, but will he be able to play in Sochi or will Canada have to replace him?
How many centers will have to play on the wing? How many natural wingers, particularly on the left side, will Canada take?
Is there concern about Eric Staal's injury? Did Staal do enough before he got hurt to make the roster?
How badly does Canada coach Mike Babcock want to have an even number of righties and lefties on the blue line?
Attempts to answer some of those questions are below in the Canadian edition of the Olympic Stock Report, five bubble players who have put themselves in a position to hear their names called Tuesday and five that may not have done enough:
It's getting to the point now where it's fair to wonder how Canada can possibly leave Kunitz home. He's been that good for the Penguins with 23 goals, including 11 on the power play, and 47 points in 44 games. The debate about Kunitz centers around Crosby, because they're so good together in Pittsburgh. If Kunitz goes to Sochi, does Babcock have to play him with Crosby? It would seem like a good bet at the start, but it's almost an injustice to Kunitz to pigeon-hole him like that. Kunitz is a hard-nosed, go-to-the net player who can play with any playmaking centerman. Remember, before he got to Pittsburgh he played with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Anaheim.
Benn might be the only player who wasn't invited to the orientation camp over the summer that makes it to Sochi. He's epitomizes the guy who had to earn it in the first three months -- and he has. Benn fills one of Canada's needs as a powerful, playmaking left wing. He plays well in the defensive end and has the skating legs to play on the big ice. He'll thrive if the game turns into a chippy, grinding contest, but he'll be just fine if it's wide open, back and forth. He has 14 goals and 22 assists in 41 games this season. He's a natural winger, which helps his chances. Yzerman has stated that even though there will be centers who play the wing in Sochi, Canada must have some natural wingers too.
Sharp shouldn't be considered a bubble guy anymore. He's been good enough to lock up his spot on Canada's roster. Sharp had a good chance to make it even before the season started because of his speed, skill and versatility. It's those traits that have catapulted him into superstar status in the NHL and should be enough to convince Canada's brain trust that they need him in Sochi to win gold. He is second in the League with 25 goals and tied for sixth with 46 points. Sharp should have an even greater advantage because he plays left wing on the same line as Jonathan Toews, who is a lock to play for Canada. There is a chemistry there similar to the one Kunitz has with Crosby.
Hamhuis is a no-maintenance, do-it-all defenseman. He's the type of player that Babcock would define as an "everydayer," meaning a guy who brings it every day, no matter if it's practice or a game. He is smart and capable of playing big minutes. He's also a safe selection because there isn't much risk to his game even though there can be a lot of reward. Hamhuis also might have an advantage because he's a left-handed defenseman. The top lefties up for consideration with Hamhuis are Duncan Keith, Jay Bouwmeester, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dion Phaneuf. If Babcock wants an even number of lefties and righties Canada may be inclined to take Hamhuis, who has 13 points and leads the Canucks in ice time (24:13 per game).
Giroux went from lock to longshot to bubble and now he might be a lock again. It's been quite the Olympic arc for the Flyers captain since sustaining an injury this summer that was likely to blame for his slow start to the season. Giroux had no goals and seven assists through the first 15 games of the season. He essentially played himself out of Canada's equation by early November. The good news is he still had two months to bring his stock back up. He has done just that with 31 points, including 12 goals, in the past 27 games. Giroux can play center or on the wing. He's fast, defensively responsible and fearless. There's room for him on Canada's roster.
In August, Yzerman identified Nash as one of the players who would be part of Canada's leadership core. However, Nash has struggled this season, first with a concussion and lately with his offense. He has one goal in his past 11 games and three in his past 16. He hasn't been entering the zone with speed or using his power and creativity off the wall to generate offensive chances. Far too often it's one and done with Nash. He played for Canada in the past two Olympics and was especially good in Vancouver, but Yzerman has to wonder if Nash is going to find his game before Sochi.
It might be a numbers game for Boyle, especially if Babcock wants four righties and four lefties on his Olympic blue line. The locks on the right are Shea Weber and Drew Doughty. Alex Pietrangelo might be one as well, especially since he could play with his normal partner, Jay Bouwmeester, in Sochi. That puts Boyle in a pool with P.K. Subban and Brent Seabrook, who is having a career year as Duncan Keith's partner and, like Boyle, also played on the 2010 Olympic team. Boyle's production has waned with two points in the past 10 games. He's as steady as ever and still has his wheels, but Babcock might have to take an uneven amount of righties and lefties to get Boyle to Sochi.
Staal has been good, not great this season. Despite his history with Hockey Canada, good but not great is not enough to make him a lock. Making things slightly more difficult for Staal is the lower-body injury he sustained Saturday. Carolina coach Kirk Muller said Staal may only miss five or six days, but the injury might be enough to sway Yzerman against taking the Hurricanes captain, who has 35 points and a minus-15 rating. It'd be harsh considering Staal went to the IIHF World Championship last year when he didn't have to and sustained a knee injury that likely had a lot to do with his slow start this season. But Canada has a lot of forwards having strong years. There will be good players who don't make it.
The knock on Lucic is skating. When he gets moving straight up the ice he can be like a train that will run you over if you get in his way, but the game on the international ice is more East-West than North-South. That doesn't play to Lucic's strengths even though he would be the most powerful forward Canada would have in Sochi. However, Lucic has struggled in other areas of his game lately, evidenced by the fact that he has only one goal in his past 15 games. He had to do a lot to impress the Canadian brass. He might not have done enough.
Richards was on the team in 2010. It would be a major upset if he makes it this time around. Richards just simply hasn't been good enough for the Kings to warrant consideration for the Olympics. He has one point and is a minus-5 in the past 11 games. Richards has 28 points in 43 games this season.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
|Back to top|