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World Cup

Jay Bouwmeester selection easy for Team Canada

GM says defenseman gives us 'best opportunity' at success at World Cup

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

Team Canada coach Mike Babcock likes to use the word "predictable" when describing what he wants out of his defensemen.

So when Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith withdrew from the World Cup of Hockey 2016 with an injury, the choice to replace him shouldn't have been surprising.

By selecting St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to replace Keith on Canada's 23-man roster, Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong chose a player who shoots from the left side like Keith does, who is familiar with Babcock from the 2014 Sochi Olympics and who is familiar with his regular defense partner in St. Louis, Alex Pietrangelo, who was named Blues captain on Thursday.

"When we went over the list of players we talked about the pros and cons of all these players, and they're all elite athletes, and we just came back with Bouwmeester's resume internationally, what he did with our group in Sochi," Armstrong said Thursday. "Obviously he's familiar if Mike and the staff decide to use him with Pietrangelo, they play together in the NHL. We just felt that that was the player that gave us the best opportunity to come out of the gates quickly and have success."

Video: SJS@STL: Bouwmeester scores on slap shot from point

The importance Armstrong and his management team placed on replacing Keith with another left-shooting defenseman meant that right-shooting defensemen like Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins and P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators were not in the discussion to replace Keith.

"We have four right-handed [defensemen] and we really felt like having three lefties was important," Armstrong said. "Having someone like Rob Blake [on the management group] that's played internationally a number of times, we asked the hard questions: how easy is it to transfer from one side to the other? He said it's not as easy as you think, it takes a little bit of time.

"And in a tournament like this you don't have time to adjust to something new."

The eight-team tournament begins Sept. 17 with all games being played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

An added element for Canada was the unusual situation of having a surplus of right-shooting defensemen on the roster.

"As the game gets tighter and tighter it makes it even more important [to play on the strong side], especially for right-handers," Babcock said. "Because of the fact that right-handers...we don't have enough in the NHL, so they tend to always play on their forehand side. There's way more left-handed guys playing on their off side who have spent their careers doing it."

Bouwmeester was added to the roster one day after San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture was named to replace Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn, who is recovering from core muscle surgery he had last month.

Video: Logan Couture replaces Jamie Benn on Team Canada

Armstrong said he doesn't anticipate any more injury replacements prior to the opening of Team Canada's training camp in Ottawa on Sept. 5.

"What Jamie and [Keith] were dealing with, we were on top of right from the get-go and we were trying to give those guys as much time as possible," Armstrong said. "The other player that was dealing with some postseason surgery was [Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude] Giroux and we've stayed in touch with him and I've talked to the Flyers and he's on board and ready to get going.

"We think this will be the group and we're comfortable this will be the group that we'll take into Ottawa."

Naming Couture to replace Benn wasn't a controversial decision considering he led the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs in scoring with 30 points in 24 games. But the selection of Bouwmeester was debatable, though the criteria of having to shoot from the left side considerably narrowed down Canada's options.

Armstrong could have selected Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames, who is coming off a career year with 21 goals and 56 points in 82 games, or his Flames teammate T.J. Brodie. Karl Alzner of the Washington Capitals or Marc Methot of the Ottawa Senators might have been considered if more of a defensive-minded player was desired.

Babcock pointed out the right side of the Canadian defense is very offensive-minded with Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens, Brent Burns of the Sharks and Pietrangelo, and the left side has more defensive players. Maintaining that dynamic might be another reason why Bouwmeester was given the edge.

The addition of Bouwmeester gives Canada's defense three sets of NHL teammates: Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo, Doughty and Jake Muzzin and Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Babcock said he would not necessarily use Bouwmeester with Pietrangelo together in the World Cup, but it would be hard to imagine Canada going in a different direction considering how well they played together in Sochi and how long they have been paired with each other in St. Louis.

Muzzin did not play very often with Doughty in Los Angeles last season, but in 2014-15, he was Doughty's most frequent defense partner and they were a dominant pair. Playing them together in Toronto would break up what was a very successful pairing of Vlasic and Doughty in Sochi, and would leave Vlasic to take Keith's spot next to Weber.

Babcock said everything is open to discussion and that what worked in Sochi will not determine what lineup decisions are made for the tournament. The input from his coaching staff of Claude Julien (Boston Bruins), Bill Peters (Carolina Hurricanes), Joel Quenneville (Chicago Blackhawks) and Barry Trotz (Washington Capitals) will weigh heavily on those decisions, Babcock said, and considering Julien is the only assistant who was also in Sochi, some new ideas are likely to come from the group.

"As coaches, we met at the draft, we met again in Kelowna, so it's Canada's way, it's not Mike Babcock's way," Babcock said. "Whoever has the best ideas, whether that be [Trotz] or [Peters] or [Quenneville] or Claude Julien or myself, we try to go with that or whatever will give us the best chance to win."

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