CALGARY — Who says that shaping Team Canada’s Olympic roster is so tough? We’ve listed ours below, and it was no problem at all. Took us all of about 10 minutes to pick.
OK. It’s mighty easy for a sportswriter to choose roughly 20 of the 25-man roster. The last five picks are exactly what Sidney Crosby means when he says, “There’s a lot of could-be’s.”
The 45 players who showed up here (minus only Claude Giroux and Joe Thornton), plus Team Canada coaches and the management team will pull out of Calgary this morning with their assignments clear.
For the coaches and managers, it’s all about evaluation now. And for the players?
“If any player doesn’t know exactly what’s expected of him to make this team,” stated head coach Mike Babcock, “they were not listening,”
The formation of Team Canada for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics is now left to the first half of the coming National Hockey League season.
Executive director Steve Yzerman allows, “There (are) a few guys we don’t feel the need to watch. We know what they can do and they’re going to be on this team, assuming they’re healthy.” But the rest of the group had better be flying through October, November and December, if they want to land on that final 25-man roster due by New Year’s Day.
“I think we’re going to see here in the first half who really shows they want to be part of it,” Crosby said.
He is not only a lock to be on the team, but will be wearing the Captain’s C as well.
“I don’t think the team’s even close to being (picked), but everyone’s going to make their own team, and I’m sure we’re going to hear about it,” Crosby added.
Crosby, Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, Claude Giroux (if healthy), Steven Stamkos, Rick Nash, and Ryan Getzlaf are locks at forward, in my books. That leaves seven spots still to be decided.
On defence, we have Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester going to Sochi, if healthy. That’s five of eight D-men.
We’ll give for sure spots to Roberto Luongo and Carey Price in goal, but if a goalie is struggling through the first 40 games, his position is less stable. A struggling goalie is dead weight on a team like this, and unlikely to be brought to Russia.
So now it becomes about players like Patrice Bergeron, Boston’s supreme faceoff man and defensive wizard. Does he find a spot among the Top 14 Canadian forwards?
“He’s shown in the past in World Juniors and World Championships what type of player he can be on the big ice and how he plays for Team Canada,” said Bruins teammate Milan Lucic, a long shot to get chosen for this big-ice tournament.
“He’s good on both sides of the puck. We all know how responsible he is defensively and also he's able to chip in with offense as well. No matter where he fits in on the team he’s going to be a big part of it.”
Does Joe Thornton make the team as a likely left-winger? His experience, superior passing ability on the power play, and good work in the faceoff circle make Jumbo Joe a useful asset.
Or do you prefer Andrew Ladd, as I do, based mostly on foot speed and the fact Ladd is ready now to make the step to being an Olympian. Ladd has two Stanley Cups at the young age of 27 — the Jets captain is a winner, and it’s high time he joined this group.
Or, if versatility is your concern, what about Chicago’s Patrick Sharp? He can play any forward position, man the point on the power play, and kill penalties. That resume should help his stock with Mike Babcock and the coaching staff.
“I hope so,” Sharp said. “I know it’s tough putting these kinds of teams together and moving guys around in different positions. That’s something I’ve done my whole career in Chicago. If that helps my chances, that’s great.”
The only trouble back on defence is the lack of left hand shots. It’s being billed as a major issue by some, but with Alex Pietrangelo as adept on the left side as he is on the right side, plus left-hand shots Duncan Keith, Jay Boumeester and Marc Staal, my team is fine on the blue line.
“Every player wants to play for Team Canada, get that opportunity,” said Jordan Staal, the one Staal brother we don’t have on our team. “You want to show your stuff knowing no matter what, every game somebody can have their eye on you. It definitely gives you extra motivation to do your best.”
Here is my roster. Let the Games begin!
Logan Couture - Sidney Crosby - Claude Giroux
Eric Staal - Jonathan Toews - Rick Nash
Mike Richards - John Tavares - Steven Stamkos
Andrew Ladd - Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Patrice Bergeron and Patrick Sharp
Duncan Keith - Shea Weber
Jay Boumeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Marc Staal - Drew Doughty
Dan Hamhuis – P.K. Subban