“They only let us name 16, so it’s easy. My wife could’ve named Canada’s first 16. The hard part comes next.” — Mike Babcock, head coach, Team Canada
With all due respect to the deserving players who did make the Sweet 16, we won’t call these bubble players snubs just yet. Seven additional roster slots will be awarded on June 1, so these guys still have a chance to make the list.
As Babcock says, they’re the hard part. The second cut will be the deepest.
We look at 15 players whose absence from the initial lineups raised eyebrows. (And, yes, most of them are from Team Canada. This is the stuff we get outraged about.)
P.K. Subban, Team Canada
The confident Subban says he’ll let his body of work speak for itself. That body includes leading his team in scoring (48 points) despite playing defence, winning a Norris Trophy, being nominated for the most recent Norris, biting a gold medal in Sochi, and being tied for fifth overall with 43 assists this season.
Phil Kessel, Team USA
Last time Phil Kessel wore the red, white and blue, at the 2014 Olympics, all he did was fire five goals and add three assists in six games, lead the tournament in points, and get crowned best forward in Sochi. The Thrill’s first season with Sid & Geno has been underwhelming, true. But do you really leave one of the game’s purest snipers on the shelf when you have to face elite goalies every game?
Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk, Kessel’s former linemate, was likely excluded due to his season-ending foot injury. JVR is hopeful to reunite with Kessel on Team USA; he put up seven points in six games at the ’14 Olympics.
Brent Burns, Team Canada
With all due respect to Sweden, Canada’s blue line is the toughest to crack. Much fuss was made about Subban being left off the top four, but Burns has been a beast this season: 21 goals and 54 points from the back end. Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang has as many points as Subban despite playing 12 fewer games. Burns and Letang are both minus players, however, and it appears that Babcock is content to let his forwards do the scoring.
Calgary’s Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie and St. Louis’s Alex Pietrangelo (injured) could all make a case here, too.
Somewhat lost in this discussion is Burns’ incredible play on the world stage last May. Quarterbacking Canada to gold at the 2015 World Championship, the 30-year-old scored 11 points in 10 games, took just one minor penalty, and was named the tournament’s best defenceman. Would think that’ll go a long way with the selection committee.
Jaromir Jagr, Team Czech Republic
Jagr made this decision for himself, and GM Martin Rucinsky would welcome the 44-year-old icon to the team if he changes his mind in the next couple of months. Jagr excelled for his country at the 2015 world championship, believed to be his last international event, but we’re greedy. It would be awesome to see Florida’s leading scorer lace ’em up once more.
Tyler Johnson, Team USA
The reigning Eastern Conference champs can’t complain about being underrepresented in September — the Lightning lead all NHL clubs with 10 representatives thus far — but left on the outside is Johnson, the second-highest American scorer in 2014-15 and the NHL’s leading goal-getter in the 2015 playoffs. What have you done for me lately?
Corey Perry, Team Canada
Perry’s strangely horrid start to 2015-16 was Crosby-esque, but much like Sid, the former Hart Trophy winner has returned to his old self. Perry has five points in his last two games and 27 goals on the season. Factor in his established chemistry with centre Ryan Getzlaf, and Perry is a shoe-in for the Supplementary Seven.
John Klingberg, Team Sweden
Of Sweden’s top-10 scorers this season, super-sophomore Klingberg was the only omission from the 16-man roster. The Tre Kronor instead opted for the more experienced Niklas Kronwall, perhaps out of respect, but we have no doubt Klingberg qualifies for arguably the scariest blue line in the tournament.
Roberto Luongo, Team Canada
All due respect to Corey Crawford and his multiple Stanley Cup rings — the guy may well go down as one of hockey’s most underrated goaltenders of all time — but it was a mistake to name three goalies off the hop. What if Luongo (.925 save percentage, gold-medal experience) or Marc-Andre Fleury (Cup champion, five shutouts this season) or even Martin Jones (31 wins on the year) goes out and backstops his team to a Cup Final this spring and Chicago flames out early? Doubtful, sure. But why not leave yourself the option to go with the hot hand? Sweden, Finland and Europe were the only teams wise enough to name two netminders and keep the battle for the third spot open.
Is there a team Canada over 35 I can sign up for anywhere?Kidding aside those r 3 great and well deserving goalies. Canada in great hands
— Strombone (@strombone1) March 2, 2016
Justin Faulk, Team USA
Faulk has represented his country on the big stage every year since 2010, capturing four medals in the process. The Hurricanes stand as the lone NHL team without a World Cup representative. That’ll change when Faulk makes the team in June.
Brent Seabrook, Team Canada
A member of the Triple Gold Club, Seabrook’s familiarity with Keith should make him a natural fit on Team Canada again.
Shayne Gostisbehere, Team North America
No American defenceman of any age has a points-per-game average better than The Ghost’s 0.795. While we’re skeptical of the article titled “Six Reasons Shayne Gostisbehere Is Objectively Better than Connor McDavid“, the 22-year-old should be on the “Young Guns” squad. St. Louis super rookie Colton Parayko should make the cut, too.
Robin Lehner, Team Sweden
Unless Henrik Lundqvist gets injured, this debate will be moot, but we were modestly surprised to see Jacob Markstrom named Sweden’s No. 2 goaltender. Injury shortened Lehner’s season, but his .933 save percentage is tops among all Swedes in the crease (Lundqvist is second with .931), and that’s behind the Sabres’ defence.
Marian Gaborik, Team Europe
The 34-year-old Slovak has three 40-goal seasons under his belt and a resume heavy on international experience. Yes, he’s injured right now, but we figured he’d be one of Europe’s top nine forwards, ahead of, say, Jannik Hansen or Thomas Vanek. Another notable omission at forward here: Nino Niederreiter.
Brad Marchand, Team Canada
The grittier brand of forward is easy to leave off the list early, but you’d have to think a nasty winger like Marchand (32 goals on the year already), Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher, or even Milan Lucic gets consideration based on their spring performance.
Valeri Nichushkin, Team Russia
The Dallas forward has scored 24 points (22 even-strength) but will have to contend with the yet-to-be-named KHL contingent — Sergei Mozyakin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Radulov — for a final spot. His playoff performance will be key.