Daniel Alfredsson has played in four Olympics for Sweden, but wasn't invited to the orientation camp this year. (Getty Images)
Most of the Olympic orientation camp rosters are out, which means it’s time to form fantasy rosters. That also means it’s time to second-guess preliminary rosters based on who was snubbed from the list.
Being left off a preliminary list doesn’t automatically exclude a player from making the final cut – just ask Patrice Bergeron, who made Team Canada in 2010 despite being a no-show at orientation camp. But you are playing against the odds.
Below are the top 10 snubs from preliminary lists we have available from Russia, Canada, USA, Sweden and Finland. Honorable mentions to: Jarome Iginla from Canada (team moves to new generation), Markus Granlund, Teuvo Teravainen and Joel Armia from Finland (wouldn’t expect them to make the team, but would be nice to see young, productive Finnish League players at camp) and Andrei Loktionov from Russia (who represented his country at the 2013 World Championship).
Tough-as-nails shot-blocker and defensive specialist would have an outside chance of making the Red and White. What surprised me, though, was that Marc Staal received an invite over his Ranger rearguard teammate. No knock on Staal, an excellent defensive option, who himself would have been snubbed if he was excluded, but he has only played 67 games over the past two seasons because of concussion symptoms. Meanwhile, Girardi has been New York’s rock.
At 26, Belov isn’t a familiar name to NHL fans since he’s played his whole career in Russia. But he has come along as a player and was the top producing blueliner for Avangard Omsk this season. That earned him his first appearance for Russia at the World Championship this summer, when he scored four points in eight games and impressed Edmonton Oilers brass enough for them to sign him. At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Belov has good size and was praised by Oilers GM Craig MacTavish. From the Edmonton Sun:
“It’s a move to trying to build more mobility into our back end. He moves the puck well. He makes quick decisions with the puck. He has a high skill level and competes hard. The expectation is that he’s going to come in and help us. He’s big. He plays heavy. He’s got some toughness.”
Considering the Russians won’t have the strongest blueline, you have to wonder if Belov’s move to the NHL had an impact on his Olympics consideration.
Whenever the best statistical goalie of all-time is left off an Olympic list, it has to be considered a snub. But Canada is clearly shifting toward a new generation of players and with goaltending as its weak spot, probably wanted to give confidence to perceived outliers Corey Crawford and Braden Holtby. But if Brodeur is having the best season of all Canadian goalies by the end of December – when final rosters are due – you can bet he’ll find a place.
Never to be confused with a superstar scoring forward, Dubinsky is nevertheless a leader and responsible two-way player. He was a front man for USA’s World Championship team in 2010, when he scored 10 points in six games to lead the team. But Team USA GM David Poile has alluded to the fact his team-building philosophy for this squad will be different than how 2010 GM Brian Burke approached a lineup that would compete on smaller ice. Perhaps this is what conspired against Dubinsky.
With 89 points in his past 85 regular season games, Spezza has been a massive producer for a young, up-and-coming Senators team, but it wasn’t enough to get him on the preliminary roster. Perhaps Canada’s wealth of centers pushed Spezza to the side, but for him to not even make the initial cut is a little surprising. Spezza was injured last season and only played eight games total, so he’s a player who has an outside chance to play himself on.
While Russia’s forward unit has all sorts of intimidating offensive assets, its D-corps is a shortcoming, which makes Kulikov’s omission noteworthy. The 14th overall pick in the 2009 draft has four NHL seasons under his belt and has developed as a player enough to warrant north of 20 minutes a night for the Panthers. Russia’s orientation camp roster is heavy on Kontinental League players and five of the 12 blueliners invited come from the Russian league.
A big body who had to play center in Dallas before the acquisitions of Tyler Seguin and Shawn Horcoff this summer, Benn is a natural left winger. Pair that with the fact he’s an emerging goal-scorer at 24 years of age, who has registered 96 points in his past 112 games and you have to wonder why he wasn’t included at a camp heavy with centers. Benn has the best chance to pull a Bergeron and play his way onto this team over the first quarter of the season.
Former captain, 30-goal scorer in the last full season and teammate of fellow Americans Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, you would have thought Pominville would have been invited to a camp that brought in a few long-shot prospects. It would be a tough final roster for the 30-year-old to crack, but it’s surprising he didn’t make the first cut.
Sure Ward had a slight off-year exacerbated by injury, but with all the uncertainty around Canada’s goal crease, the 29-year-old, two-time World Championship medalist was considered among a handful of proven, long-time netminders to have the inside track on a job that ultimately would be decided during the upcoming season. You can’t argue against the inclusions of Corey Crawford or Braden Holtby, but Canada usually sticks with those it has used in recent international events.
OK, so when the Swedish list came out near the end of June, Alfredsson hadn’t yet declared if he was retiring or not. Still, to see a Swedish Olympic roster without Alfie’s name on it is like a cake without icing. Now that he’s officially back in the NHL for at least one more year, though, Alfredsson should probably still be considered an automatic for Tre Kronor. But, then again, stranger things have happened...