Back in July, I put together my initial picks for Team Canada. Since then, Steven Stamkos has gone down with a broken leg, Jordan Staal has been underwhelming in Carolina and the goalie situation has become much more clear. So I’m updating my picks. Here is what my Team Canada would look like today:
John Tavares – Sidney Crosby – Martin St-Louis
My thinking: I originally had Stamkos in Tavares’ position here, but with his availability up in the air, I’ll put another sniper in his place for the time being. And I’m keeping St-Louis on the team because he has the experience, skating power and skill set. No Stamkos required. Crosby as the top line centre is obvious.
Logan Couture – Jonathan Toews – Claude Giroux
My thinking: I still want Giroux on this team. With 14 points in his past 15 games, he’s picking up after a slow start. And if you put him with better line mates than a quickly declining Scott Hartnell and flash-in-the-pan Jakub Voracek (as far as being a significant scorer is concerned), you should get more out of him than the Flyers did. I can’t turn away a player with his proven skill set and skating ability. Couture gets a bump up from my third line without hesitation because he’s capable of being a top-two line producer at the top level. Toews remains as my second line center because he can do it all.
Jamie Benn – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
My thinking: I had none of these guys on my original team, but each has played his way back on. And, man, can you imagine the down-low dominance a line of this size would have? So far, Getzlaf is my leading Hart candidate and his partnership with Perry is one of the most dominating forces in the NHL. Add Benn to the mix, another large body who moves well and has a ton of offensive potential. There won’t be many defenses in the Olympic tournament that would be able to handle these three in the offensive zone.
Mike Richards – Patrice Bergeron – Patrick Sharp
My thinking: Here is the “checking” line I’d go with. Richards has a place on my Team Canada any day because he’s a smart player and a proven winner. He just gets it done at the most important times. Bergeron has not had the best offensive year so far, but I’m not very concerned about that. His two-way awareness and faceoff ability are among the best in the league – he’d be a big player on my PK unit. Sharp would be the offensive catalyst on this line, but he’s also very capable on the defensive side of the puck and is a terrific skater. This line has a combined four Stanley Cups and six Cup final appearances.
Both Eric and Jordan Staal were pushed off my list because neither has been all that inspiring this season. Eric is the bigger omission, but there’s just no fit for him in this lineup right now. The only player I’d consider subbing out for him would be Benn, but I’m not about to do that today. Eric is a nice candidate to carry as an extra skater though. Also not included are Matt Duchene or Taylor Hall. Both are excellent skaters, but I have a hard time putting them on this roster ahead of any other name that appears. I view both of them as 2018 Team Canada candidates. Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Jordan Eberle are also off, but again, I ask you which player you would remove in favor of any one of them? Chris Kunitz also doesn’t appear because, just, no. The wild card here is Stamkos. If he’s ready to go, he’s obviously in.
Drew Doughty – Shea Weber
My thinking: I’m keeping my same top defense unit on this updated team, because neither player has done anything to lose the spot. They are 1-2 among legit Team Canada candidates in average ice time and bring a good mix of strong skating and raw power.
Duncan Keith – Alex Pietrangelo
My thinking: I consider both locks for this team. They both log monster minutes and are the leading men on two of the best teams in the NHL. This pairing is also a nice lefty-righty split, which is probably going to factor into the final call more than you think.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – P.K. Subban
My thinking: I did not have Subban on my original team, but I’ve come around. I’m still considering the L-R split, but have moved Brent Seabrook off in favor of Subban. Yes, Subban takes his risks, which aren’t entirely necessary on this roster, but paired with Vlasic, the San Jose defender would be an excellent safety net. This is a good combination of skating, offence and defense. The only concern here would be having two young players who have never played in the Olympics on the same pairing. But, to me, the skill of Subban and defensive acumen of Vlasic makes up for it.
As mentioned above, Seabrook was moved off my team to make room for Subban. There is still a physical element on the blueline without Seabrook, but that’s not going to be a major need on the bigger ice. Skating and puck-moving is going to be key and Seabrook, to me, just doesn’t stick out enough to unseat any of the defenders listed. He would, however, be under serious consideration to carry as an extra blueliner. Dan Boyle was also left off because it’s time to move on to a new generation of players. There are just too many younger blueliners to consider. Letang was left off my original list and remains off because he is too much of a defensive liability and provides a skill set that Team Canada already has plenty of. The only way Letang makes my Team Canada is through injury. The same goes for Mike Green, Dion Phaneuf and Travis Hamonic.
My thinking: Canada needed somebody to separate themselves from the pack at this position and Price has done that so far. He is among the top goalies in the NHL in save percentage and GAA on a team that is in the bottom one-third of the league in shots-against per game (30.8). But I’d still stick with Roberto Luongo as his backup, because his .914 save percentage has been good enough and he’s been to and performed well at the Olympics before.
Josh Harding, Steve Mason, James Reimer, Jonathan Bernier, Braden Holtby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Corey Crawford, Cam Ward, Martin Brodeur. The first four names on that list have played much better than expected this season and I’m not about to head into a short Olympic tournament featuring the best shooters in the world with a surprise goalie. I want a sure thing in this position. Canada can carry three goalies, so I’d be leaning towards Crawford, Brodeur or Ward as the No. 3 to act as a safety net in case of an injury. Each has at least one Stanley Cup on his resume.