There were a handful of players who might have felt they had something to prove on Tuesday night following the announcements of Olympic team rosters.
Most notably, for Canada, Martin St-Louis and Claude Giroux were bitterly disappointed at their exclusions from the Sochi event and both made statements in the third periods of their respective games. St-Louis scored twice to help the Lightning overcome Winnipeg; Giroux recorded a key marker in the Flyers’ 3-2 triumph over New Jersey.
A third prominent Canadian also had a huge third period/end of game. Sidney Crosby scored in the final minute of regulation to tie Pittsburgh’s contest in Vancouver, then buried one in the shootout to give the Pens the extra point.
Of course, Crosby, a shoo-in for the defending gold medalists, had nothing to prove. Or did he?
Following the announcements of the selections, and the anticipated debate around the so-called “snubs”, there was some chatter about who would wear the ‘C’ for Canada, an honor handled by Scott Niedermayer in 2010.
For many, Crosby is the obvious choice, the only choice. He was the golden goal-scorer four years ago, the unofficial face of the NHL and the best player in the world in many people’s estimations. But it’s not unanimous.
There is an undercurrent of support for Jonathan Toews, perhaps the most respected player in the NHL. Chicago’s ‘Captain Serious’ has led his team to Stanley Cups two of the past four years, a feat Crosby can’t match, and some believe he’s the league’s most effective captain.
So we put the question to the Twitter-sphere on Tuesday and the results were mixed. While the majority thought it was a no-brainer in favor of ‘The Kid’, Toews got solid support; it was approximately a 65-35 split. Shea Weber was also mentioned by a handful of followers.
So what do Steve Yzerman, Mike Babcock the brain trust do with the ‘C’? The simple answer is give it to Crosby. It wouldn’t be a controversial choice and he’s done nothing the past four years, other than get hurt, to “lose” the privilege. The downside of anointing Toews, as my colleague Ronnie Shuker points out, is increased vulnerability to criticism if Canada fails in Sochi.
But to say there is no debate, at least among the fans, is inaccurate. Like anyone who receives extreme positive attention, Crosby is also on the receiving end of a backlash at times. It may just be a smattering, but he has his detractors. Coupled with Toews’ positive attributes, it provides fodder for those of us who take our hockey seriously. And in Canada, particularly in an Olympic year, that’d be most of us.