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Team Canada bubble watch: who makes the cut?

Matt Larkin
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Author: The Hockey News

News

Team Canada bubble watch: who makes the cut?

Matt Larkin
By:

Let’s have a look at the massive list of Canadian players on the bubble. Why is the list so big? Because there are surprisingly few players considered locks to make the team.

On Tuesday Team Canada will announce its roster for the Sochi Olympics. And on Tuesday the social media world will explode, likely with second-guessing that puts the Bobby Ryan fiasco to shame.

Let’s have a look at the massive list of Canadian players on the bubble. Why is the list so big? Because there are surprisingly few players considered locks to make the team. So this breakdown includes any guy who (a) has a chance to make the team and (b) could just as easily be left off. Predictions don't necessarily reflect who I want on Team Canada, but instead who I believe will be chosen.

(I’m confident enough in Patrick Sharp and Logan Couture making the squad that I’ve graduated them from the bubble.)

FORWARDS

Claude Giroux: This is Canada’s X-factor player. Giroux is a superstar when on and his shifty game translates to the big ice. His slow start to 2013-14 is in the rear-view mirror. Prediction: makes team

Joe Thornton: ‘Jumbo Joe’ has the numbers this season, but lacks the speed Canada will want for Sochi. Not the slam-dunk he once was. Prediction: misses team

Martin St-Louis: Somehow, has a better chance at 38 than he did at 34, when he didn’t make Team Canada. Shifty vet, great hands and wheels. Prediction: makes team

Rick Nash: If Nash makes the team, it will be because of his international track record, not his recent success, as he has none. Prediction: misses team

Patrick Marleau: A reliable veteran, but can’t earn a top-six scoring role on such a stacked team. Do you want to bring him as a checker? Prediction: misses team

Taylor Hall: Making a strong late push. Young and blindingly fast, he has the right skill set for Sochi, but will likely have to wait until 2018 (if the NHL participates). Prediction: misses team

Jamie Benn: No other player has been as hell-bent on proving his critics wrong. Intriguing mix of size and skill. Prediction: makes team

Tyler Seguin: Pretty much cancelled out by his linemate Benn. No way Steve Yzerman takes both Dallas Stars, and Benn is known as more of a team guy. Prediction: misses team

Chris Kunitz: The tourney’s most controversial choice. Will he be chosen simply for his chemistry with Sidney Crosby? Prediction: makes team

Eric Staal: Was a lock, but his injury clouds his chances. Canada is already keeping a seat warm for Steven Stamkos, so it may not want two injured players. Then again, Staal isn't expected to miss more than a week with his malady. Prediction: makes team

James Neal: As Rory Boylen and I discussed today, where is the love for Neal? A better pure skill set than Kunitz, but I’ve heard and read very little speculation on Neal making the team. Prediction: misses team

Mike Richards: A winner, but not the all-around force he was in 2010. Richards was a franchise player then. Now he’s a second-line center on his own NHL team. Prediction: misses team

Matt Duchene: If Canada properly assesses the landscape of international play, it has to take the speedy Duchene. Prediction: makes team

Jeff Skinner: Piping hot, but it may be too little, too late as he’s lost too much time to injury over the last few years. Prediction: misses team

Milan Lucic: The big fella would make far more sense if the tournament was played on a NHL-size ice surface. Prediction: misses team

DEFENSEMEN

P.K. Subban: I put the reigning Norris Trophy winner on this list begrudgingly, as he should be a lock, but it appears he isn’t. Take the man to Sochi, Stevie. Prediction: makes team

Kris Letang: He remains one of the sport’s pre-eminent offensive blueliners, but health woes and defensive lapses have him on the outside looking in. Prediction: misses team

Brent Seabrook: Not a lock despite chemistry with Duncan Keith, 2010 gold medal and two Stanley Cups. Canada brass may want more left-handed shots and Seabrook would be the casualty, not Shea Weber or Drew Doughty or Alex Pietrangelo. Prediction: makes team

Marc-Edouard Vlasic: Not physical, but a defensive defenseman because of his positioning and skating ability. Better yet, for those who care about this sort of thing, he’s a left-handed shot. Prediction: makes team

Dion Phaneuf: Does many things pretty well and eats minutes, but still takes too many chances. Is he not a poor man’s Subban? Prediction: misses team

Marc Staal: Back from a concussion, but the layoff probably puts him behind too many other bubble D-men. Has a chance, though. Prediction: misses team

Dan Hamhuis: Well-rounded, steady and a left-handed shot. Probably too under-the-radar to be a shocker special, though. Prediction: misses team

GOALTENDERS

Corey Crawford: Was a candidate to start after winning a Stanley Cup, but lost much of the first half this season to injury. Suddenly, he’s back and Roberto Luongo is hurting. Could Crawford sneak onto the roster? Prediction: misses team

Mike Smith: The Canada brass supposedly love him. But how will Smith perform outside of Dave Tippett’s system? That didn’t work out well for Ilya Bryzgalov. Prediction: makes team

Marc-Andre Fleury: Based purely on numbers, he warrants a look as Canada’s No. 3. But Fleury probably misses because no one trusts him in elimination games anymore. Prediction: misses team

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin

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Team Canada bubble watch: who makes the cut?