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Sochi 2014 Olympic Hockey Preview: Team Canada

Image Courtesy: National Post

Image Courtesy: National Post

Canada will try to defend its status as Olympic hockey champion in Sochi and it won’t be easy. Canada won’t have the home crowd or small ice surface to their advantage like they did in 2010.

With 78 days until the start of the Sochi Olympics and 40 days before the team has to be named, here are my choices for Canada’s Olympic hockey team in Sochi.

Recent History

Canada won Olympic gold in 2002 and 2010, but did not receive a medal in both Olympic tournaments (with NHL participation) held outside North America.

Round Robin Opponents

Canada will be competing in group B along with Finland, Norway, and Austria.

Roster Prediction

Forwards

crosby_canada

It goes without saying that Canada will have the best group of forwards in the tournament. Steven Stamkos would be a slam dunk selection for this team, but it looks unlikely that he’ll be able to recover from a broken tibia in time. Stamkos’ loss is Taylor Hall’s gain (Stamkos might be named to the team with the hope that he will be healthy, but ultimately he will be replaced). Despite playing on dreadful Oilers teams thus far in his career, he makes the team because of his speed on the big ice and the fact that he is a natural winger (I am naming nine centres to the team). Patrice Bergeron also makes the team as a faceoff and penalty killing specialist.

The team’s best player and most likely to be named captain, Sidney Crosby, will play with Martin St Louis, who was snubbed in 2010 and young superstar John Tavares. Rick Nash, Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards were arguably Canada’s best line in Vancouver, so they’ll be back. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will have Team Canada mainstay Eric Staal on their wing, despite Staal’s slow start this season (Staal had a poor start to the 2009-10 season as well, but ended up on Sidney Crosby’s wing in 2010). The underrated Patrick Sharp, the slow starting Claude Giroux and the young Logan Couture will make-up a dynamic fourth line.

Forward lines are made to be broken of course, and head coach Mike Babcock is likely to use a few different combinations just like he did in 2010.

Martin St Louis – Sidney Crosby – John Tavares

Rick Nash – Jonathan Toews – Mike Richards

Eric Staal – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry

Patrick Sharp – Claude Giroux – Logan Couture

Patrice Bergeron

Taylor Hall (or Stamkos if he’s healthy)

Defence

hamhuis_canada

The main topic of discussion concerning Canada’s defencemen is which way they shoot. Drew Doughty, PK Subban, Shea Weber and Alex Pietrangelo are all locks to make Team Canada and they are all right-handed. That’s bad news for some other quality right-handed defencemen who don’t make my Team Canada, including Brent Seabrook, Kris Letang and Dan Boyle.

Canada will start the tournament playing four right-handed defencemen in their top six, but will have enough left-handed d-men on reserve in case it becomes an issue. Jay Bouwmeester sneaks into the top six, given his strong start to the season (16 points, +10, 24 TOI in 20 games), his smooth skating and his familiarity with Blues teammate Alex Pietrangelo.

Canada’s extra defencemen will be a pair of good skating, defensively responsible left-handed defencemen: Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dan Hamhuis. Vlasic and Hamhuis make the team because they are low risk players that are also good puck movers.

Duncan Keith – Drew Doughty

PK Subban – Shea Weber

Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Dan Hamhuis

Goaltending

carey_price

I’m ready for the backlash Canucks fans: at this point, Carey Price is my starting goalie in Sochi. Price gets the nod over RobertoLuongo (at least at this point) because he’s played better. Price has a .935 SV% and a 2.05 GAA to this point of the season. If Price is less than stellar, Roberto Luongo will be ready to take over as he did in 2010.

Truth be told, the number one goalie decision is a two horse race and the goalie that is playing the best in the lead-up to the tournament will get the first shot at the job. That makes January a very important month for Carey Price and Roberto Luongo.

Carey Price

Roberto Luongo

Mike Smith

Most likely to get snubbed

Team Canada veteran Joe Thornton is getting the snubbed by me. I didn’t think Thornton had a great tournament in 2010 and his foot speed becomes more of an issue on the big ice surface. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are having excellent seasons, but don’t make the team because they’re in need of natural wingers. Milan Lucic is a lock for this team on NHL-sized ice, but his effectiveness drops on international sized ice. Kris Letang is a victim of his poor start to the season and the fact that he’s right-handed.

Outlook

Canada enters the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament with the best team on paper. They will be able to roll four strong lines and three strong defence pairings unlike any other country. Goaltending will be a concern, but it is good enough to win with. If Canada can come together as a team as I expect, they should win gold. But it won’t be easy.

Other Roster Previews:

November 11: Russia

November 12: USA

November 13: Sweden

November 14: Czech Republic

November 18: Slovakia

November 19: Switzerland

November 20: Finland

November 21: Canada

November 26: Latvia

November 28: Austria

December 2: Norway

December 3: Slovenia

This article can also be seen on VanCity Buzz

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22 Response to Sochi 2014 Olympic Hockey Preview: Team Canada

  1. 5thlinewinger on November 21, 2013

    Separating the best d pairing on the best team that won the Stanley Cup? There is no way that a Keith-Seabrook pairing doesn't make the team.

    Reply
  2. RobTheHockeyGuy on November 21, 2013

    Keith and Seabrook hardly played together on the 2010 team (Seabrook was the 7th d-man). Playing Seabrook with Keith means that you're putting another right handed d-man on the left side or you're sitting Subban or Pietrangelo.

    Reply
    • Jason on January 1, 2014

      Weber doesn't crack the top 6, he's been horrible this year.

      Keith – Seabrook
      Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
      Subban – Drew Doughty
      Weber and Vlasic. Maybe Weber doesn't make top 8 considering how slow he is.

      Reply
      • Robert Williams on January 2, 2014

        Weber doesn't crack the top 6? And MY list is terrible? Good one.

        Reply
  3. msiohhdaslhi on November 22, 2013

    wheres matt duchene? id much rather have him than taylor hall at this point… hes having a way better season and is emerging as a legitimate superstar. Plus his foot speed and hands are top notch. Nothing against you, im just wondering why he was left out.

    Reply
    • Jason on January 1, 2014

      @msio. Exactly. This list is terrible, Hall, Nash, Staal, Smith, Hamhuis, and Richards don't deserve to be there. And hopefully they won't be there or we're doing nothing!

      The writer might be surprised to see a Kunitz-Crosby-Neal line, but I won't. Yzerman has said current linemates and chemistry are more of a factor this year, which is a smart thing imo.

      Reply
  4. hockeyrules on November 28, 2013

    juat cant figure out how mike richards over duchene or bergeron

    Reply
    • Jason on January 1, 2014

      Don't worry, the list is terrible. Bergeron will be a lock for one simple reason. Look at his face off percentage. Best in the NHL. He will be there. Luckily it's Yzerman and not the fans who pick the team.

      Reply
  5. RobTheHockeyGuy on November 28, 2013

    Why not? A cup winner, he was great in the last Olympics, he's good offensively and defensively and is tough. Different kind of player than Duchene certainly.

    Reply
  6. Team Canada Ready to Defend Gold in Hockey | Thrive Sports on December 5, 2013

    […] Read more at robthehockeyguy.com […]

    Reply
  7. Turk on December 8, 2013

    Ever heard of MaTT Duchene ???

    Reply
  8. Turk on December 8, 2013

    Crosby calls him the fastest and smartest guy in the NHL.

    Reply
  9. Chris on December 18, 2013

    Mike Richards and Patrice Bergeron should be on the team for defensive purposes. I know it's hard to let these guys on while cutting other "better" players, but it's a team sport. We need role players. I also think Stamkos will be back on time. he's currently skating and likely to return to NHL within a week or two.

    Reply
    • Robert Williams on December 20, 2013

      Yes, it sounds like Stamkos will be there now. Amazing how he's back on skates already.

      Reply
    • Jason on January 1, 2014

      Nah, Richards isn't what he was 4 years ago, we have better options now. And yes, Bergeron is a lock imo.

      Stamkos might be listed on the team, but I don't believe he will be able to play (to the level we need). You can't sit around for 3 months, play 1-2 games, and be at an elite level. Takes time, even for someone as awesome as Stamkos.

      Reply
  10. Peeta on December 20, 2013

    Where is Matt Duschene ???!!!

    Reply
    • Peeta on December 20, 2013

      *Duchene

      Reply
  11. RobTheHockeyGuy on November 22, 2013

    Taylor Hall has been playing well also, despite that brutal Oilers team. I gave the nod to Hall over Duchene because Hall is a natural winger and because of his blazing speed. Close call though.

    Reply
  12. Jason on January 1, 2014

    Hall is irresponsible defensively and needs a lot of work, despite his speed.

    Reply

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