A Whole Culture Of Tradition Behind Them With Hockey In Their Blood
Will a team with so much talent on the roster be able to go back to back?
Today I woke up with the realisation that the Mens Olympic Hockey adventure is about to kick off into over-drive in Sochi. This instantly made so ever excited to watch the best teams in the world compete for the holy grail in winters international sports. Team Canada instantly sprang to mind, the anticipation of knowing with such an illustrious team, a whole nation counting on nothing short of Gold. This brings so many questions and different factors into account. I will venture to break it down for you, as well as state my case on how I see Canada going and who to look out for.
GROUP B: Finland, Canada, Norway, Austria.
A group that doesn’t pose that greater threat to the Canadians. They should only have an aging Fins’ team to contend with to make it out of the group. Take nothing away from Norway and Austria. They are both teams worthy of being there, if you were to ask the players of each team about what their Olympic experience would be like, they’d say they’re happy and proud to wear their teams colours and represent their country. To say they’ll make it out of their group however, is not a realistic hope.
|J. Benn||DAL||6’2″||210||7/18/1989||Victoria, BC|
|P. Bergeron||BOS||6’2″||194||7/24/1985||Ancienne-Lorette, QC|
|J. Carter||LAK||6’4″||212||1/1/1985||London, ON|
|S. Crosby||PIT||5’11”||200||8/7/1987||Cole Harbour, NS|
|M. Duchene||COL||5’11”||200||1/16/1991||Haliburton, ON|
|R. Getzlaf||ANA||6’4″||221||5/1/1985||Regina, SK|
|C. Kunitz||PIT||6’0″||195||9/16/1979||Regina, SK|
|P. Marleau||SJS||6’2″||220||9/15/1979||Aneroid, SK|
|R. Nash||NYR||6’4″||213||6/16/1984||Brampton, ON|
|C. Perry||ANA||6’3″||212||5/16/1985||Peterborough, ON|
|P. Sharp||CHI||6’1″||199||12/27/1981||Winnipeg, MB|
|M. St. Louis||TBL||5’8″||180||6/18/1975||Laval, QC|
|J. Tavares||NYI||6’1″||205||9/20/1990||Mississauga, ON|
|J. Toews||CHI||6’2″||208||4/29/1988||Winnipeg, MB|
|J. Bouwmeester||STL||6’4″||212||9/27/1983||Edmonton, AB|
|D. Doughty||LAK||6’1″||213||12/8/1989||London, ON|
|D. Hamhuis||VAN||6’1″||209||12/13/1982||Smithers, BC|
|D. Keith||CHI||6’1″||200||7/16/1983||Winnpeg, MB|
|A. Pietrangelo||STL||6’3″||201||1/18/1990||King City, ON|
|P. Subban||MTL||6’0″||217||5/13/1989||Toronto, ON|
|M. Vlasic||SJS||6’1″||205||5/30/1987||Montreal, QC|
|S. Weber||NSH||6’4″||233||8/14/1985||Sicamous, BC|
R. Luongo VAN 6’3″ 217 4/4/1979 Montreal, QC
C. Price MTL 6’3″ 212 8/16/1987 Anahim Lake, BC
M. Smith PHX 6’4″ 215 3/22/1982 Kingston, ON
Potential Line Ups:
There has been much speculation recently on the forward line ups. Team captain and superstar player, Sidney Crosby, looks set to be reunited with his Penguins line mate Chris Kunitz and Jeff Carter on line one. This is a formidable line indeed, any opponent would see these three take the ice and instantly need to adjust their game plan. Crosby and Kunitz Line two is shaping up to the another NHL team duo in Anaheim Ducks line mates, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. This pairing alone, in the NHL this season, has accumulated 127 pts in a combined 96 games. Incredible year already, throw in the mix one of three options in Duchene, Martin St.Louis or Patrick Marleau and you have a second line of scoring machines. St.Louis being the late addition to the squad in the wake of Stamkos departure due to injury. Third line usually is a grinding line, however when you have yet another NHL top team pairing in Chicago’s Patrick Sharp and Jonathon Toews, I start to think that this team has the most depth it has ever had. These two combine for 113 pts. Who do you think should be on this line also? Me? I personally believe that Rick Nash or Patrick Marleau could also compliment this line. But wait, there’s more! Don’t forget John Tavares of the New York Islanders. He is set to center the fourth line. I’d place Jamie Benn and Patrice Bergeron to compliment Tavares, either way from top to bottom, Canada have a host of weapons at their disposal.
Defensive core for Canada are a different beast. Atop the ratings on the blue line, shows the depth that ED Steve Yzerman and HC Mike Babcock had to choose from. Brent Seabrook was an omission from the team this year. Usually on the blue line with his partner in Chi-town, Duncan Keith. However this Olympics, Keith is in again and Seabrook is out. The other defensemen noticeably moved on from the team are Chris Pronger (retired), Scott Niedermayer (retired) and Dan Boyle was excluded. Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith are all that remains from the Gold medal winning team. Additions for this tournament are P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadians, 39 pts in 59 gms), Marc- Edouard Vlasic (San Jose Sharks, 18 pts in 59 gms), Jay Bouwmeester ( St.Louis Blues, 32 pts in 57 gms), Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver Canucks, 15 pts in 58 gms) and Alex Pietrangelo (St.Louis Blues, 41 pts in 57 gms). Majority of these players see 25+ mins of ice time a game, it will be challenge to spread that ice time across so many talented individuals. I’d say the pairing of Keith and Weber will be the starters for Canada, you need that experience and that veteran leadership on ‘D’ together to get some momentum going. I’d bet on Doughty and Vlasic together to start but don’t be surprised if Subban makes his way to the second pairing. Keeping the “Flying High” Blues defensive pair together is a must, Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester. As they say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’ll leave Hamhuis and Subban or Hamhuis and Vlasic to be the alternate 4th pairing.
Ahh, the missing piece to every puzzle come the Olympic games. It’s also a head coaches biggest nightmare trying to split three goalies apart, to work out who should be the starter. This year brings a different challenge to the coach to decide. NO BRODEUR? The veteran net-minder of 3 Olympic games including Vancouver 2010, is winding up on his career. That left a role behind Carey Price and Roberto Luongo….
Let’s talk about Mike Smith then. The Phoenix Coyotes goal minder is what you’d call an enigma. He’s a mystery to some because of the location he plays hockey, Phoenix, Arizona. Yet you ask any Canadian and they’ll tell you exactly what you need to know about him and where he plays. What’s good about him? Well he is leading a team that isn’t known for it’s consistency near the top in the western conference. In 2011-12 season he led the team to the Western Conference Finals where they played the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, LA Kings. 2012-13, was a different story, the team did not qualify for the postseason due to many reasons but one of them being, Mike Smith was injured for a period of time and only played 34 games. Fast forward to this year. His team sits tied for the second Wildcard spot in the West with Dallas. He hasn’t produced the best stats as he is just 20-17-9 on the season with a save percent of .913, just ahead of his injury plagued year of .910. Hey someone had to be a third string keeper, but bare in mind he’s only 31, there is still plenty of hockey to be played in his career (if he can stay healthy).
Brodeur has endorsed Luongo to be starter for Canada over Price. This quote from https://twitter.com/TGfireandice
Asked Martin Brodeur about Canadian Olympic team and he said again that he believes the No. 1 goalie job should be Roberto Luongo’s to lose.
But why Luongo? I’ll tell you why. The Vancouver Canuck has won the Gold Medal before. “Yes I know that was four years ago”, having that experience in net is crucial to a confident goalie, he knows what’s at stake, he’s been there before to come in and get the job done. This time I believe he deserves the chance to start in goal and prove until otherwise dismissed.
In the wise words of brodeur; https://twitter.com/TGfireandice
Brodeur on Luongo: “I think when you win the gold medal, you deserve the chance to defend it until someone takes you down.”
Let him prove worthy of being the starter, let him carry that torch one last time. He will be 38 by the time the next Olympics role around, by then he may not be playing still. This year he is 19-16-6 with 3 shut-outs and a .917 sv%. Yes, he’s been injured. Yes, he’s only just come back to the line up recently, but let the man who stood on his head last Olympic games do so one last time for his country.
This leads me to Carey Price, the picture of possible, permanent stardom. His inconsistencies are what holds him back from being held amongst the elite goalies in the NHL for good. He’s 26, he’s having growing pains. I believe he will become one of the best goalies in the NHL and for Canada in very near years to come. He’s running on a 26-17-5 record, with a 2.33 GAA and .925 sv%. Remind yourself however, on the beginning of the season and January just past. October he was 6-5, then led a resurgence of 5 straight wins at the end of November leading into December. December overall he notched 7-3-1, January 5-5-1 and February now 3-1-1. Does he have what it takes to be #1? Yes he does, but does he deserve to start? Not yet. Luongo deserves that last chance.
Simon Says Prediction:
Gold Medal – Too much depth on offense, snipers, playmakers, grinders. Defense has perfect mixture of youth and veteran leadership to anchor the team down. Goaltending, passion and hunger to achieve the ultimate honour. Upcoming youthful talent may be called upon and I believe they will answer the call and stand up to be counted.