Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi won’t be a carbon copy of the group that won gold in Vancouver in 2010. Just being on that team doesn’t guarantee a spot in Sochi, as general manager Steve Yzerman and his staff go about trying to figure out how to put together a roster that will thrive on the international-sized ice surface.
“In 2010, we won,” Yzerman said. “Could you have put six or seven different guys on that team and still have won? Probably. Maybe? But we’ll beat it to death and talk about it and try and put the best team together. There will be logic behind our decisions whether it looks like it or not.”
Some preferences are already in place, even though this week’s Olympic orientation camp wasn’t about evaluation as much as education. Yzerman said he and his colleagues in the management group have opinions about certain players, though they will spend the first three months of the NHL season watching very carefully.
In putting together the 25-man roster, over 15 spots are reasonably up for grabs, barring injuries. Here’s a look at how it could break down, with potential line combinations included:
Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Patrice Bergeron, Rick Nash.
Defencemen: Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith.
The best of the best, combined with players who were key to success in Vancouver.
Crosby will most likely be the captain, though Yzerman and coach Mike Babcock won’t acknowledge that so far ahead of Sochi. Toews, Nash, Weber and Doughty figure to factor in to consideration as the alternate captains.
To the surprise of no one, there isn’t a single Canadian goaltender who’s guaranteed of a spot. That’s the way it should be, given the questions surrounding Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Corey Crawford and others.
Solid bets (8)
Forwards: Eric Staal, Marty St. Louis, Claude Giroux.
Defencemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Marc Staal, Alex Pietrangelo.
Goaltenders: Carey Price, Roberto Luongo.
Eric Staal is close to being a lock, given his two-way ability, leadership skills and flexibility to play the wing.
St. Louis just needs to not let his play fall off a cliff after winning the Art Ross Trophy, and Giroux just needs to show he’s healthy and effective.
Marc Staal said his right eye is good to go after last season’s gruesome injury, and if he’s 100 per cent, he’ll likely be a top-four defenceman for Canada.
Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo could potentially play together in St. Louis and then again with Team Canada.
Role players (4)
Forwards: Patrick Sharp, Jeff Carter.
Defencemen: Dan Boyle.
Sharp earned praise from Yzerman for his ability to play all three forward positions, and his strong playoff performance last spring showed he can score in pressure situations.
A lack of offence was a problem on the big ice in Turin in 2006, so taking a pure goal-scorer like Carter would be a sound strategy.
Boyle is 37, but he can be the power-play quarterback as the seventh defenceman to dress. No one available to Canada does that job better.
Forwards: Logan Couture, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry.
Defencemen: P.K. Subban.
Goaltenders: Cam Ward.
Couture is the young forward who could have the best chance to play his way on to the team, perhaps just ahead of Matt Duchene.
Getzlaf has never played the wing, even internationally, so if he makes the team it will be as a bottom-six centre or an extra.
Perry, like Carter, can put the puck in the net. Scoring will be necessary all the way down the lineup.
Subban said winning the Norris Trophy “means nothing,” and he’s almost right. It’s a good start, but the Montreal Canadiens defenceman could be competing with Kris Letang for one spot.
Ward was a notable omission from orientation camp, but if his knee is healthy and he has a good start to the season, there’s no reason to bypass him. Don’t be surprised if he’s good enough to be the starter in Sochi.
Forwards: Mike Richards, Chris Kunitz, Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall.
Defencemen: Kris Letang, Brent Seabrook.
Goaltenders: Corey Crawford.
A solid argument for inclusion could be made for any of these eight players. The good thing for them is that they’ll have almost three full months to make that argument with their play.
Patrick Sharp - Sidney Crosby - Steven Stamkos
Eric Staal - Jonathan Toews - Rick Nash
Jeff Carter - John Tavares - Claude Giroux
Logan Couture - Patrice Bergeron - Corey Perry
Marty St. Louis - Ryan Getzlaf
Duncan Keith - Shea Weber
Marc Staal - Drew Doughty
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Dan Boyle - P.K. Subban
Roberto Luongo - Carey Price - Cam Ward