It is a ridiculously talented national team of its own.
But it will not be going to the Olympics.
Canada’s B Team is filled with NHL superstars, but because of this country’s depth of talent, especially up front, there are really enough qualified players that they could pick three or four teams and all could be competitive in Sochi.
Here’s a closer look at the biggest omissions from Canada’s team this year and the factors that may have kept them off the 25-man roster:
Claude Giroux: The biggest omission from the team given no Canadian player has more points than the 25-year-old Philadelphia Flyers captain over the last three NHL seasons. Young, quick, dynamic and talked about as a potential league MVP in recent years, Giroux had a tough start this season with no goals and only seven assists in his first 15 games that hurt his chances. But he has been one of the league’s hottest players the last two months, with 31 points in his last 27 games.
Joe Thornton: The 34-year-old Sharks centre leads the NHL in assists and has more points than all but four other Canadian players the last three seasons (165 in 173 games). But the question around the man known as Jumbo is always about his lack of speed, something that was an even more pressing concern given these Games will be played on the big ice surface. We would have had him on the team.
Marty St. Louis: A true ageless wonder at 38, St. Louis had to hear the bad news from his own general manager as Lightning GM Steve Yzerman made the final phone call to him on Tuesday afternoon. Just like Thornton, St. Louis can still produce to an amazing level but lacks size and isn’t as strong an all-around player as some of those who were chosen. This one will be debated for years if the team isn’t successful as St. Louis remains one of the most popular players in the NHL.
James Neal: Yes, he has been riding shotgun with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the last couple years, but it’s hard to ignore Neal’s effectiveness. Among Canadians, he is second to only Steven Stamkos in goals per game the last three years. Despite putting up 34 points in 24 games this season, Neal fell off Canada’s radar in part because of an injury that kept him out for half the year.
Logan Couture: Predicted to be on the team for ages, Couture will have surgery for a hand injury on Wednesday and may not have been available to play anyway. The 24-year-old Sharks forward is as versatile as they come and able to play left wing and centre as well as on both special teams. Team Canada’s brass said the injury didn’t affect his candidacy, but it likely didn’t help.
No matter what, Canada was going to leave out 20 or so great players. The group that Yzerman and Co. named hit many of the right marks, although if they struggle to generate offence, there’s a legitimate argument Taylor Hall, Thornton, Giroux or St. Louis should have been there.
Maybe one year the IIHF will allow Canada to send two teams, as they do in sports like bobsleigh, and this country can take a run at winning two medals. After all, this group could certainly hold its own with Latvia, Austria and Norway…
Canada’s All-Snub Team
Skinner J. Williams