Who should be on the Team Canada Olympic Hockey Roster?

Jonathan Willis
January 04 2014 09:32AM

Four years ago, the Canadian men’s hockey team won gold in Vancouver. On Tuesday, the 2014 team that will try to match that result in Sochi will be named. Who should be on it?

My Roster

The depth chart above is my list of 14 forwards, eight defencemen and three goalies. I don’t think this group will be named, but it is the 25-man roster that I think gives Canada the best shot at winning gold. The grey line at the bottom is the list of alternate players in case injury strikes prior to the games.

The roster itself was picked without attempting to match players with teammates, but the line combinations are an attempt to get as much benefit of that familiarity as possible – and there is a surprising amount of it. Patrick Sharp/Jonathan Toews anchor one line, Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry another and Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau another still (though I could also easily see that duo falling to 13/14 in favour of Duchene/Bergeron).

On defence, the right side and Duncan Keith were all basically impossible to ignore (sorry, Brent Seabrook). I really like all four left-side defenders I’ve plugged in here behind Keith and there are plenty of other arrangements that could be used. I saw Keith/Doughty as the top all-situations pair, Hamhuis/Weber as a shutdown unit, Vlasic/Subban as a nicely balanced third pair and given that Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo play together in St. Louis it seemed a shame to break them up (though it was awfully tempting to sub Giordano in for Bouwmeester).

In net, Roberto Luongo and Carey Price are both going to play in the round robin part of the tournament, and whoever looks hot coming out of it can start the elimination games. The third-string position could go to any of half a dozen guys; I picked Mike Smith mostly because if something happens during the tournament I prefer a veteran as a plug-in backup over someone like Jonathan Bernier or Braden Holtby or James Reimer. Corey Crawford and Cam Ward have both had bad seasons, and while Marc-Andre Fleury has been good this year his history in pressure situations leaves me leery. Realistically, though, it’s not a spot I’m antsy about.

Up front, Jamie Benn was a hard, hard guy to leave off the roster. Honestly, the left wing is Canada’s weakest forward position and the gap between the top natural winger on the depth chart (Patrick Sharp) and a guy I didn’t even name (Benn) is smaller for me than the gap between Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash.

Since this is published at Oilers Nation, I should point out I was an ardent Taylor Hall supporter in the summer but I think he’s played his way off the team. Jordan Eberle deserved some consideration but hasn’t played well enough to unseat anybody at right wing – his offence isn’t irresistible and given that his defensive deficiencies are a real problem.

That’s my take. Doubtless the comments section will have its own views.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
January 04 2014, 12:32PM
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is hamhuis mobile enough?

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#52 Randaman
January 04 2014, 01:01PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Nash was a terrific skater . The last few times I saw him play it appears as he has lost a step.

He is also in the Penner realm of not playing as hard as he should many games.

That just my opinion though.

I don't really think motivation is a factor at the Oylimpics. Every player selected will be doing everything in their power to have their "A" game

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#53 etownman
January 04 2014, 03:48PM
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There's arguments that can made for this player or that player who isn't on your team but I think it's crazy to have Stamkos there! He's not going to be anywhere close to being ready for that level of competition on the big ice! Also, Getzlaf, Perry, Thornton & Marleau are going to get eaten up by the speed of other teams! I hope our tenders bring their 'A' game!

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#54 LOIL99
January 04 2014, 11:05AM
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If you want vet backup for Price/Lou, then how could you not mention Brodeur? Smith is Bryz 2.0, looks really good under PHO system but average goalie at best. What more does Brodeur have to win to be the next best vet available?

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#55 Smokey
January 04 2014, 12:43PM
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Spydyr wrote:

In the NHL I agree with you bigger is better.

At the Olympic level especially on the big ice skating would be my number one priority . Therefore Nash, Penner and Lucic would not be on my team.

Nash is terrific skater.

Penner is slow starter, but makes up for being a good possession player, and sound positionally.

Lucic is not the greatest skater, but is there anyone who brings the tangibles and intangibles like Lucic. He doesn't hurt you in any way, other then fighting to many fourth line tweeners and grinders. Play him on your fourth line, he should be there.

This may be a bad example, but so be it. Esposito could not skate like todays players, watch him in his Bruins and New York days. Against a fast mobile team like the Russians he never looked outta place and scored a plethora of points. None of these player mentioned above are like Espo, but big players are possession players on any ice. You can fix perceived liabilities with linemates with different core strengths. I'd have a tough time keeping Lucic off Crosby's wing in the tourney, but that's just me.

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#56 Spydyr
January 04 2014, 01:15PM
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Randaman wrote:

I don't really think motivation is a factor at the Oylimpics. Every player selected will be doing everything in their power to have their "A" game

Well that goes without saying.What I was getting at was taking games off is a sign of a players character or lack there of.

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#57 Oilers4ever
January 05 2014, 12:32AM
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Chet134 wrote:

How has Hall play the last three games against the heavier teams or even the heavier teams this year. How did Hall play at the world championships last may. He got benched. It's easy to look good against the bottom feeders. This is team Canada and ur playing against the best. So u evaluate him against the best players in the league and then select. For me good player but not ready yet. Maybe take him and he doesn't dress unless someone gets hurt. He ll learn a lot.

My point is that he has better numbers than some of these other guys. The coach in the worlds last year was a clown benching Hall... if we recall we won no medal again. At least he tries against the big teams. You can never question his enthusiasm and desire to win. They all gotta learn sometime. I dont care who canada ices for a team. No one is beating Russia on their home turf. And there likely won't be NHL players in Olympics next time around. Look at the hassle we dealt with for this one.

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#58 Evilas
January 04 2014, 10:56AM
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Jonathan,

I think your list will be pretty close, but I don't think Giordano makes it, even if he should (I don't know who it might be, but I think Boyle).

I think they will add Kunitz given his experience with the Pens and Ducks, plus comments from the management team about how he was in the top 10 scorers when Crosby was out. He'll be in over St. Louis (who I don't think should make the team).

I would like to see Benn over Nash.

I don't understand the love-in with Luongo, Reimer should be on this team over him. But you are likely bang-on with the goaltenders.

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#59 Randy
January 04 2014, 10:59AM
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JW,

Do you think Jonathan Bernier has a chance to be the #3 goalie?

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#60 albertabeef
January 04 2014, 11:09AM
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Couture - Crosby - Stamkos Benn - Tavares - Nash Sharp - Toews - Duchesne A.Ladd - Getzlaf - Perry

Giroux - Bergeron

Keith - Doughty Vlasic - Weber Bowmeister - Pietrangelo Subban - Seabrook

Price - Luongo - Dubnyk..(ha!)M.Smith

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#61 Smokey
January 04 2014, 12:14PM
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I would find a way to have a few of Nash, Penner, Benn, Lucic on my team. Bigger is better. Lucic and Benn to me are locks. Lucic may not be the most graceful player, but he's a gamer and is arguably one of the grittiest players in the game. You don't leave that at home. Frankly I don't think Duschene has played his way on the team. We don't need another center. I'd leave Giroux at home to as in my opinion he has played his way off the team.

If Seguin was a better character player he would be there, and Hall is getting screwed for a poor start when he played outta position. Remove there first few games his plus minus is not horrifying. His last 10 games he has removed some of the stupid plays. The whole Ruff benching Hall was a bullheaded coach playing struggling forwards with track record over a guy who I admit made a couple bad TO's. He was still better then half the teams veterans who were getting the push. I watched a couple games and Ruff stapled him to bench and played veterans and ultimately Ruff cost Canada that tourney. Most people concur Ruff did a crap job, and Hall is labelled because of it. Him and Duschene were a bad line cause both players handle the puck a lot.

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#62 Batfink
January 04 2014, 01:21PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I say he's played his way off my team.

A year ago, Hall was an offensive dynamo who also drove scoring chances and shots. I thought he should have without question been an Olympian.

This year he's still an offensive dynamo but the scoring chances and shots have taken a sharp turn for the worse. I'll take a guy with defensive problems if he creates more than he gives up, but Hall simply hasn't been doing that this year the way he did in the past.

That's my view. You are welcome to have a different one.

aren't scoring chances and shots (somewhat) dependent on the team and system played?

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#63 Serious Gord
January 04 2014, 06:06PM
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bwar wrote:

Is there any value for team Canada to have a guy like RNH, MacKinnon or Hall on the team as the extra forward? The thought would be that they would be a key piece in the next Olympics and maybe the experience of at least being there this time would help prepare them for 2018.

There isn't Going to be a 2018 NHL Olympic team. Rather it will be a u20 team just like soccer.

We could see a World Cup with nhl/khl players as early as 2016. Too much cash at stake to keep doing the Olympics for free. And thus with income sharing everyone - especially the agents wants the chance to make more dough ray me.

The only question is: will it be held every four or every two years? Money talks IMO so it will be every two.

And that will be a great thing. One of the fun things is picking rosters - going forward we will get to do that twice as often.

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#64 Devolution
January 04 2014, 11:26AM
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Off topic guys, but does anyone have a streaming link to the Junior game?

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#65 Spydyr
January 04 2014, 12:10PM
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Drouin!!!!

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#66 bwar
January 04 2014, 01:57PM
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I also really like the idea of having a Benn-Thornton-Lucic type forth line. I just feel that for certain games they would be nearly unstoppable.

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#67 Smokey
January 04 2014, 03:46PM
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Spydyr wrote:

In the NHL I agree with you bigger is better.

At the Olympic level especially on the big ice skating would be my number one priority . Therefore Nash, Penner and Lucic would not be on my team.

Nash is terrific skater.

Penner is slow starter, but makes up for being a good possession player, and sound positionally.

Lucic is not the greatest skater, but is there anyone who brings the tangibles and intangibles like Lucic. He doesn't hurt you in any way, other then fighting to many fourth line tweeners and grinders. Play him on your fourth line, he should be there.

This may be a bad example, but so be it. Esposito could not skate like todays players, watch him in his Bruins and New York days. Against a fast mobile team like the Russians he never looked outta place and scored a plethora of points. None of these player mentioned above are like Espo, but big players are possession players on any ice. You can fix perceived liabilities with linemates with different core strengths. I'd have a tough time keeping Lucic off Crosby's wing in the tourney, but that's just me.

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#68 Truth
January 06 2014, 08:13AM
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Hypothetical question: If Sidney Crosby had a 4'x 4' sheet of certified BC plywood as his left winger, would the plywood make the Canadian Olympic team?

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#69 Truth
January 06 2014, 08:51AM
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Primo wrote:

Unlikely any of the Oilers !st overalls will be on the team. The Oilers losing culture has basically hurt their chances and also their personal development. Unfortunately the Oilers will again be drafting high level prospects such as Reinhart/Ekblad and next year even perhaps McDavid. Unfortunate for the rest of the league and more importantly these young players dreams! Being part of a loser culture with no hope for the future is not healthy for anyone. Sorry Oiler fans those are facts!

So by your measure Tavares shouldn't stand a chance. The Islanders were decent last year and horrible the rest of his tenor there. Or does one early exit from the playoffs erase the notion of Tavares developing in a loser culture?

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