After winning the 2002 Olympic gold medal, Canada kept the same coaching staff for the 2006 Olympics, but they were unable to match their gold medal run in Turin. Was the 2002 team that much better? Did they play a different style, even though the ice surface in Provo, Salt Lake was Olympic size (200 feet x 100 feet) and the same as Turin, Italy?

Will Canada play a different style in Sochi than they did in Vancouver, 2010? Will they want different style of players?

Ken Hitchcock was an associate coach in 2002, 2006 and 2010 and he’ll be on the 2014 staff as well. Brownlee and I chatted with Hitchcock and got his thoughts on the differences of the ice surfaces, types of players they want on the team and more.

Jason Gregor: Does the coaching strategy or your style of team change significantly because you’re on the Sochi ice surface compared to the team that you had in Vancouver in 2010?

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Ken Hitchcock: I’m not sure how much the team changes, but your strategy changes a lot. Probably the easiest way to describe it is that the game in North America, or the way that we played it in 2010, is a linear game. So basically straight lines, chip it in, chip it out, and direct the pack. When you play on the big ice surface you’ve got to find the weak side of the ice all of the time.
So you play a game of width in the big surface where you play a game of depth on the smaller surface. There is a significant difference and that’s why mobility on the back end, mobility up front is so important because the only way you’re going to get an odd man rush on the big surface is that you’ve got to add numbers. You’ve got to bring an extra defenceman or two into the rush, because you’re not going to get odd man rushes due most game plans are too conservative by a lot of European teams.
Gregor: Do you automatically need more speed in a width game?
Hitchock: Yes. You need two things; you need a really high level of hockey sense because you’ve really got to have people who feel comfortable using the width of the ice. You’re not going to be able skate with the puck in straight lines; you’re going to have to buy some time to move it sideways. Secondly you’re going to need people who have the ability to create their own individual one-on-one space. The way teams play in Europe is they forecheck when they can, and if they can’t they just stay in the neutral zone. So you’ve got to know that you’re going to be going through numbers.
One of the difficulties that we had with 2006 was that we took the team that won the gold in ’04 and looking back on it we didn’t have enough team speed. Out of respect we played those players, but looking back on it, we didn’t have enough team speed to take advantage of that big surface that we had in ’06.
*** Interesting to hear Hitchcock’s take on this. They only had seven players from the 2002 team on the 2006 team. I’ll have a chart down below. Scott Niedermayer was injured prior to the 2006 Olympics and that really hurt. When you look at the 2006 roster you notice the blueline didn’t have a lot of speed. Adam Foote, Robin Regehr, Rob Blake was 36 years old.
After listening to Hitchcock describe the type of player he wants, Eberle and Hall each fit into the two catergories the coaches will want. Eberle has a very high hockey sense, while Hall is very good at creating one-on-one space. They will be in tough to make the team, and both will need to be very good from October-December, but if Hall plays like he did this year and Eberle does like he did in 2011/2012 they will be in the conversation.***
Robin Brownlee: I think that when coaches talk about speed, people maybe mistake it for top end speed. You need quickness and lateral movement as well, isn’t that just as important as how fast a guy can go when he finally gets up a head of steam?
Hitchcock: Yeah, well that’s why you see guys on the back end like [Dan] Hamhuis, [Marc] Methot, [Travis] Hamonic, that’s why those guys are coming to camp. Those are players that have proven their wealth and their ability on the big surface in world championships. That’s why those guys are being brought into camp because those guys have proven to be effective players on the big ice. They’ve got mobility, they’ve got size. A lot of the game defensively is being able to control players one-on-one, because there is lots of room in the corners to play with, and a lot more room behind the net.
I think what a lot of people don’t understand is the depth of the game. There is the width that’s different, there’s 15 foot difference, but there’s also depth. There’s very short distance between the blue line and the goal line. All of the depth is made up behind the goal; there is 2.5 feet difference behind the goal net. So having a defenceman who is able to play one-on-one and be able to control the play is really important.
Brownlee: You mentioned Travis Hamonic. Oilers’ fans know him well as the guy who murdered Taylor Hall at the Memorial Cup. This young man has risen pretty quickly through the ranks hasn’t he? Talk about him a little bit.
Hitchcock: Yeah, he’s really had a big impact on the Island there. He’s been tremendous as far as being able to play against top players and he’s done it for a couple of years. For such a young player to play with that level of maturity is really, really impressive. So being a left shot, having mobility and size and strength like he does, his game has a lot of maturity well beyond his age and I think everybody has been really impressed. When you look at him, he’s played against a lot of players. He’s played against [Claude] Giroux, he plays against [Rick] Nash, he played against [Ilya] Kovalchuk; he knows how to play against top players.
Gregor: I think that Canada has the best group of defenders out of all of the teams in this tournament. Do you think that you need to have at least two left handed shooters? When you have the best of the best defencemen does it really matter if they are a left or a right shot?
Hitchcock: No. If you’re going to play on the offside, however, you have to either have quick feet or a quick stick. You’ve got to have both, or at least one of them that’s really defined or it doesn’t work. So the guys that we have, I know [Alex] Pietrangelo can play the left side no problem, I know that [Shea] Weber can play the left side. We know that [Drew] Doughty can because he played it in the Olympics, so there is no issue at all there for us. If we came and we played six right shots it wouldn’t matter for us, but it would if a guy didn’t have a quick stick or mobility.
*** I don’t see Canada having an issue at all on their blueline. Doughty, Weber, Keith, Seabrook, Subban, Letang, Pietrangelo and Staal are all solid, but only Staal and Keith shoot left. They are all good skaters and there is a nice mix of skill, brawn, smarts and experience. Bouwmeester will get strong consideration as well, because he shoots left and Doug Armstrong and Hitchcock will see him every game, not to mention Staal is coming off a serious concussion.***
Brownlee: Hitch how to do you sense the approach to the forward lines might go? Are you going to roll four in the sense that everyone that wants to can go out and get it or are we going to see some of the offensive players put in two-way roles?
Hitchcock: Well two or three things there Robin. Number one the game is quicker. This is a two hour and five, to a two hour and fifteen minute game; that is twenty minutes quicker than a regular NHL game. Number two is that the intermissions are short so there is no chance to catch your breath. You have to play four lines. Whatever it is you think your chemistry is in game one in game two I guarantee it’s going to change. We never settled on our lineup until the 4th or 5th game in 2010, so it changed quite a bit.
 The third thing, which for me was really important, we had a scoring line basically [Jonathan] Toews, [Rick] Nash and [Mike] Richards that ended up being our checking line. I think that everybody has to be able to play 200 feet in this game, but more importantly smart players end up having to check. We were lucky that we had smart guys like Toews and Nash who are really able to check, be effective and it helped us a lot. But yeah you’ve got to play four lines because the puck is dropped so quick, there is no rest. The intermissions are quick, there is no rest. It just seems as though everything is done at this furious pace off and on the ice and you need everybody to be able to contribute.

 ***Toews is the best two-way forward on the team. Not only did he check the opposition in 2010, he led the team in scoring with 1 goal, 8 points and he was +9 in 7 games. ***


How many returnees will we see at the 2014 Olympics?

Roberto Luongo will be one of the goalies, whether he starts or not depends on how he plays early this season.

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Weber (all-star in 2010), Doughty and Keith are automatics, while Seabrook is close. The other four spots will be filled with first-timers. Pronger and Niedermayer are retired, and I don’t see Dan Boyle making the squad.

Crosby, Toews (all-star in 2010), E.Staal, Nash, Getzlaf and Bergeron seem like locks. I’d bet heavily that Corey Perry makes it as well, while M.Richards will be in tough. I don’t see Thornton, Morrow, Iginla, Marleau and Heatley returning. That leaves seven spots up for grabs. Rosters are now 25 players, 3 goalies, 8 D-men and 14 forwards, unlike in 2010 when it was 23.

Canada could have 12 returnees. The average age of the 2010 team was 27.4, and the only potential returnee over 29 will be Luongo.

2002 VS. 2006 

  2002       2006  
G  Martin Brodeur  29   G  Martin Brodeur  33
G  Curtis Joseph 34   G  Roberto Luongo  26
G  Ed Belfour  36   G  Marty Turco  30
D  Rob Blake  32   D  Rob Blake – A  36
D  Eric Brewer  22   D  Jay Bouwmeester  22
D  Adam Foote  30   D  Adam Foote  34
D  Ed Jovanovski 25   D  Bryan McCabe  30
D  Al MacInnis 38   D  Chris Pronger – A  31
D  Scott Niedermayer  28   D  Wade Redden  28
D  Chris Pronger (A)  27   D  Robyn Regehr  25
F  Theoren Fleury  33   F  Todd Bertuzzi  30
F  Simon Gagné  21   F  Shane Doan  29
F  Jarome Iginla  24   F  Kris Draper  34
F  Paul Kariya  27   F  Simon Gagné – A  25
F  Mario Lemieux (C)  36   F  Dany Heatley  25
F  Eric Lindros  28   F  Jarome Iginla – A  28
F  Joe Nieuwendyk 35   F  Vincent Lecavalier  25
F  Owen Nolan  30   F  Rick Nash  21
F  Michael Peca (A)  27   F  Brad Richards  25
F  Joe Sakic (A)  32   F  Joe Sakic – C  36
F  Brendan Shanahan  33   F  Ryan Smyth  29
F  Ryan Smyth  25   F  Martin St. Louis  30
F  Steve Yzerman (A)  36   F  Joe Thornton  26

Niedermayer and Jovanovski made the 2006 team, but were injured and replaced by Bouwmeester and McCabe, but when you look at the 2006 roster you notice they weren’t the fastest team.

The 2010 team only had Thornton, Nash, Iginla, Pronger, Luongo and Brodeur as returnees. The average age of the 2002 team was 29.9 and in 2006 it was 28.6. They got younger in 2010 and won, and they likely will be around the 26 to 27 age range in 2014.

Outside of the regular season excitement it will be interesting to watch which players grab the coaching staff’s attention.

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  • Rocket

    For me the goalie situation is the most interesting. I think it depends most on who is having the best season going into January.

    I think speed & skill are the two most important factors in this tournament. I say go for fast young legs with crazy talent. It seems that’s what the Americans are doing with their camp.

    Still, the Canadian team is going to leave some great players off the team.

    • Connor Snipes

      I’m with you here. Our goaltending situation all of a sudden looks worse than years past. Hopefully there’s a dynamo out there who’ll shock us all with their October – December performance (Dubnyk anyone?). Team USA looks really strong here with Quick, Anderson and Miller.

      I certainly hope that Team Canada continues with the trend of selecting younger players without sacrificing experience. Lots of these younger players already have 5-10 years of NHL experience (let alone their wealth of international experience) and are still under 30; an obvious byproduct of having kids play right out of the draft.

      • Rocket

        I know what you mean when talk about not sacrificing experience but It seems like team Canada has relied on it too much in the past. Look at how awefull Pronger looked in 2010, or look at the whole team in 2006.

        It seems management of Hockey Canada are a little too sweet on “experienced” players at the expense of talented yet younger players. Look at how Stamkos was left off the team in 2010. Crazy right?

        You’re right, international experience does have value. Stevie Y has some tough decisions to make.

  • Connor Snipes


    When they ask Jagr if he will play in the Olympics he said probably not because it would take 6 months to get use to the larger ice surface.

    Canada has the best talent, i’m not sure they will adapt to the bigger ice surface so fast.

    • Jason Gregor

      I understand that argument, however, Canada won in 2002 in Salt Lake on the big ice surface, so I’m not sure I agree with it.

      These are the best players in the world, I think they can adapt. It will be a challenge, but Canada did it in 2002.

    • Jagr was drunk if he actually did say that.
      Most of the good teams will have to adjust to the big ice(which I dont believe is actual that big of a deal/factor), not a 100% of their players play in the NHL-but most of the other top nations high end talent will be coming from the NHL.

  • Word to the Bird


    Hall is really bounced around on lists. I’ve seen him on the second line of some mock teams, and others not even on the team. Where do you think he’ll be?

    • Spydyr

      If Hall wants to make the team he has to stop turning the puck over at the bluelines. It got him benched at the Worlds. Hope he learns , it will help the Oilers too.

    • Jason Gregor

      I don’t see there being set #1, #2 or #3 lines…All the guys are great. A guy like Toews was on checking line last tourney, but led team in scoring.

      • oliveoilers

        Hey Jason, I get the same impression from the Hitchcock interview. Would I be right in saying that they didn’t have set lines, but the players were so good that they themselves realised they needed to be the checking line? Still, a lot of centres…..My point being, I would take Hall as a winger over a centre playing wing with maybe better figures? Whats you thoughts?

  • Word to the Bird

    How many players from the 2004 World Cup were in the 2006 Olympics? I think that is what Hitchcock was referring to when he talked about returning players from the previous tournament.

  • Word to the Bird

    i think with his speed, hall has a great chance…..i dont see eberle making the team…also in regards to the gritty players mentioned to be possibilities….i think it would be smart to take lucic and only play him in round robin to play the body on teams like russia and sweden.. and a for brad marchant i think he has no chance…hes more of a pest than anything else

  • Word to the Bird

    For me the question is the forwards . Hopefully they carry 6-7 centers max and the rest regular R or L wings . The `D` damn near picks itself and our big weakness is in net .Actually the 6-7 centers also nearly pick themselves well at least 5 of them Crosby, Toews, Getz ,Stall and Tevares. Should be fun to watch.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’ll be so interesting to see which coaching staff/system prevails in this next Olympics. Gone are the days of only 1 or 2 coaches, and the on ice talent dictated who won.

    Mathletes>Athletes. I suspect countries that trust in analytics will be slaughtered over there on the larger ice surface.

  • Hall and Yak will tear up the NHL to start the season.

    On the strength of the their play both will make their respected nations Olympic team.

    One will supersede the other before they return to the frozen #@$%in’ tundra that is Edmonton.

    Stay tuned.

    GO JAPAN.!..

  • Word to the Bird

    The Olympic sized ice is the reason Hall is a shoe in for Team Canada. They will need explosive players that can get up and down the ice quickly. There aren’t many players faster than Hall.

    I like how Hockey Canada put pairs and trios together when possible(i.e. Keith/Seabrook, Thornton/Marleau/Heatley). This is genius – it guarantees some instant chemistry. That is the most challenging thing about the Olympic tournament, developing a cohesive team unit. So I fully expect Yzerman and co to put together pairs when possible. I’m sure we’ll see Stamkos/St.Louis and Keith/Seabrook, but I’d love to see Hall/Eberle. That might be a stretch though.

    What do you think Gregor?

    • Jason Gregor

      I don’t think he is a lock, and I think it is very unlikely both Hall and Eberle make it as a duo. Too much quality competition.

      Hall’s speed and ability to make plays one-on-one will help him, but he’ll need to show he’s better away from the puck, and cut down on his turnovers.

      • justDOit

        Add to that, Hitch’s comment about not necessarily straight-ahead speed, but lateral movement and puck speed being most important on Oly ice.

        Hall is great, but lateral movement isn’t a strength.

  • OilClog

    If the NHL’s 2nd team LW Allstar can’t make the team because of a blue line issue.. Canada isn’t winning anything, Ruff had it out for Hall, suggesting anything otherwise is ridiculous. Look at Hall’s corsi numbers and all that jazz from the tournie.. Ruff lost because of his ridiculous stand on Hall, end game.

    If chemistry is a huge key, and our all Canadian #1 line comes out flying this season.. How do you only take the wings? how do you only take 1 wing? If Nuge bounces back the way Hall did, and Hall and Ebs continue to perform the way they have.. it’s not entirely unthinkable that all 3 make it. Lowe is a pretty heavy player, and always seems to get his Oilers somehow on the team..

    • Spydyr

      So three players all under 22 from a team that has not made the playoff in 7 years.One coming off of major shoulder surgery all make the team?

      Put down the kool-aid you are drunk on it.

      • Word to the Bird

        He said it’s not entirely unthinkable. And who are you to say how good they’ll be next year? Two of them are first overall picks, and Ebs is a former 76 point player with a great international resume.

          • Citizen David

            Nuge’s shoulder surgery is the reason he shouldn’t really be in the conversation. Look at the third year in the league for Kane, Stamkos, Tavares, and Hall. We’ve seen what Nuge can do. Plus with how Hall returned from shoulder surgery shows that Nuge could actually be worthy of making the team. Of course he woun’t be considered though.

          • Your position of “they aren’t guaranteed a spot just because they are first overall” is irrelevant. Nobody said that. He said that it’s not impossible for first overalls to be in the conversation.

            Every forward taken #1 overall before Hall will be at the Olympics going all the way back to Stefan. Is that not a good enough bit of information to claim that guys taken first overall are often part of the conversation?

          • DSF

            Good grief.

            These are the centres invited to Team Canada camp:













            Hopkins is NOT part of that conversation.

            I would think Stamkos, Tavares, Giroux, Carter, Richards and Couture will be shifted to wing.

            Not much room at the inn.

          • Citizen David

            I wouldn’t think Giroux Carter or Richards make the team. Giroux will, whether he should is another story. Based on Hall standing pat he’s better than them and Couture. If he continues his trajectory upwards… Then there won’t be many people better than him. I think Oiler fans view Eberle through rosé coloured glasses with a kool aid in hand but with Hall, he’s that good.

    • Wax Man Riley

      So you think Ruff has a personal grudge against a 20 year old player, and purposely wants to see him fail….

      Also, the reason Canada lost the WC is because Hall didn’t play enough….

      Pass that sh!p to me next! Smells like some primo kool-aid!

  • Hall and Eberle, will have to have lights out
    season [ Oct to Dec.} to get a shot at being on the team.

    If the team is serious about speed, why in the world would they want Getzlaf on the team, besides his face-off ‘s are that great.

  • Lofty

    I love the big ice. How many rows of seats would an average arena loose going to the bigger surface? Just jack the ice up 10 feet. It would sure help the oil with the speed and one-on-one skills the forwards have. NHLPA would love the 20′ ceilings in the dressing room… So regal.

    • justDOit

      Some of the most boring, defensively staunch systems were born on the big ice. It just doesn’t work that way.

      Now, take one player off every line and go 4 – 4? I’m down!

  • Citizen David

    I have no faith in Hockey Canada icing the best possible team. I don’t trust Getzlaf and Perry at all. Turin failed cause Canada didn’t trust their young players. They’ll do it again.

    I said it before and I’ll say it again. His health is a concern but a healthy Jason Spezza makes my team every day of the week. I don’t think Hockey Canada even knows he’s Canadian.

  • Spydyr

    Canada has to play to it’s superior physical side to win . In your face type lineup that plays all ends of ice at a blistering pace and defensively sound forwards winning most puck battles, etc.. That’s always been our major strength , and still is , with few others matching us to this day . Long gone are the days we could just send out more skill and beat these teams .

    Are Hall and Eberle physical enough and defensively sound enough to make team ? Perhaps this year they might be . Officiating , and interpretation of rules , always a problem/hurdle for N.Ameicans .

    Currently Russia , by oddsmakers , rank Nbr.1 , Canada 2 , Sweden and U.S. 3rd and 4th . Czechs and Finland always a threat at %5and 6 .

  • DSF

    Olympic Squad : Goalies Smith , Price and if we carry 3 -Luongo .

    Defence : Weber , Subban, Letang , Doughty , Keith, Seabrooke , Pietrangelo , and Boumeester = 8

    Forwards : Bergeron , Crosby , Rick Nash , C.Perry , E.Stall , S.Stamkos , J.Tavares , J.Thornton , J.Toews = only 9 . The rest of forwards is open . You try to figure them out .

    How I arrived at my list was just to take off the ones I felt would not make it . Goalie and defence was easy . Coming up with 5-6 more forwards is difficult , however .

  • Kevrock

    I think Hall and Ebs both have a realistic shot here and Schultz Jr if he starts this year like last with his mobility could also draw…between him and JayBo that’s not even a question.

  • Spydyr

    Guys, if you think anyone other than Hall has a shot at making the team you’re crazy.

    Its a short tourny, they are going to take guys that have a proven track record.

    The only way Eberle will make the team is if he leads or co-leads NHL points by Dec.

    The only way J Schultz will make the team is if he leads or co-leads NHL points by a defence man by Dec.

    The only way Dubnyk will make the team is if he goes 23-5.

  • 2004Z06

    People really need to stop looking at things through the Taylor Hall colored glasses! How about you put your man crushes aside and try some objectivity?

    I think Taylor Hall is a very good YOUNG player that will likely become a great player. But facts are facts!

    Taylor Hall is gifted offensively and has great speed, but to say that he DESERVES to be there is assinine!

    What has Taylor Hall accomplished thus far in his career that warrants his annointment? Has he taken his team to the playoffs? Nope. Has he led the scoring/points race? Nope. Has he been a perennial All-Star? Nope. Has he been a career + player? Nope.Give him time, he will get there.

    One year! He had One good year thus far with regards to points only! He still turns the puck over way too much, needs to improve his play away from the puck and is a career -7 player.

    Suggesting he should be there over guys like Tavares or Giroux is ridiculous. He may make the team, but by know means is he a lock!

    • Citizen David

      Because Taylor Hall was top ten in Points last year. Tavares has only one mo year experience than hall and got less points last year. Their career PPG are Hall.85 and Tavares.86. When it comes to Taylor Hall, he is that good. He drives the play forward constantly.

      • 2004Z06

        Yes he drives the play forward consistently. Right up the point when he turns it over at the blue line and it is gone the other way…..consistently. It is the overall game you need to look at, not just ppg.

        I am not ragging on Hall here, he just needs a little more seasoning.