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?
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.