Olympics

Sochi 2014: Team Canada Olympic Hockey Preview

By Rob Williams | 8:29 am PST, Thu November 21, 2013 | Speak Up

Canada will try to defend its status as Olympic hockey champion in Sochi and it won’t be easy. Canada won’t have the home crowd or small ice surface to their advantage like they did in 2010.

With 78 days until the start of the Sochi Olympics and 40 days before the team has to be named, here are my choices for Canada’s Olympic hockey team in Sochi.

Recent history

Canada won Olympic gold in 2002 and 2010, but did not receive a medal in both Olympic tournaments (with NHL participation) held outside North America.

Round Robin opponents

Canada will be competing in Group B along with Finland, Norway and Austria.

Roster prediction

Forwards

sidney crosby canada

It goes without saying that Canada will have the best group of forwards in the tournament. Steven Stamkos would be a slam dunk selection for this team, but it looks unlikely that he’ll be able to recover from a broken tibia in time. Stamkos’ loss is Taylor Hall’s gain (Stamkos might be named to the team with the hope that he will be healthy, but ultimately he’ll be replaced). Despite playing on dreadful Oilers teams thus far in his career, he makes the team because of his speed on the big ice and the fact that he is a natural winger (I am naming nine centres to the team).

Patrice Bergeron also makes the team as a faceoff and penalty killing specialist.

The team’s best player and most likely to be named captain, Sidney Crosby, will play with Martin St. Louis who was snubbed in 2010 and young superstar John Tavares. Rick Nash, Jonathan Toews and Mike Richards were arguably Canada’s best line in Vancouver, so they’ll be back.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will have Team Canada mainstay Eric Stall on their wing, despite Stall’s slow start this season (Stall had a poor start to the 2009-10 season as well, but ended up on Crosby’s wing in 2010). The underrated Patrick Sharp, the slow starting Claude Giroux and the young Logan Couture will make-up a dynamic fourth line.

Forward lines are made to be broken, of course, and head coach Mike Babcock is likely to use a few different combinations, just like he did in 2010.

Martin St. Louis — Sidney Crosby — John Tavares

Rick Nash — Jonathan Toews — Mike Richards

Eric Staal — Ryan Getzlaf — Corey Perry

Patrick Sharp — Claude Giroux — Logan Couture

Patrice Bergeron

Taylor Hall

Defence

Dan Hamhuis Canada

Image: Mike Hewitt / Getty Images

The main topic of discussion concerning Canada’s defencemen is which way they shoot. Drew Doughty, PK Subban, Shea Weber and Alex Pietrangelo are all locks to make Team Canada – and they are all right-handed. That’s bad news for some other quality right-handed defencemen who don’t make my Team Canada, including Brent Seabrook, Kris Letang and Dan Boyle.

Canada will start the tournament playing four right-handed defencemen in their top six, but will have enough left-handed d-men on reserve in case it becomes an issue. Jay Bouwmeester sneaks into the top six, given his strong start to the season (16 points, +10, 24 TOI in 20 games), his smooth skating and his familiarity with Blues teammate Alex Pietrangelo.

Canada’s extra defencemen will be a pair of good skating, defensively responsible left-handed defencemen: Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dan Hamhuis. Vlasic and Hamhuis make the team because they are low risk players that are also good puck movers.

Duncan Keith — Drew Doughty

PK Subban — Shea Weber

Jay Bouwmeester — Alex Pietrangelo

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Dan Hamhuis

Goaltending

carey price canada

I’m ready for the backlash, Canucks fans: at this point, Carey Price is my starting goalie in Sochi. Price gets the nod over Roberto Luongo (at least at this point) because he’s played better. Price has a .935 SV% and a 2.05 GAA to this point of the season. If Price is less than stellar, Roberto Luongo will be ready to take over as he did in 2010.

Truth be told, the number one goalie decision is a two horse race and the goalie that is playing the best in the lead-up to the tournament will get the first shot at the job. That makes January a very important month for both Price and Luongo.

Carey Price

Roberto Luongo

Mike Smith

Most likely to get snubbed

Team Canada veteran Joe Thornton is getting snubbed by me. I didn’t think Thornton had a great tournament in 2010 and his foot speed becomes more of an issue on the big ice surface. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are having excellent seasons, but don’t make the team because they’re in need of natural wingers. Milan Lucic is a lock for this team on NHL-sized ice, but his effectiveness drops on international-sized ice. Kris Letang is a victim of his poor start to the season and the fact that he’s right-handed.

Outlook

Canada enters the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament with the best team on paper. They will be able to roll four strong lines and three strong defence pairings unlike any other country. Goaltending will be a concern, but it is good enough to win with.

If Canada can come together as a team as I expect, they should win gold. But it won’t be easy.

 

Do you agree or disagree with any of my selections? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Feature image: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

Speak Up

  • Todd

    Dude, Hamhuis will not be playing for team canada, Hall only makes it if Stamkos is out, Claude Giroux will not get picked and Mike Smith is not going. Fleury will be the addition unless one of them gets injured. I’ll take Benn over Sharp as well. More sand needed.

  • Jumbo Joe

    Lol worst prediction ever.

  • CJ Watson

    I stopped reading as soon as he put Claude Giroux on the team as he has 2 goals on the season. Jamie Benn is making the team. 23 points in 20 games with a +10 rating is a shoe in.

  • Adam Johnson

    Who wrote this garbage? Obviously someone that has never played any sport in their life !

  • http://www.canuckz.com Robert Williams

    I wrote this Adam. I have played hockey, coached hockey and written about hockey for many years.

  • http://www.canuckz.com Robert Williams

    Hey Todd, I actually mentioned in the article that Hall only makes it if Stamkos is out, so we agree there. You think Fleury will be on there considering all of his playoff meltdowns? He wasn’t invited to the orientation camp either.

    Benn and Giroux might have been the hardest decisions for me. Giroux had a terrible start to the season but has 6 points in his last 7 games. I’m banking that he turns it around.

  • http://www.canuckz.com Robert Williams

    Lol

  • http://www.canuckz.com Robert Williams

    That was a close call for me CJ. I’m banking that Giroux turns it around. He has 6 points in his last 7 games too. Benn has been a beast so far though, but it’s only 20 games.

  • VC

    I think the forward lines are pretty safe bets, with the exception of Giroux. If, over the next few months, there was to be an injury, Patrick Marleau or Alex Steen might get a spot.

    Defense-wise, I’d put Seabrook over Vlasic, based on past experience.

    Obviously, the goalie issue is the most looming. I would let Luongo start, and have Price back him up.

  • glenn rolfe

    ok
    Mike Richards out -way to slow . Benn In !
    Claude Giroux out – terrible start. Seguin In.
    Martin St Louis out – Matt Duchene in.
    E Staal out – Jeff Carter in .

    I agree on Hall [ great speed ] put him with Tavares and Seguin …speed ,youth ,sniper.
    defence-
    Vlasic and Hamhuis …really ????
    Seabrook is so solid . Boyle is still great. Letang maybe.
    Goalie
    Price – Smith- Holtby or Harding
    anybody but Louongo. I don’t care about experience ! He has been awful for 3 years and was average in 2010 Olympics. Fleury is also a total has been.
    Lets go with youth please.
    In Stevie we trust !

  • glenn rolfe

    alex steen is Swedish/ canadain and has already played for Sweden internatonally. He cant play for Canada.

  • Raffi

    Hall – Crosby – Stamkos
    Tavares – Toews – Eberle
    Duchene – Getzlaf – Perry
    Richards – Bergeron – Lucic (he has underrated speed)
    Ex: Couture – Giroux (can see him being great in this type of tournament where he will thrive under pressure as usual)

    Subban – Weber
    Keith – Doughty
    Letang – Seabrook
    Ex: Pietrangelo – Bowmeester

    Price
    Luongo
    Crawford

  • Josh Parsons

    St. Louis – Crosby – Stamkos (he was walking without crutches today!)
    Nash – Taves – Tavares
    Duchene – Getzlaf – Perry
    Staal – Giroux – Couture
    Ex: Bergeron, Benn

  • Dirk

    That has to be the stupidest list I have seen yet. It goes to show you how low the hockey IQ is in this country, and many hide behind their birth here as a reason to pretend to know the game so well.

    First of all up front you omit the most underrated complete two way forward in the league next to Bergeron, which is such a no brainer I shouldn’t even mention his name since if he’s not even on your radar, you don’t deserve to know. I’ll give you a hint, ask Sid who the most all round forward in the league is with a better plus minus than him by a mile. That’s who’s on the first line with Patrice and Sid.

    Next, if there is no Stamkos, there is no Marty. End of discussion, I am tired of seeing these dopey so called superstars thrown together every four years and struggling to find chemistry. Overrated players such as Nash,Richards, Giroux and Eric S, need to stay home, let’s bring chemistry to every line by playing the most successful players together whom already do in the league (see above). If Stamkos plays, so does Marty and a player who is “now” like Johnny T, or let Toews center two young guns like Stamkos and Tavares. As for the next two lines it’s a no brainer, “No-show Joe” along with Mars, and Getz with Perry. How anyone who watches hockey on a regular basis would not include any of these four players right now is beyond me. If you really wanted chemistry you play Logan with the other two sharks, and throw Benn with the Duckers. Insert Sharp or whoever is hot at the time of the tournament as spares.
    No superstars from Edmonton either who refuse or can’t play in all three zones.

    Subban way too risky, shades of Green, Mike that is, from last time. Now I am so tired from correcting the stupid forward roster from this guy I can’t concentrate on the D right now, though I just looked and saw Meester and PK it might need a tiring overhaul as well not to mention LOngo

  • glenn

    your implying Kunitz i am guessing with Sid and Bergy as top line? Not to thrilled about that line.
    i would love to see
    Crosby between Stamkos and Nash
    Tavares between Couture and Duchene
    Toews between Sharp and Benn
    Getzlaf between Carter and Perry
    Bergeron
    Would also love the speed and youth of Hall or Seguin but Jeff Carter was on fire before his injury.
    I would like to thank No Show Joe [as you call him] for all his efforts in the past as well as Marleau
    , st Louis , Richards, Eric Staal ,sorry fellas but time to pass the torch.

    Defence is predictable and Subban makes my team!

    Price number 1 no doubt with Smith and [unfortunately ] LOU.

    way to hard to predict this team but lots of fun trying.
    Good luck Boys !

  • B. Porter

    Considering you wrote this a month ago, you managed to get a very impressive prediction on who should make it and who shouldn’t. Especially the Giroux issue, he is definitely making the team but unlike me, you were able to make that impressive assumption a month before me. Most accurate prediction I have seen, and unlike most you aren’t throwing in a hasty guess just so you can brag about being right a month later. Like the Jamie Benn and Letang predictions.

  • http://www.canuckz.com Robert Williams

    That is the NICEST thing anybody has ever said to me in a blog comments section! Thanks B. Porter!

  • Betty Henderson

    wrong about Luongo. He will get the start over Price. History and Experience.

  • http://www.canuckz.com Robert Williams

    Are you ready to change your mind? Giroux with 30 points and Benn with 29 now. :-)

  • http://www.canuckz.com Robert Williams

    You sound real smart Dirk.

  • Rich Maerov

    Hey Rob – curious to know your thoughts on team prediction at this point. Still the same?

  • http://www.canuckz.com Robert Williams

    Hey Rich, my mind changes a little every day like everyone else, but I think I’m still pretty confident in my prediction. Stamkos looks like he will be able to play, so he would be in for Taylor Hall. I’m very confident in the goalies I picked. The d-men look good too, except I think Seabrook might bump Hamhuis out of one of the spots because he has been amazingly good so far.

  • Rich Maerov

    Interesting, thanks! I’d say you’re probably right about Seabrook (especially considering his chemistry with Keith), even though I think Hamhuis would be the better choice from a shutdown D perspective. While Lu’s injury doesn’t help his chances, I still think the starting job is his to lose. I’m seeing a lot of predictions for Duchene to make it. Bump Richards? Nash has been struggling of late, but it would take a lot for that guy to lose his invite. Also many predicting Boyle (who could pair with Vlasic) but that would mean taking out Subban, which is tough to imagine…

  • Turk

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I respect your choices. One guy that you missed is Matt Duchene. He’s a lock!! We all agree that Sid is likely our best player and he said in an interview just the other day that Matt Duchene is the fastest player in the nhl right now.
    Duchene needs to be on this team if we are taking our best players.

  • Matias Bianco

    What was that.. Hamhuis won’t be what… Smith isn’t what? HA!

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