Canada's 2014 Winter Olympic roster will be selected in a matter of weeks. The process began several months ago, and as usual, Team Canada will go into the event as one of the favourites to win the gold medal in hockey.
While players like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Shea Weber are locks to make the team, a lot of uncertainty remains about who will be in goal for Canada.
This past May, Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman was quoted in the Toronto Star as saying:
“It’s definitely worth looking into,” said Yzerman. “Look at Sweden, Finland, small countries seem to be producing goalies. We should be studying what they are doing. Why (do they have) so many goalies? Their techniques. Their system. We should look at it to try to get better."
At the moment, there is no clear cut No. 1 goaltender for Team Canada. Several Canadian goaltenders are off to solid starts, but given the lack of one dominant netminder emerging, all three spots are up for grabs.
Team Canada management will want to wait on making this decision as long as possible. While winning previously in the playoffs should be considered an asset, all of the contenders have played high-pressure hockey at a number of levels. It is highly unlikely that Canada's starter will feel anywhere near the white-hot pressure faced by Roberto Luongo in Vancouver in 2010.
Based on the summer invites, regular-season numbers and longer term pedigree, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Cam Ward, Mike Smith, Marc-Andre Fleury and Corey Crawford are the core likely being considered. Martin Brodeur has also played well as of late, and Minnesota's Josh Harding has been excellent all year.
Looking at key goaltending numbers versus some of the other main contenders, Bernier's numbers indicate he should be watched closely over the coming weeks:
|Team Canada Hopefuls for 2014 Sochi Olympics|
Bernier, based solely on the numbers this year, deserves to be in the conversation. His numbers are every bit as good as these other top Canadian goaltenders, and he has faced a lot of quality shots in the Toronto net. The Leafs' shot differential is nowhere near as good as Vancouver or Montreal's, and the quality of many of these shots has been very high on many nights.
Additionally, Bernier has the luxury of having an excellent partner in Toronto. James Reimer may even be on the team's long list.
Reimer's great play has eased a lot of the burden on Bernier. In other words, Bernier will have played a lot of hockey by February, but likely not as much as several other top contenders like Luongo, Price and Crawford who don't have strong 1A goaltenders in their respective cities.
Finally, Bernier has represented Canada internationally on three separate occasions and fared very well on the international stage.
The Team Canada brain trust will have some solid options in goal for Team Canada.
While Jonathan Bernier is likely a long shot to make the Olympic roster, he should be getting heavy consideration for one of the three spots given his pedigree and excellent play in the 2013-14 regular season.
Put his chances at about one in three currently, with those odds getting better if he remains in the top five or six Canadian goaltenders in save percentage where he stands now.