With the 2014 Winter Olympics set to take place in Sochi, Russia, there is a great deal of intrigue surrounding the ice hockey tournament. Team Canada won gold in Vancouver back in 2010 and it will certainly field a team capable of repeating this year.
While Canada has the enviable problem of having too many great players to choose from, it is a problem nonetheless. There will inevitably be several deserving guys left off the roster and it's possible that those decisions could come back to haunt the Canadians.
There is still about a week left for players to impress the Team Canada brass, with the roster set to be revealed on Jan. 7, but here is a look at three players who figure to be snubbed if things go as expected.
After a disappointing 2012-13 season that saw him rack up just 32 points in 48 regular-season games and one goal during the Boston Bruins' run to the Stanley Cup Final, forward Tyler Seguin was traded along with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow.
Although the Bruins haven't missed a beat since making the deal, they may very well come to regret it in the near future. Seguin is finally reaching his potential in his fourth NHL season, and he is just 21 years of age.
Seguin has blossomed as a go-to player with the Stars to the tune of 39 points in 37 games. He is on pace for a career season in essentially every facet and once again looks like a rising superstar.
Seguin's goal scoring touch has been especially evident this season, as he has already scored 20 and is well on his way to topping his previous career best of 29. As seen in this video courtesy of the Stars' official Twitter account, Seguin simply has a knack for finding the back of the net.
Because of that, Seguin is definitely someone whom the Team Canada brain trust must consider. He is currently ninth among Canadian players in points this season, and that is difficult to ignore.
Due to Seguin's youth and struggles on the big stage, though, Team Canada may be more inclined to look at experienced players. Seguin wasn't invited to the Olympic orientation camp in August, which certainly doesn't disqualify him from consideration, but it seems as though he will be on the losing end of a numbers game.
Although the 2012-13 regular season was fairly kind to Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the campaign couldn't have possibly ended on a sourer note than it did.
The Pens had to be feeling good heading into the playoffs, as Fleury was playing well and the offense was humming. However, things came crashing down. Fleury fell flat in the postseason for the second consecutive year, as he posted a 3.52 goals-against average and .883 save percentage before being supplanted by Tomas Vokoun.
The Penguins were swept out of the playoffs by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final and there were plenty of question marks surrounding Fleury's status as the team's starter entering 2013-14.
He has answered the bell in a big way, though, as he is in the midst of the best season of his career. His 2.15 GAA is a career best, while his .920 save percentage is just a tick below his best mark as well.
Despite his bounce-back performance, he is very much on the bubble for Team Canada. Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price is a virtual lock to be the starter, while 2010 Olympic starter Roberto Luongo is likely to make the team as well.
That leaves Fleury in a battle with the likes of the Minnesota Wild's Josh Harding and Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Penguins goalie coach Mike Bales told Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star that Fleury would likely make the team if the decision were up to him.
"Obviously, Marc is one of the best goalies in the NHL," Bales said. "He's playing great, goaltending at the elite level, playing well at the right time. In my opinion, should they (Team Canada) consider him Absolutely."
Like Seguin, though, Fleury has failed to rise to the occasion in big games over the past couple of years. That will ultimately cost him an Olympic berth.
It's difficult to pinpoint one area of strength for the Canadian Olympic team, but its depth on defense is something to behold. Team Canada is likely to carry eight blueliners, but there are about 15 that could legitimately stake a claim to a spot on the team.
Among them is Toronto Maple Leafs rearguard Dion Phaneuf, who missed out on the 2010 team after his play dropped off considerably while with the Calgary Flames.
Phaneuf is often maligned by observers for one reason or another, but he has really established himself as a leader with the Leafs. He is Toronto's captain and willing to do the little things necessary to win games.
His offensive production has actually lessened, as he is just 17th in scoring among Canadian defensemen with 15 points, but he has a plus-13 rating and is a feared open-ice hitter.
The complete package is impressive and led the Leafs to sign him to a seven-year extension.
Unfortunately for Phaneuf, though, the extension may be his biggest thrill of the next couple of months. Phaneuf is definitely in the running for a spot on Team Canada, but he has so much talent to contend with.
With Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, P.K. Subban, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Weber and Drew Doughty likely ahead of him in the pecking order, Phaneuf will have to overcome Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dan Boyle of the San Jose Sharks in order to make the roster.
It's a definite possibility, but the odds aren't on Phaneuf's side as the official announcement looms.
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