Canada Olympic Hockey Team 2014 Roster: Ranking the Biggest Snubs and Surprises
Hockey Canada released its men's hockey roster for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, and it's loaded with the game's brightest stars. Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Shea Weber are among the players who will represent their country for a second straight Olympics, and it's no surprise they were selected.
But when it comes to Team Canada, it's always the snubs that lead to the most heated debates. Four years ago, two of the bigger names to be left home from the 2010 Olympics were Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
This year, the names are just as big, but the list of snubs is even longer and more surprising.
Team Canada is leaving home the NHL's leader in assists, a two-time Stanley Cup winner on defense and a goaltender who may be the front-runner for the Vezina at the halfway point of the season.
It's a nice problem to have for Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman, who has to make some of the toughest choices of anyone assembling an Olympic roster.
The following is a list of the biggest snubs on the 2014 team, from least surprising to most surprising. As is the case with any list of snubs, there may be snubs of the snubs. So, if you feel a player was snubbed from this list, feel free to leave your biggest snub in the comments.
That's a lot of snubs in one paragraph. Enjoy the slideshow.
14. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pittsburgh Penguins
Why it's surprising: Marc-Andre Fleury never really had a chance to make the team, so it's only surprising because his 24-10-1 record along with a 2.23/.919 split would have been plenty good for Team Canada if he was anyone else.
Was it the right call?: His playoff implosions the past two years sullied what had been a sterling reputation. Fleury has been atrocious in big games, and at the Olympics, all the games are big. For some snubs, it's a mystery why they were left off the team. In Fleury's case, it's clear why he'll be staying home from Sochi.
13. Logan Couture, C/LW, San Jose Sharks
Why it's surprising: Logan Couture had a spot on Team Canada all locked up, but a hand injury will require surgery that will keep him out three-to-four weeks. The injury is what cost him a place in Sochi, but if he could be back in three weeks, why not name him to the team and see how he heals?
With 14 goals and 35 points in 43 games, he seems worth the wait.
Was it the right call?: If Couture isn't healthy enough by the time Sochi rolls around, of course it's the right call. But if he returns on the early side of his prognosis, it will be a big loss for Team Canada.
12. Dan Boyle, D, San Jose Sharks
Why it's surprising: Dan Boyle has always been on the roster bubble, but the fact he's right-handed and can quarterback a power play made him an intriguing option. But Team Canada decided to leave the 37-year-old home after he helped win gold in Vancouver four years ago.
He would have been a nice option on the second power-play unit, but Team Canada decided he wasn't necessary with P.K. Subban and Shea Weber on the roster.
Was it the right call?: There's nothing wrong with the decision. Boyle still looks like he has a couple years left in the tank, but there were better, younger options. The Sharks are probably happy that he'll get three weeks of rest in the middle of the season.
11. Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames
Why it's surprising: The stars seemed to be aligning for Mark Giordano, as the Flames' captain was having an excellent season. The 30-year-old has five goals and 17 points in 23 games, and his minus-1 rating is pretty impressive while playing on a team as poor as the Flames.
Was it the right call?: Giordano's lack of international experience and four career playoff games probably did more to keep him off the team than anything. Team Canada simply has better options along the blue line.
10. Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars
Why it's surprising: It's not really a major surprise that Tyler Seguin was left off the roster, but the 21-year-old was having quite the first season with the Stars.
After a tumultuous end to his time with the Boston Bruins, Seguin has been dynamite with his new team. He has 21 goals and 41 points in 40 games and is a big reason why the Stars are contending for a playoff spot.
Was it the right call?: Seguin has zero international experience and has scored just six goals in 42 postseason games, likely big red flags for Team Canada's brass. Much like when Steven Stamkos was left off the team in 2010, it's just not Seguin's time yet.
9. Taylor Hall, LW, Edmonton Oilers
Why it's surprising: The 22-year-old is in the same boat as Tyler Seguin this year and Steven Stamkos four years ago—he has immense abilities but doesn't have much success in big games. But he could be the most talented left wing in the NHL right now, and if he was on a line with two of Canada's best forwards, he would have been very dangerous in Sochi.
Was it the right call?: Hall played in the 2013 world championships and had two goals in eight games. Having spent his young career in Edmonton, he has never tasted the postseason. Hall shouldn't be going to Sochi, but the sky's the limit for him going forward.
8. Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
Why it's surprising: Kris Letang is one of the best offensive defenseman in the NHL, but the knock on him has always been the defensive side of his game. With the Penguins, Letang is second on the team in ice time, but it's Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin who are asked to shut down the opposition's top line.
Was it the right call?: The defensemen who were taken ahead of Letang are much more reliable in their own end and are no slouches offensively, either. Letang is a gifted skater and point producer, but he's a liability in a tournament with this much talent. A player like Letang is a luxury in the NHL, but with a squad as loaded as Team Canada, he just doesn't match up to his peers.
7. Josh Harding, G, Minnesota Wild
Why it's surprising: If there's one weakness on Team Canada, it's goaltending. That makes it all the more baffling they left off potentially the NHL's best goaltender this season. Josh Harding is 18-7-3 with a 1.65/.933 split. He is first in goals-against average and third in save percentage among regular starters. The 29-year-old has overcome multiple sclerosis, making him one of sports' best stories.
Was it the right call?: Although Harding has spent his entire career before this season as a backup, he would have been a fine choice as Canada's third goaltender. At this point of the season, would you trust Harding or Mike Smith more if either was thrust into duty?
6. Eric Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes
Why it's surprising: Eric Staal was good enough to play in the Winter Olympics four years ago but didn't match up with the crop of centers at Canada's disposal this year. The shame of it is Staal would likely be a No. 1 or No. 2 center for any other competing country, but his 10 goals and 35 points in 42 games this season didn't impress the decision-makers enough.
Was it the right call?: It's a pretty big snub considering Staal has won a Stanley Cup and gold medal four years ago. If he decided he wanted to defect to another country and become a naturalized citizen for the purposes of playing in the Olympics, they'd be happy to sign him for the Sochi Games. But since he is Canadian, it was the proper decision to leave him home.
5. Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks
Why it's surprising: There's no denying Team Canada has the toughest decisions to make of any country when it comes to assembling a hockey roster, but it's pretty silly that there was no room for Joe Thornton.
The 34-year-old is the NHL's leader in assists with 43 and is fourth in the NHL in scoring with 48 points in 43 games. He has just five goals, but he remains one of the game's premiere playmakers and offensive players.
Thornton wasn't great at the 2010 Olympics, posting just a goal and an assist in seven games. His lack of speed was likely also a factor in leaving him home this time around, but his game has never been about speed. After all, he's been able to keep up this season with linemates Patrick Marleau and Tomas Hertl, two excellent skaters.
Was it the right call?: Team Canada is loaded down the middle to be sure, but someone should have been able to move to the wing to allow Thornton a spot on the team.
4. Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia Flyers
Why it's surprising: In one of the latest projections for Team Canada on TSN.ca, Claude Giroux was on the team as a right wing. After a slow start, Giroux has 12 goals and 38 points in 42 games.
Giroux was getting hot at the right time after registering zero goals and six assists in his first 13 games this season.
Was it the right call?: It's splitting hairs between him and, say, Jeff Carter, but it makes a lot of sense to take someone with more experience playing the wing over Giroux.
3. Martin St. Louis, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning
Why it's surprising: Steve Yzerman left his Lightning player off the roster four years ago, and this season, Martin St. Louis was playing like he deserved to go to the Olympics this time. He has 17 goals and 38 points in 42 games and has a wealth of big-game experience in the NHL.
Was it the right call?: It was a tough decision for Yzerman, but he made the correct one. St. Louis is still an elite player in the NHL, but there were better options for Team Canada.
2. James Neal, LW, Pittsburgh Penguins
Why it's surprising: Due to injury and suspension, James Neal has played in just 24 games this season. But he has made the most of them, racking up 16 goals and 34 points. He is averaging 1.42 points per game, second-best in the league behind teammate Sidney Crosby at 1.43. Neal has scored 77 goals in his past 144 games.
Was it the right call?: Steve Yzerman had some difficult choices, but Neal undoubtedly belongs on the team, probably ahead of Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars.
1. Brent Seabrook, D, Chicago Blackhawks
Why it's surprising: Brent Seabrook is the right-handed complement to Duncan Keith in Chicago, perhaps the best defense pairing in the NHL. It was thought that taking Seabrook and Keith and making them a pair in Sochi made a lot of sense, but that apparently wasn't the case.
Seabrook was on the gold-medal winning team in 2010 but deemed not worthy of the roster this time around. All he's done since that tournament is win two Stanley Cups while playing 23 minutes a night in Chicago. He's always been an above-average offensive defenseman, but his 31 points in 45 games have him on pace for a career-best 56 points.
The 28-year-old has size (6'3", 218 pounds), skill and experience on the big stage. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the 2013 conference semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings in overtime, propelling the Blackhawks to the conference finals.
Was it the right call?: There are varying degrees of outrage when it comes to snubs, but leaving Seabrook home is more deserving of ire than any of them.