Biggest Injuries Impacting Canadian Olympic Hockey Team Ahead of Olympics
After much anticipation and a seemingly endless preamble, Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman announced the names of the 25 players who would form his Olympic hockey roster on January 7.
Excluded were a few surprises who might have been sure things if not for injury issues over the past several months. Included are some recovering and still-injured players: They carry big question marks about their ability to play at the highest level just a month from now.
There's lots of hockey on the NHL schedule before the Olympic break begins on February 9. New injuries could still hobble Team Canada or any of its rivals.
For now, here's a look at how the injury bug has impacted this year's roster, looking at both those who made it and those who missed the cut.
All stats courtesy of NHL.com, current through January 8.
The combination of age, position and injury have left two-time Olympian Dan Boyle on the outside looking in for Sochi 2014.
Boyle was listed as a reserve in Turin in 2006 and didn't draw into the lineup, then became an important member of the blue-line corps in Vancouver, tallying six points in seven games.
The 37-year-old was in the Team Canada conversation at the beginning of the season thanks to his experience and his point shot. On October 15, Boyle suffered a devastating concussion.
He only missed two weeks of action, but the short time he was out of sight was long enough for the nation's attention to shift in favour of a younger group of right-handed defensemen. Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo and P.K. Subban all eventually made the team.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenseman Kris Letang to an eight-year contract extension worth $58 million last June, per The Globe and Mail, many pundits believed the franchise defenseman would also be punching his ticket for Sochi in February.
It hasn't worked out that way. Letang missed the beginning of the Penguins' season with a knee injury, then lost another 10 games in December with an elbow infection. He has been inconsistent at best when he has been on the ice—a minus-five with 13 points in 26 games.
Letang's injuries have likely prevented him from hitting his stride this year. Once he's back to his old level of play, he'll get another look as a 30-year-old in four years' time.
A freak summer injury may have cost Claude Giroux his chance to suit up for Team Canada in February. Who says golf's not a dangerous sport?
In mid-August, Giroux's golf club shattered in his hand. He was cut by the shrapnel and required surgery to repair some damaged tendons, per NHL.com.
Giroux was healthy enough to suit up for the Philadelphia Flyers' season opener, but he got off to a slow start along with the rest of his team. He didn't score his first goal of the season until November 19, his 20th game of the year.
The injury could well have been a factor in the early-season slump, because Giroux has found his groove in recent weeks. He now leads his team with 39 points, including 13 goals, as the streaking Flyers have climbed to the second spot in the Metropolitan Division.
If the Philadelphia captain had been able to show the Team Canada selection committee another month's worth of fine play at his current level, he could have dramatically increased his chances of being named to the Olympic roster.
San Jose Sharks' center Logan Couture was a virtual lock to make the Olympic roster until a nagging hand injury got the better of him.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Couture had been playing hurt for three or four weeks before finally deciding to undergo surgery on January 8, which will likely sideline him for about a month.
The timing would seem to imply that he was doing his best to play through it and preserve his Olympic opportunity, but when it came down to the wire, he knew he wouldn't be able to offer his best to Team Canada.
He'll be missed. But he'll likely be back stronger than ever for the Sharks as they head into their stretch run after the break.
When Rick Nash suited up for Team Canada in 2010, he was regarded as one of the nation's top power forwards. Nash had a strong tournament with two goals and five points, skating primarily on a line with Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews.
This time around, Nash was a bubble-boy as the clock ticked down to Yzerman's roster announcement. Nash missed 17 games after suffering a concussion in just his third game of the season; the time away seems to have left him a step behind as he struggles to find his game with the New York Rangers.
In the CBC documentary Defending the Gold, Yzerman says (h/t Olympics.CBC.ca) "Every tournament I've taken him to, [Nash] has been the best player." In the end, that was enough to get him named to the Sochi roster.
Nash will need to find another gear at the Olympics if he intends to reward Yzerman for his faith.
Steven Stamkos was tied for the NHL lead with 14 goals when he broke his leg back on November 11.
The immediate concern was not just for his Tampa Bay Lightning, but also for Team Canada. As a 20-year-old sophomore, Stamkos didn't make the cut for Vancouver in 2010. This time around in Sochi, he was projected to be a key part of the offense.
Known for his outstanding fitness, Stamkos has impressed with his recovery so far. TSN reports that he skated for 30 minutes on January 6 and is doing everything he can to be ready:
Working really hard with staff to come back and play some games for the Lightning first and foremost. If I can't (be ready) then at least I can look myself in the mirror and say I did everything humanly possible to get back and we'll take it from there.
Lightning Coach Jon Cooper has been monitoring Stamkos' progress. He told the Associated Press that he thinks the sniper will return to NHL action before the Olympic break and thus be ready to suit up for Canada.
Roberto Luongo is currently day to day for the Vancouver Canucks. He twisted an ankle in a collision with Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings on January 4. The injury's not thought to be too serious but came in Luongo's first game back in net after he missed two weeks with a groin problem—an unnerving patten so close to the Games.
With all the tumult surrounding Luongo's past two seasons with the Canucks, he has impressed this year by moving calmly back into the starter's role and re-asserting himself as Canada's best goaltending choice for Sochi.
If he can come back strong from this injury and get in a few solid games before the break, he'll be primed to backstop Team Canada on its run for back-to-back gold medals.
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