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Canadian Hockey: Predicting the Canadian 2014 Olympic Team

Brad LeClairCorrespondent ISeptember 13, 2011

Canadian Hockey: Predicting the Canadian 2014 Olympic Team

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    After a successful showing on home soil, the Canadian Olympic Men's Hockey Team is beginning its start at building the perfect team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

    Many expect the 2014 version of the Team Canada to be a much more youthful and faster group than its predecessor, as veterans Dan Boyle, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer will likely be replaced in three years' time.

    With the weight of a nation on its shoulders, you can still expect that Canadian team to have a heavy veteran influence, but with the large ice surface for the 2014 games, expect the Canadians to select a group that can really skate and get around the ice.

    In total, there are 13 forwards, seven defenders and three goaltenders selected for the team. In this show, I'll go through the players making it and some of the players who will be passed on.

Returning Defenseman Drew Doughty

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    Drew Doughty was the major question-mark pick by Steve Yzerman before the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver started. By the end of the tournament, there was no denying that Doughty was one of the better Canadian defenders over the whole tournament.

    His spot on the team is there for him to lose, but I doubt that will happen.

Returning Defenseman Duncan Keith

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    Another rock on defense, Duncan Keith is one of the NHL's best two-way defenseman. He's just as good in his own end as he is in the offensive zone. Expect Keith to be a part of the team in 2014.

Returning Defenseman Shea Weber

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    The Sicamous, BC native played in his own backyard in 2010, but in 2014, he'll be expected to be leaned on for veteran leadership and, of course, his cannon from the point on the power play.

Fresh-Face Defenseman Kris Letang

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    Kris Letang is really starting to become a force on the back end in the NHL. The Montreal, Quebec native had 50 points last season without much help from Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby. With an All-Star cast, I expect Letang to flourish.

Fresh-Face Defenseman PK Subban

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    With a few years of experience with the Canadian Junior Team—winning gold twice—Subban has had quite a bit of International experience with Canada before the age of 20. By 2014, I'm expecting Subban to be a force in the NHL.

    With great speed, skill and a penchant of getting under the other teams' skin, Subban will be a valuable piece to the Canadian attack.

Fresh-Face Defenseman Dion Phaneuf

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    The beginning of Dion Phaneuf's resurgence is upon us. The captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs is starting to show critics that his 60-point form in Calgary was no fluke. He has anchored a young Toronto team and was Canada's best defenseman at the 2010 World Championships this past May in Slovakia. 

Fresh-Face Defenseman Marc Staal

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    Surprised with this pick? I'm not. Marc Staal is emerging as one of the best defensive defensemen in the league. His combination of size, speed and defensive awareness is the perfect blend for a defensive group that is young and speedy.

    Having "The Human Eraser" as a partner will definitely help out some of the others who are sort of lacking defensively.

The Defensive Pairings and Odd Men Left out

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    Duncan Keith/Drew Doughty

    Shea Weber/Dion Phaneuf

    Kris Letang/Marc Staal

    PK Subban

    • The core has a good mix of left-handed and right-handed defensemen, but the key to all of them is that they can all skate and are effective in both ends of the ice.

     

    The players not returning from the 2010 team will be Brent Seabrook, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Dan Boyle.

    • With the bigger ice surface, I don't expect Seabrook to be as effective as on a regular, NHL ice surface. The other three I believe are too old for the team. The key to this team will be speed and having plenty of it in reserve.

     

    Key Players left out include Mike Green, Kevin Bieksa, Tyler Myers, Alex Pietrangelo, Brent Burns, Luke Schenn, Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Brian Campbell and Robyn Regehr

    • A lot of guys here were hard to leave off. Mike Green's ability to run a power play will be missed, but his defense won't. Kevin Bieksa really elevated his status this year in Canadian hockey, but I just like the look of the team as is and the balance of it. To keep this slide short, I'll just say most here could have easily made the team.

Returning Forward Sidney Crosby

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    "The Golden Goal," a call now etched into Canadian sports history by Chris Cuthbert's call of the goal scored by Canada's Golden Boy Sidney Crosby. Barring a major concussion and him quitting hockey, Sidney Crosby will be there to lead the Canadian team to hopefully another gold-medal-performance at the Olympics in 2014.

Returning Forward Patrice Bergeron

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    The perfect fit as a 13th forward in 2010, I expect Bergeron to again fill that position in 2014 with the team in Sochi. He is a very responsible player in both ends and plays all three zones effectively.

    Every team needs glue guys, and Bergeron is one of those rare glue guys who can do it all.

Returning Forward Ryan Getzlaf

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    Ryan Getzlaf is one of the NHL's best playmakers, and at over 6'4" and 225 pounds, he's one of the most intimidating forces in the NHL today. His international experience will be valuable to this young team going forward.

Returning Forward Rick Nash

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    Rick Nash is another forward who will be a key piece to Canada's attack in 2014. Always willing to compete for his country, Nash has played for Canada in numerous international tournaments and has answered the call for his country every time he's been asked.

    It really says a lot when some players just bow out of the World Championships for rest, but then there's Nash, the perennial All-Star, gutting it out in the tournament, hoping to bring home gold for Canada. His veteran experience, and his experience on the big ice will be very valuable for the Canadians.

Returning Forward Corey Perry

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    Corey Perry has evolved from a player destined to not have any wheels to a scoring machine and a player with quite a bit of skill. He drew comparisons to 50-goal scorer Dave Andreychuk, and I have to say, he's exceeded expectations.

    Paired with Ryan Getzlaf, anyone on their line will be deadly, whether it's Bobby Ryan on the Ducks, or Eric Staal, who was paired with them in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Returning Forward Eric Staal

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    The last part of the dynamic line that featured Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Staal is the Hurricanes captain and also a perennial All-Star. His inclusion on the team is not because he was on their line, rather because he deserves the spot.

    Staal will be a forgotten man on that line, but in reality, he could be its most dangerous component.

Returning Forward Mike Richards

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    Mike Richards, plain and simple, plays the game the right way. One of the league's best penalty killers and three-zone players, Richards' ability to play in all three zones will certainly give the Canadians a dynamic force on the bottom six.

    That's not to say Richards doesn't have the talent to be an effective force in an offensive setting. I believe he's best suited in a checking role for Team Canada.

Returning Forward Jonathan Toews

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    Another key component to the team's bottom six will be star center and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. Toews, much like Mike Richards, plays the game the right way. Responsible in all zones, Toews will be a vital part to the team's penalty kill and checking line.

Returning Forward Jarome Iginla

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    Captain Canada, Jarome Iginla, will be one of the veteran guys on the 2014 team. He won't have the first-line duties he had in 2010, but his presence on the team's third and fourth lines will be a nice option to have.

    His ability to put up points despite not having many people to play with is a testament to his ability and skill. This will be Iginla's final Olympic tour of duty.

Fresh-Face Forward Steven Stamkos

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    The best Canadian sniper in the NHL right now, Stamkos will be a force in 2014 as the Canadian Olympic team will look to repeat as gold medal champions. Stamkos was left out of the 2010 team, but this obvious mistake will be corrected in 2014.

    It's not as if the team was relying on Stamkos' production, but having his skill set and being a threat on the ice will help open up space for players like Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry and many others.

Fresh-Face Forward Jordan Staal

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    Jordan Staal, again one of those glue guys every championship team needs, is likely going to man the fourth-line center duties for the Canadian squad in 2014. He has already shown a great ability to play in all three zones, is a very dangerous penalty killer and has experience playing in the shadow of superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

    Staal's inclusion will be the first time three brothers play on the same Olympic team.

Fresh-Face Forward John Tavares

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    It was down to Jeff Carter or John Tavares, so I went with Tavares. Tavares' play in the 2011 World Championships was all-world, and despite not having anyone to play with in Long Island, he is starting to show some real talent.

    He's on the cusp right now of becoming a superstar, and I'll be very surprised if he's left off the team for 2014.

Fresh-Face Forward Patrick Sharp

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    You thought I was going to say Taylor Hall, did you? Well, instead I opted for veteran experience and versatility. Sharp can play all three positions, and he's also quite adept at playing in his own zone.

    Having guys who play all three zones well make up Team Canada's bottom six.

The Forward Lines and the Odd Men Left out

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    First Line: Rick Nash/Sidney Crosby/Steven Stamkos

    Second Line: Eric Staal/Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry

    Third Line: Mike Richards/Jonathan Toews/Jarome Iginla

    Fourth Line: Patrick Sharp/Jordan Staal/Patrice Bergeron

    Extra: John Tavares

    • I am a big fan of creating a well-balanced team, not a team full of superstars and egos. This team has the right mix of talent, ego and also defensive awareness. The teams at the Olympics are all good, so you can't afford to skip out on the defensive end of the ice.
    • John Tavares will be primarily used on the power play, but he can easily sub in for the likes of Iginla, Bergeron or Sharp if the moment is right. By 2014, though, Tavares could easily be one of the most dangerous players in the game, so he could have a top-two line role with the squad.

    Players not returning include Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Brenden Morrow.

    • Easily, all four of these could've made the team again, but I'm opting for a more balanced team, and these four just didn't fit into the plans. Some of it was based on style of play, some of it was based on age and some of it was based on speed.

    Instead of listing some players that were left out, I thought I'd just make up a Team Canada Part 2.

    Forwards

    Patrick Marleau/Joe Thornton/Dany Heatley

    Taylor Hall/Claude Giroux/Milan Lucic

    Jordan Eberle/Brayden Schenn/Alex Burrows

    Matt Duchene/Jason Spezza/James Neal

    Jeff Skinner/Logan Couture/Chris Stewart

    Jeff Carter/Ryan Nugent Hopkins/Nathan MacKinnon

    Defense

    Mike Green/Brent Seabrook

    Luke Schenn/Tyler Myers

    Kevin Bieksa/Alex Pietrangelo

    Brent Burns

Returning Goaltender Roberto Luongo

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    Much like Martin Brodeur in the 2010 Olympics, Luongo will likely start out as the team's No. 1 goalie. But likely due to poor play and the speed of the game, Luongo may be replaced by one of his incumbents, who will be listed later.

    Luongo is still a great goalie, but by 2014, he may be getting a little slower due to getting older, and Canada may elect to go with a younger goalie instead.

Fresh-Face Goaltender Carey Price

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    Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens is turning into one of the best goaltenders in the entire league. He's got a bad habit of making game-saving saves and stealing games for a Habs squad that likely isn't good enough to make it to the playoffs without him.

    Price, I believe, will eventually be the starter for Team Canada.

Fresh-Face Goaltender Cam Ward

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    A very positionally sound goaltender, Ward will be another key piece to Canada's attack. He will likely be the backup if Luongo falters. His ability to skate and play the puck will also come in handy on the bigger ice surface.

    Carey Price is also very good at handling the puck, but Luongo on the other hand could use some work on that aspect of his game.

The Goaltenders and the Odd Men Out

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    Starter

    Carey Price

    Backup

    Roberto Luongo

    Third

    Cam Ward

     

    Some of the goaltenders left out include Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer, Marc-Andre Fleury, Martin Brodeur, Steve Mason and Corey Crawford.

    Again, these are likely the three best goalies in Canada right now. There can be an argument for Marc-Andre Fleury and I think it's warranted; however, after the 2004 World Juniors, I'm still hesitant about playing Fleury internationally after he cleared a puck off of Braydon Coburn and into a gaping empty net. Patrick O'Sullivan was credited with the winning goal.

    Thanks for reading.

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