It has been a little over three weeks since Team Canada was announced for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Within seconds of the announcement, hockey fans all over North America raced to voice their outrage over inclusions, snubs, and Canadian goaltending as a whole.
With just over a week to go before the Olympics begin, let’s take a look at how the roster and some of those “snubs” have performed since the announcement. The difference between some of these players being hot or cold going into the Olympics could vastly change Canada’s medal hopes and also decide who could unexpectedly make the roster as an injury replacement.
Team Canada Forwards
For the most part, Team Canada’s forwards have kept up their end of the bargain since hearing their names called. The NHL’s best team, the Anaheim Ducks, boast the two best forwards since the announcement in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
Meanwhile, though he had a disappointing first half, Rick Nash has been on fire in the goal-scoring department since the announcement. He leads all players with nine goals, though he has a peculiar zero assists to go with it.
At the bottom of the group, we see a few bubble players that were hotly contested in Jeff Carter (8 pts), Patrick Marleau (8 pts), and Chris Kunitz (8 pts). Finally, all of Canada is hoping Matt Duchene snaps out of his slight cold streak within the next week as he brings up the rear.
|M St. Louis||12||8||7||15||4|
In comparison to those bubble players who made the team at the bottom of the roster, some of the snubs have been playing fantastic since the announcement was made.
Martin St. Louis would be tied for the team-lead in points with 15 and would be second only to Nash in goals with 8. He is closely followed by Taylor Hall (13 pts) and Claude Giroux (12 pts), both of whom have produced as much if not more than 75% of Canada’s forwards since January 7th.
On the other side of things, James Neal has hit a cold streak (or a regression to the mean?) that could take him out of the running as an injury replacement.
All of the bubble players are still playing for a potential spot with Steven Stamkos still rehabbing his broken leg.
Team Canada Defensemen
It’s a bit harder to judge the defensemen since points aren’t everything. One thing is certain though, Shea Weber is playing great hockey heading into the Olympic break.
On the other hand, though I don’t put a lot of weight into plus/minus, PK Subban’s -10 is rather alarming. Of course, it coincides with Montreal’s overall slide, but it’s not what Canada wants to see to go along with a dip in his offensive production as well.
As for the bubble defensemen, Kris Letang has settled down defensively and put up the points offensively as of late to earn a look if Canada suffers a defensive injury in the next week.
The bottom half of Canada’s defense and the bubble players who didn’t make the cut have all performed around the same level since the announcement, making a few of them interchangeable depending on preferences in case of injury.
Team Canada Goalies
While the forwards look strong and the defense looks top-heavy but good, the goalies are a complete disaster. Canada’s biggest worry going into the Olympics was always going to be goaltending, and their choices have done nothing to alleviate any fears.
Roberto Luongo, who missed some time with an injury, has been the team’s best goalie with a .500 record, 2.97 GAA, and .911 save percentage. It gets much worse as Mike Smith and Carey Price have save percentages below .900.
Meanwhile, two goalies who were considered on the bubble have better records and would have the best numbers of the group. Corey Crawford and Marc-Andre Fleury benefit from playing on better teams than Luongo, Smith, and Price, but a mini-slide by the Blackhawks and a lapse of team defense by the Penguins hasn’t hurt either goalie in comparison to Team Canada’s group.
Unless Canada wins the gold medal, there will be endless second-guessing about this roster. So far, it looks like Hockey Canada did a decent job for the most part. The goalie decisions could very well be their undoing though, just as many have predicted.