2016 World Cup: Montreal Canadiens Who Deserved a Spot

When the 2016 World Cup of Hockey rosters were finalized last Friday, the biggest fuss wasn’t over who made the teams, but rather who didn’t make the cut. There were many star players that were surprisingly not picked to represent their countries. Phil Kessel, Justin Faulk and Kevin Shattenkirk were left off Team USA but Justin Abdelkader, Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson all made it ahead of them. Corey Perry, Taylor Hall and Kris Letang were left off of Team Canada while John Klingberg didn’t make Team Sweden. Even though the Montreal Canadiens have five players heading to the World Cup, some other Habs players on the team were surprisingly snubbed.

The Not Surprising Snubs

Carey Price, Max Pacioretty, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Tomas Plekanec will play for Canada, the United States, Russia and the Czech Republic respectively. However, some of their teammates were left off to varying degrees of surprise. For example, Brendan Gallagher was on Hockey Canada’s radar but he had too many players ahead of him on the depth chart. The argument could be made that Lars Eller should have made Team Europe. It was a little puzzling to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Tobias Rieder make the team ahead of Eller. Eller likely wouldn’t have played a prominent role but he would have been solid option on the penalty kill and on defensive assignments.

The Head Scratching Moves

One of the biggest names to head the snub list is defenceman PK Subban. For some reason, Subban just isn’t a favourite of Hockey Canada. In Sochi, Canadian head coach Mike Babcock played Subban in only one game, mind boggling considering Dan Hamhuis and Marc-Edouard Vlasic saw more ice time than him and Subban was the reigning Norris Trophy winner at the time. While it’s true that Canada is blessed with a ton of right handed defencemen and Babcock likes to pair lefties and righties, it just doesn’t feel like the best team possible with Jake Muzzin there and Subban absent. Subban has never been able to shed his reputation of being too risky of a player which is surprising considering the stats say otherwise and the fact that the Habs are far more effective when Subban is on the ice.

For example, Shea Weber made the team but at this point in his career, Weber’s reputation is greater than his play. He was not great during the playoffs for Nashville and while Weber continues to produce offensively, his defensive game is overrated. Alex Pietrangelo is a solid player but he is no Subban. The argument can even be made that Brent Burns is a riskier player than Subban. Considering that the World Cup is a marketing ploy for the NHL, leaving one of the game’s best players and arguably its biggest personality at home is why the NHL lags behind the MLB, NBA and NFL when it comes to visibility. The fact that it wasn’t a surprise Subban was left off of Team Canada says a lot.

The most shocking snub would have to be Alex Galchenyuk being left off of Team North America U23. Galchenyuk is fresh off of a 30 goal season and has the versatility to play either centre or left wing. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made it despite being injured for a good chunk of the season while Galchenyuk played all 82 games. While Jonathan Drouin had a good playoff performance for Tampa Bay, he missed a lot of the season due to being suspended for not playing and he still made the team. Likely 2016 number one pick Auston Matthews hasn’t even played an NHL game yet while Galchenyuk has played four seasons in the NHL. Of all the players to make this team, only one other player had more goals than Galchenyuk this season and it was Brandon Saad (although Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau had 30 goals too). It’s certainly head scratching why they would leave Galchenyuk off the team despite his talent and experience.

Does It Matter?

In the end, it doesn’t matter that the above players didn’t make their country’s respective rosters. Instead, they get more time to train and prepare for the upcoming NHL season and considering the disastrous year Montreal just had, they need their players to be in the right frame of mind and healthy. The World Cup is not the Stanley Cup playoffs or the Olympics. It’s an honour for any player to be picked to represent their country but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just another tournament designed to make the league more money.