When Steve Yzerman and his Hockey Canada staff announce their final roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, it will be a rough process with many excruciating decisions that are likely to lead to sleepless nights and cranky mornings.
In fact, selecting the players who will represent our home and native land in Russia will be easy. The pool of talent is wide like a bus and stocked like a Mandarin buffet. A few days ago, Hockey Canada announced their coaching staff, along with 47 players whom they have invited to an orientation camp.
Any time I hear that athletes are invited to an orientation, I picture them showing up to a big room, all nervous, checking in at a registration desk, and being given a name tag. Then, once everyone is there and seated, they go around the room and introduce themselves before participating in ice breaker games. Then, the complimentary lunch comes out and people, kinda, sorta, ask others if they can eat lunch with them so they don’t feel left out. When the conversation hits the awkward silence stage, out come the phones for a routine Twitter and Facebook check. At the end of the day, they go home and add all their new friends on Facebook, stalk their photos, and fall asleep right away because the day was probably gruelling.
This is what I envision. Maybe I’ve been to too many school and work orientations myself, but that is what I think happens. And until Hockey Canada invites me to one of these orientations, that is how I choose to picture them.
Mike Babcock returns to coach the team alongside assistants: Lindy Ruff, Claude Julien, and Ken Hitchcock. I’m a big fan of these coaches, mainly Ruff and Hitchcock. They bring me back to memories of the NHL in the late 90s and early 2000s. Both coaches have had their share of tirades behind the bench and I enjoyed every second of them. I can’t stand coaches who just stand behind a bench with a defeated look on their face and no words coming out of their mouth.
As for the forwards, I’m not going to discuss them that much. There are some obvious choices to make the team and maybe 2-3 spots that can go either way. I’ll wait till after the team is announced to make my line combinations. But, I believe Crosby will be named Captain and that Milan Lucic has a great chance of making this team as long as he has a great first half of the NHL season. I believe that Julien was named as an assistant coach because he will know how to manage Lucic and get the most out of him. If this is the case, I like the forward thinking of this management team already.
Also, for nostalgia-sake, I’d like to see Martin St. Louis make the team. Stamkos will make the team and St. Louis would be the perfect guy to pair him with – Yzerman knows that better than anyone.
As for the defensemen named, again, there are obvious choices with some open spots. I don’t think Hamonic, Phaneuf, or Vlasic make the team, but who knows; other players can get injured.
Goaltending. For the first time in my life, the goaltending of our Senior National Team scares me.
Roberto Luongo is probably going to be the starter based on the fact he was in net when Canada won gold, four years ago. In a sense, he deserves the opportunity to reclaim his spot.
Carey Price: I think he will be named to the team as either the backup or third string goalie.
Braden Holtby: I believe he is there just in case he has a huge first half of the season. Then, Hockey Canada doesn’t look like fools for not naming him to the team.
Corey Crawford: I don’t trust him. How does Chicago win Stanley Cups with goalies I don’t trust. First Niemi, now Crawford. I think Crawford was named for the simple fact he won a Cup. I don’t think he has enough experience or “wear on his tires” to be given the number one spot.
Mike Smith: This is my sleeper pick to be the starter. Yzerman made a mistake in letting him leave Tampa Bay; this is his chance to give Smith another shot. Smith’s numbers have been impressive over the last few seasons, despite the fact he plays in Phoenix – a hockey hotbed. And by “hotbed,” I mean that it is hot in Phoenix and he probably has to flip his pillow over many times to get to the cold side/recharge it. We’ve all been there.
In 2002, Curtis Joseph was the starter, stumbled, and Brodeur took the reigns and led the team to Gold. In 2010, Brodeur was the starter, stumbled, and Luongo led the team to Gold. In 2014, I think Luongo will be the starter, might stumble, and Price or Smith will lead them to ____.
Who knows what will happen. We might even see another Golden Goal, like the one Crosby scored in Vancouver. IF a Golden Goal is scored, they won’t be screaming “Iggy!” like Crosby was. Jarome Iginla was not invited to the orientation. There will be no name tag available for him at the registration desk. In other words, the game is getting too fast for him. He had a good run, but it’s time to hand off the baton.
No matter what happens, Canada will be going for Gold in Russia – enemy territory.
Let the games begin!….in seven months.