Photo credit: Autostraddle.com
By Jake Shoemaker
The Canadian Men’s Hockey team will, once again, be the favorite to win the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Regardless of what has been said about the chances of the Swedes, Americans and Russians, Team Canada exceeds all others when it comes to talent.
Since the roster has been unveiled, countless news outlets have highlighted the “snubs” for the roster – the athletes who “should have” made the squad. But, the fact of the matter is that nobody was snubbed from Team Canada – the talent pool is just that good. When the word “snub” gets tossed around, analysts often refuse to acknowledge the fact that if you put one athlete on the roster, you have to take one off.
Take, for example, a man left off Canada’s roster, Martin St. Louis – a phenomenal playmaker, a Stanley Cup Champion, a veteran leader. I am sure that Canada’s Executive Director, Steve Yzerman, a man who also happens to be the General Manager of Martin St. Louis’ NHL team, could come up with every argument in the world to get “his” player on Team Canada. However, at the same time, I am sure it is easy for Yzerman to drum up arguments for why he wants Matt Duchene, a young, electrifying forward, Rick Nash, an Olympic Gold Medalist and proven goal scoring sniper, and Jeff Carter, a physical Stanley Cup champion, on his roster.
Critics may also point to Claude Giroux and scream snub. But, Yzerman could quickly point to his inconsistency at the start of the season as a reason to keep him off the roster. Perhaps the name of Yzerman’s game is “consistency” and not maximum potential. Although, cold streak and all, nobody would have clamored for Yzerman’s head if he had included Giroux, a 93 point scorer during the 2011-2012 campaign, on his roster.
And consider this hypothetical: Imagine if Alexander Ovechkin had been born Canadian. The Russian superstar is widely considered one of the greatest players in the world, but I have my doubts as to whether or not Yzerman would have taken a player like Ovechkin onto Team Canada because of his abismal -17 rating this season. World class goal scorers are a dime a dozen in Canada. Just ask “snub” James Neal. However, nobody would have faulted Yzerman for electing him solely for his goal scoring and power play prowess while ignoring his defensive liabilities.
So, the ultimate point is this: Team Canada was, most likely, chosen by a group of hockey masterminds who created what they thought would be the best 4 forward line pairings and the best 3 defensive pairings out all of the great Canadian talent available. They did not rank the players, ultimately choosing the top 25, with the hopes that the team would gel and that all gaps would be filled. They chose great face-off guys. They chose great goal scorers. They chose players who play a three-zone game. They chose leaders. They chose a well-rounded team. They envisioned the line pairings well before the players will even get a chance to skate together. They chose a team with their guts and only time will tell if they made the right moves.
Team Canada is the favorite to win Olympic Gold, even if there are 20 “snubs” sitting on the couch watching their fellow countrymen in February.