The 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia are approaching and Team Canada will once again be one of the favourites to win the gold medal. On Jan. 7 the Hockey Canada brass, led by former Detroit Red Wings star and current Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman, announced Team Canada’s 25-man roster.
Roster selections for tournaments of this calibre are often a source of controversy and this year’s Olympic roster is no exception. There was the notable omission of Lightning forward Martin St. Louis, who was also left off of the 2010 team. St. Louis has 43 points through 46 games and has carried Yzerman’s Lightning ever since star forward Steven Stamkos went down with a severe leg injury. He also won the Art Ross Trophy for the National Hockey League’s leading scorer in last year’s lockout-shortened season. St. Louis was left off the roster in favour of players like Patrick Marleau and Jeff Carter, who are high-caliber players but have not had as much of an impact on their teams as St. Louis.
Another exclusion was surging Philadephia Flyers forward Claude Giroux, who has 41 points in 46 games this season. Giroux had a slow start this season, but like St. Louis he deserved a better fate.
The defence had one notable omission in Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook, who won gold with the 2010 squad. Seabrook and defensive partner Duncan Keith made an effective pair in Vancouver and Team Canada is taking a risk by separating a proven and reliable pairing.
Among Team Canada’s questionable inclusions are defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who could be replaced with Seabrook without much controversy, and Carter and Marleau, who are taking roster spots from a few highly productive players. That being said, Canada wanted to go with speed, skill and toughness and named many players that possess these assets on the ice — Carter and Marleau included. Canada has such a depth of talent available to choose from, so there are no truly bad options.
Canada is in Pool B with Norway, Austria and Finland and will begin their tournament on Feb. 13 against Norway. Pool B is relatively weak, although Finland should provide good competition with their strong goaltending and a roster featuring several NHL regulars. Canada should not have a problem advancing past the preliminary round, but when the medal round arrives they will have to reunite with their Russian and American rivals.
Should the squad fail to defend their title, Yzerman’s selections, and especially his omissions will be heavily scrutinized. As in every Olympic tournament, anything less than a gold medal would be a disappointment for Canada.