Canada's roster for its Olympic gold medal defense has been set. Hockey Canada announced the 25-player roster today in Toronto and, as always, it's stacked.
Steve Yzerman has what seems like it should be the easiest job in hockey, but when there are so many players to choose from for Team Canada, it is anything but. No matter who you leave off, people are going to be mad. Fact is, Canada's roster will come into the tournament as the best on paper and probably would have no matter who made it.
Sidney Crosby is the marquee name, as the league's best player and the hero from Canada's thrilling gold-medal game victory in overtime over the United States in 2010. Here's a look at who else made the Canadian roster:
NOTE: These are not projected lines or pairings, but players are listed by position they are expected to play in Sochi, then in alphabetical order.
|Line||Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Line 1||Jamie Benn||Patrice Bergeron||Jeff Carter|
|Line 2||Matt Duchene||Sidney Crosby||Rick Nash|
|Line 3||Chris Kunitz||Ryan Getzlaf||Corey Perry|
|Line 4||Patrick Marleau||John Tavares||Steven Stamkos|
|Extra Forwards||Patrick Sharp||Jonathan Toews|
|Pairing 1||Jay Bouwmeester||Drew Doughty|
|Pairing 2||Dan Hamhuis||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Pairing 3||Duncan Keith||P.K. Subban|
|Pairing 4||Marc-Edouard Vlasic||Shea Weber|
2. Carey Price
3. Mike Smith
There is always a lot of chatter about the guys who didn't make it. The biggest name not on the roster is probably Claude Giroux, with Martin St. Louis and Joe Thornton also among the notable snubs.
Perhaps most surprising of all is Logan Couture not making the team. That said, he is to undergo surgery tomorrow and his uncertain timetable for recovery may have spooked Team Canada officials.
Taylor Hall may be viewed as a marginal candidate, but considering his speed and style of game, he is also a notable snub as one of the best natural left wingers. The same could be said for Tyler Seguin, who has produced at a high clip this year, and James Neal, who has been a proven scorer, and works well with Crosby and Kunitz.
On defense, there could be good cases made for Dan Boyle, Brent Seabrook and Marc Staal for inclusion as well. Boyle and Seabrook were part of the 2010 team.
This is kind of how it works though, Canada gets a lot of good players snubbed and their B roster could probably push for a medal, too.
It wasn't much of a surprise to see Steven Stamkos on the final roster. He is still rehabbing his broken leg, but is expected to return before the Olympics. Obviously, if he's healthy enough to play, he's one of the best players in the world. Canada can make replacements for injured players if need be, but Stamkos is expected to be ready.
Chris Kunitz and P.K. Subban both made the team and were probably among the most debated names in the Canadian Olympic conversation. Kunitz has been incredible playing on a line with Crosby and that chemistry definitely helped him. Subban never seemed to have firm footing for making Team Canada despite winning the Norris Trophy last year. He always seemed like a great candidate to excel on bigger ice and apparently Team Canada agrees now, but it was never a sure bet he'd make it.
Dan Hamhuis and Marc-Edouard Vlasic may not have the star appeal of the rest of the Canadian D corps, but both have quietly put together nice seasons and offers some good, mobile defenders on the big sheet.
Patrick Marleau may have also been a surprise addition, particularly over a guy like Giroux. The 34-year-old veteran wasn't on a lot of pre-tournament projections, but he has had yet another highly productive campaign with the San Jose Sharks with 41 points so far this season.
There wasn't much of a surprise in net, however. Canada's pool has a really serious drop off after Roberto Luongo and Carey Price, who will likely compete for the starter's job.
Mike Smith will be the third goalie on the team, most likely based more on his entire body of work than this season. Corey Crawford and Marc-Andre Fleury may have garnered some interest as former Stanley Cup winners, but neither seemed overly sound in their Olympic candidacy. Smith also represented Canada most recently on a bigger ice surface at the 2013 World Championship, though he'd be unlikely to see much time if Price and Luongo are healthy.
Canada's roster boasts six of the top 10 scorers in the NHL this season, led by Crosby. They should be heavily favored for gold in Sochi, but the big ice can be a great equalizer for teams internationally.
Can Canada defend its gold? We'll find out in a month.