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The hockey news isn't exactly pouring in at a fast and furious rate at this point in the summer, though Friday's NHL news mega-day provided us with some quality happenings and relief. The schedule, the Olympic news and schedule, and the NHL's new division names (Glen Metropolit jokes!) - why it just doesn't get any better than that!

 

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On the schedule: the so called "balanced schedule" should be seen as a a huge boon for paying customers and hockey fans. I'm curious to see if the schedule's "home and home against every other team in the league" wrinkle results  in a bit of additional familiarity, about a wider number of teams, for your average fan. That would be a welcome evolution because your average Eastern hockey fan should be more admiring of the slick stylings of one Oliver Ekman-Larrson...

 

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On the Olympics: Canada's "Group" is complete cake, but I really enjoyed watching American hockey fans on twitter pretend that Slovenia is somehow a tougher opponent than Norway or Austria. "B...B...But they have Anze Kopitar!" OK.

 

Slovenia aside, that division featuring the United States, Slovakia and Russia is clearly "group death."

 

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I'm a Canadian (in case that wasn't clear), and the cupcake group B actually makes me rather nervous. In my life-time the Canadian men's national hockey team has won two Olympic gold medals (2002, 2010) and in each tournament the national team suffered a staggering loss during the round robin round - to the Swedes in 2002, and to the Americans in 2010. All I'm saying is that I'm not convinced that a soft division is a good thing for the Canadians...

 

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The one tough team in Canada's "Group" is Finland, and I'll be curious to see just how old the Finnish roster is. Assuming that Selanne and Saku Koivu are on the team, that could be one of the oldest contending teams at the tournament. They'll have Timmonen and Salo logging big minutes on the back-end too. I'll be curious to see if Barkov makes the Finnish team just because no national team needs an injection of youth quite as badly as the Finns do.

 

The Fins will also clearly be the team with the most depth in goal. Imagine that one of Tuuka Rask, Kari Lehtonen, Antii Niemi or Pekka Rinne will get left at home - that's just preposterous.

 

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Here's my team Canada Roster by the way:

 

Line 1: LW: John Tavares, C: Sidney Crosby, RW: Steven Stamkos.

 

The Canadian national team is already preparing to use Stamkos on the wing at Sochi. Stammer played on Giroux's right-side throughout the world championship tournament this past spring, for example.

 

It's the right  call of course because Canada's depth at centre is completely ridiculous, and a wide swath of pivots should be on the team playing out of position. In my case: the entire first line. 

 

I'm willing to hear arguments for why Eric Staal or Taylor Hall should lineup in this slot ahead of Tavares by the way.

 

Line 2: LW: Taylor Hall, C: Claude Giroux, RW: Martin St. Louis.

 

Team Canada always takes a token old guy to every Olympic tournament, and hopefully that old guy is Martin St. Louis this time around. St. Louis somehow has still got it, he has some "setting up Stamkos' one-timer on the power-play" chemistry with Canada's leading goal scorer over the past three seasons, and his skillset translates well on the international ice-surface. 

 

Claude Giroux is hilarious good, and deserves a shot in the top-six I figure. I'm again willing to hear arguments for why Eric Staal should lineup in this slot ahead of Giroux, but for now I see Staal as the teams insurance top-six forward.

 

Finally Taylor Hall was sixth among all Canadian forwards in points last season, and is a possession beast to boot. I've spoken with some people recently who legitimately don't think Taylor Hall is good, but they're totally wrong. Hall is driving the bus in Edmonton already, and while the results aren't there, he's the sort of electric young talent that Yzerman would be wise to bring to Sochi...

 

Line 3: RW: Rick Nash, C: Patrice Bergeron, LW: Jonathan Toews.

 

This is essentially the same line that Babcock put together before the national team's 2012 shellacking of the Russians, except Patrice Bergeron has now surpassed Mike Richards on the depth chart.

 

A checking line featuring Bergeron and Toews would just be silly. Not only would this line never lose a face-off (ever), but they'd legitimately be able to check the top players on opponent's teams and turn the puck (and the offense) the other way. 

 

You almost feel bad for the other countries teams...

 

Line 4: RW: Logan Couture, C: Joe Thornton, LW: Patrick Marleau, 13th Forward: Brent Burns.

 

You may notice a distinct San Jose flavour to my fourth line. This is be design of course. In a vacuum, I'd probably pick a fourth line of Getzlaf or Eric Staal with Jamie Benn and Corey Perry on the wings. That's a line that would be pretty great of course. But I'm not making these picks in a vacuum: I'm making these picks to try and win gold. 

 

The Olympics is a short, single game elimination tournament played by teams that get minimal practice time to implement systems. Players also have next to no time to adjust to playing with one another. Chemistry is ephemeral at the best of times, but at a short tournament like the Olympics, it's even harder to find...

 

Which is why I tend to think that the marginal utility of just taking the San Jose power-play and installing it wholesale (but with Burns subbing in for Boyle on the point) outweighs the marginal utility of having a slightly better fourth line forward. The Sharks have consistently led or nearly led the league in power-play shot rate over the past four seasons, and I don't see why anyone would choose to mess with that success...

 

Defense

 

1st Pairing: Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty.

 

You may forget that this was Canada's best pairing during the Gold Medal game in 2012. These two speedsters should play together on the National Team for a decade, especially when the game takes place on the international ice surface...

 

2nd Pairing: Shea Weber and PK Subban

 

PK Subban replaces Scott Niedermayer in the top-four (which is otherwise unchanged from Vancouver 2012). This situation would give the second pairing two right-handed shots and result in one of Weber or Subban playing on their off-side. That's not an ideal situation of course, but both of these players are solid enough defensively and can do so much damage pulling one timers that I have to think it doesn't matter.

 

3rd Pairing: Kris Letang and Alex Pietrangelo

 

This pairing has the same issue: two right-handed shots. In fact Duncan Keith is the only left-handed shot on the team Canada blue-line. Again: that's far from ideal, but none of the other Canadian defenceman who shoot left (and really we're talking about guys like Phaneuf and Hamhuis here) are nearly as good as these six guys...

 

Ultimately I think Letang will be hard-pressed to make the team, but I'd bring him.

 

Extra Defenceman: The extra slot should go to someone who shoots left, and ideally can pitch in on the power-play. Arguments can be made for any of Dan Hamhuis, Dion Phaneuf or Brian Campbell, and among that group I'd probably lean Campbell.

 

Goalies

 

Roberto Luongo

Carey Price

Mike Smith

 

Corey Crawford is getting a lot of "buzz" as a candidate to join Team Canada at Sochi, but I'm not buying into it. Crawford is really good (and over scrutinized) but his track record is about as good as Mike Smith's and his sample of stellar play remains relatively small. As such I'll take the more "known" quantity as my third guy.

 

As for who starts, Canadians haven't wrapped their heads around it yet, but it should be Luongo. In fact, Luongo starting for team Canada is something of a slam dunk.

 

He's just been the best Canadian born goalie over the past three years (and for the past seven too, but let's hold this analysis to a "what have you done for me lately" standard), and has gold medal winning experience. Also being the starter for team canada in net is kind of like being King: you reign until you lose your slot.

 

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Was that the longest note in ramblings history? I wonder!

 

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Sean Couturier signed a two year, 3.5 million dollar deal with Philly on Saturday and that's a pretty significant steal in my view. Couturier is one of the best, defensively reliable young centreman around but his offense was essentially non-existant last season. As such, it's possible that Philly overpaid (remember: 1.75 MM per season for an RFA is like signing a UFA to 3 MM per season) for a guy who provides defense value but cannot score, but I tend to think that we can expect more production from Couturier over the balance of this two year deal. Love this gamble by Paul Holmgren and co.

 

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The Canucks came to terms with RFA centreman Kellan Lain on Friday, in a move that probably doesn't interest you from a hockey perspective.

 

But there's some interesting features to Lain's new deal and are worth exploring. Lain has sort of an odd story here in that he signed with the Canucks out of college as a 24 year old this past season, so he was only eligible to sign a one year ELC at the time (which lasted for all of three months). The Canucks qualified Lain this month, extending him an offer that was worth over 800k at the NHL level next season. Where it gets interesting: Lain ultimately came to terms with the team at significantly less than that (600k at the NHL level on a two year deal).

 

How did the Canucks lower his annual cap-hit when Lain could've just accepted his qualifying offer and made more money if he made the team next season? Well first of all they offered him some insurance: Lain will make 200k per year at the AHL level by the terms of his new contract, he would've made significantly less if he'd just accepted his original qualifying offer.

 

Secondly, I'll bet the organization let the player know that a number as meagre as 100k means a lot to them over the next two seasons. As clubs deal with the declining salary cap and the resultant crunch, some NHL roster spots will surely be decided as much by the salary cap as by playing ability. If you're a young guy hoping to make an impression: carrying a low cap-hit is pretty much essential if you want to give yourself the best possible shot of making an NHL team.

 

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Finally the Maple Leafs signed former Los Angeles Kings draft pick Christopher Gibson (who despite the North American sounding name hails from Finland). Gibson put together a dynamite season in his draft year, but has put up rather unremarkable numbers in the QMJHL the last two seasons.

 

The Leafs are obviously enamoured by goaltenders that were drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, however.


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Comments (7)add comment

Dunnder said:

Dunnder
Team Canada I think you are correct in saying that Chemistry is important in these short tournaments, and hopefully Canadian management learned form 1998 and 2006 that we cant build a stereotypical Canadian team of bruisers to play on internationally sized ice, but definitely need to focus on youth and speed.

with that in mind, no way that thornton, getzlaf or burns gets on this team. As much as i love Mike Richards and what he brings, he wont fit in on this team either. Neither does Clarkson or Lucic as some pundits (Craig Button picked clarkson, Jamie McLennan picked Lucic) have suggested.

Chemistry wise, i think St Louis will make it as the veteran, but he will play with Stammer.

I think it will look like this

Crosby with E Staal and Tavares
Stamkos with St Louis and Giroux
Toews with Perry and Nash
Bergeron with Hall and Eberle
#13-Sharp

I think Giroux has the shakiest hold, and depending on how they start the season, I think Neal (familiarity with Sid) Benn, Couture or Duchene has the best chance to knock Giroux out

i think lots of the roster decisions (St Louis, Eberle, Sharp.. maybe neal?) will be made based on familiarity (Stammer, Hall, Toews... Crosby) along with how they start the season.

Im sure most would agree that our D is pretty set... Weber, Doughty, Keith, Pietrangelo and Subban are locks. the last 2 spots will be picked from Letang, Seabrook, Hamhuis. My money is on Seabrook and Hamhuis. Letang is one dimensional and we arent short on offense from the blue line.

Luongo is clearly the starter. Price is a lock too. I would add Cam Ward to the list with Smith and Brodeur as most likely options for the #3 goalie.

The soft group is a worry to me too... the Russians will be rolling by the medal round.

GO CANADA GO!
July 21, 2013
Votes: +0

Anthony L said:

messierforlife
Lesson Torino Zero chance Jumbo Joe should be brought back, after not touching the national team for 8 years(by the time Sochi rolls around). On the big ice surface in Europe he simply does not fit the bill. Thornton lacks the mobility and the flat out foot speed to parlay his north-american surface benefits. He certainly hasn't gotten any faster in the past 8 years.

This team needs to be infused with centreman with blazing speed. The same reason why Getzlaf should also be omitted. Its not NHL hockey, so size has far less of a direct benefit as there will inherently be less checking on the wide surface.

Also, Patrick Sharp absolutely 100% should be on this roster, after being an integral part of 2 championships in the past 3 season, whereas his agility allows him to grace the European rinks just fine. Jeff carter has done nothing to push himself off this roster as well. He shall be back, at least as a spare forward, after yet another fantastic goal per game rate this past year.
July 21, 2013
Votes: +0

Rollie1967 said:

Rollie1967
team canada I cant see anyone starting the Olympics other than Luongo. Remember it was Brodeur who started as #1, and Lu came in when Brodeur wasnt quite sharp.
The bigger ice surface wont help bigger/physical players like Getzlaf and Perry,but I dont see how Marleau and Thornton are an upgrade. Chemistry is one thing, but without some speed, Canada will be chasing the better skating teams. Sharp, Burrows,Neal,Couture,Benn all worth considering for the 4th line.
On D- I would put Keith/Seabrook, Weber/Hamhuis, Doughty/Subban with Pietrangelo as the spare.
July 21, 2013
Votes: +0

Corstyles said:

Corstyles
Line Listing Convention Is there an established way to list out the guys on a line, based on position?
Serious question.

Drance goes LW-C-RW for the top two lines and then switches to RW-C-LW for the bottom two lines.

I *think* frank and leaftodd are going LW-C-RW , except that they both have St. Louis at left wing, when I believe he normally plays RW, and they have Stamkos as a RW, when he's going to be out of position on either wing, but his favourite spot is inside the left faceoff circle.
Wouldn't it make more sense to have Stamkos on left and St. Louis on right? Or, is that actually listed as RW-C-LW?
July 21, 2013
Votes: +0

leaftodd said:

leaftodd
... I'm not going to try and read Yzerman's mind here and tell you that he is or isnt will or wont think or do something.

All i'm going to do is disagree with the notion that 2 pass first oriented players in Giroux and St.Louis would play on the same line with a high possession player like Hall.

To me the first and second line contain the right 6 players in the wrong order.

Line 1. St.Louis, Crosby, Stamkos.
Line 2. Hall, Giroux, Tavares.

It balances out the play styles a bit more and maximizes the shooters on each line. I believe that Giroux is the better C across most categories so would put Tavares on the wing.

My 2c.
July 21, 2013
Votes: +0

frankthetank said:

frankthetank
... I have to disagree with your roster a bit. Firstly, yzerman has indicated he wants to try to keep players in their natural positions. Therefore, I think that Giroux is almost a lock to play Rw as he has done so previously. I also believe E. Staal is a lock to make the team and brett burns wont get anywhere near it. Also you mention chemistry but break up St. Louis and Stamkos, that is a little odd. Personally I really hope they emphasize speed and skill, I would probably build my roster as follows...
St. Louis - Crosby - Stamkos
Hall - Tavares - Giroux
Toews - Bergeron - Nash
E. Staal - Spezza - Carter
Spares: Benn + Sharp
--> Players in serious contention, Getzlaf, Perry, Seguin, Marleau, Thornton, M. Rich, Couture, E. kane, J. Staal
--> Honestly, after top 9 + E. Staal it is really anyones spot, I liek carters speed and skill and size, as well as spezzas everything i watch him a lot and for anyone who doesn't think hes a top 10 to 15 centre in the league your crazy. With ryan this year (if hes healthy) he will explode, I wouldn't see 100 being far off with karlsson healthy too. He just swapped greening for ryan so that is going to make a big difference.
--> All in all, i truely believe this will be the strongest group of forwards ever sent to any olympics (if picked properly), and there are going to be some really tough choices for the bottom 2 lines and spares.

For D i think we nee d another lefty, hamhuis, or bowmeester would prolly be good, they are super predictable/low risk and very mobile and play a lot of tough minutes. Overall I do not really like our D, I felt in Vancouver our D was so perfect for a small rink, we don't have the best D in this tourney anymore (see sweden)

For goalie there are 4 or 5 guys with a legit shot, i think price and lou will emerge and one of them takes the job but it will rly be who is hot that year

--> an aside, i think sweden, russia and USA are was scarier this tourney than last, the americans have insane goaltending and are very fast but Sweden scares me their d are so mobile, karlsson OEL enstrom and kronwall will be a nightmare on this ice
- But obviously if Canada doesn't win with those forwards then yikes..
July 21, 2013
Votes: +0

ross10019 said:

ross10019
... Great ramblings Tom.

Have to disagree with your fourth line choice for Team Canada though, for me it's an easy decision to replace Thornton/Marleau with Getzlaf/Perry. In a short tournament like that you need a 4th line that will punish opposing teams while outscoring them, to me that's Getz/Perry. Marleau, especially, is the sore thumb here, great player but redundant on a team with this kind of scoring depth.

As for goalie, we'll see but I think it's premature to label Luongo the clear no 1, I think ultimately it will be Price and it won't be close. But I am pulling for Luongo to have a good season after all he's been through, and winning a 2nd Gold for Team Canada would be icing on the cake.
July 21, 2013
Votes: +2
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