Selecting Team Canada’s 13 Forwards for Sochi 2014…

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by Kolby Solinsky

Editor, White Cover Magazine

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The last NHL lockout delayed many things… our boredom with basketball, an authentic male orgasm north of the 51st parallel, and an endless array of 2014 Team Canada Olympic projections.

Just in case you missed the ones that have already been posted and passed over (because, you know, hockey wasn’t on our minds when it wasn’t on the ice), Sportsnet and TSN have already taken cleavers to the presumed 40-man camp to come.

(NOTE: Sportsnet outperformed TSN wildly with their projections. Instead of just letting Ray Ferraro phone in a column or Bob McKenzie shoot his load, they asked all their columnists and personalities to submit their rosters and they listed them one after the other.)

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THE OBVIOUS ONES

*The following players were unanimous selections in Sportsnet’s picks from February 6, 2013:

Forwards

Sidney Crosby

Steven Stamkos

Claude Giroux

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Now, unfortunately, John Garrett went all Dirty Harry with his selections, and he was the only one to leave off Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews, and Corey Perry. This muddies it up a little bit, but because they were all ‘Unanimous Minus 1’, we can basically pencil them in for 2014.

Meanwhile, Brian Lawton was the only one to leave off Rick Nash. He’s a sure thing, too.

Only Garrett picked Nash’s linemate and World Championship gold medallist from 2004, Brad Richards, while other role players like Joe ThorntonPatrick Marleau, and Martin St. Louis grabbed some recognition, too.

Meanwhile, a wave of players like Jordan EberleTyler SeguinJohn Tavares, and Jamie Benn are basically on the team provided they keep up with their standard near-a-point-per-game pace.

(It’s also to important to remember the chemistry that Eberle and Tavares had during the 2009 World Junior Championships. While that was a different level of competition, there’s certainly something there.)

Taylor Hall made all but three of the columnists’ lists. While I’d call him a surprised player (and a fringe one at best), the overwhelming nomination from those inside the circle almost certifies his status as a 2014 Olympian.

That’s the tough thing about these lists: even if you disagree with certain choices, there’s no sense in arguing with them or debating them. As long as they’re favourites of Canada’s media elite, you can bet Canada’s hockey brass feels the same way.

Canada’s Olympic teams are also picked far too irrationally. Players are often selected in honour of their career achievements or in honour of their shock factor. There’s a reason the Crosby-less Canadian squad lost to a Russian team led by Ovechkin and Malkin in 2006, and a reason Stamkos wasn’t chosen for the 2010 team. Canadians like to pick their teams the Canadian way (i.e. leadership and experience) and it has a tendency to blow up in our faces when every other team is faster than us.

The Americans almost pushed Canada over for the gold medal in Vancouver.

With that said, it’s surprising that players like Milan Lucic and Scott Hartnell didn’t garner a single vote.

Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Getzlaf appear sporadically on experts’ 2014 lists, as does Jordan Staal.

And, surprisingly, Dany HeatleyRyan Nugent-HopkinsSam Gagner and Evander Kane are nowhere to be found.

Brad May was the only Sportsnet fellow to pick Logan Couture, and May and Neil Smith were the only ones to pick Jeff Skinner.

Patrick Sharp was also featured prominently and he would certainly bolster Canada’s chemistry, assuming Toews and Duncan Keith are obvious picks and Brent Seabrook is probable. Chris Kunitz also made an appearance, which is shocking considering his superior teammate Neal had just one, too.

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So, taking into account the players that absolutely will be chosen, here are the already-drafted forwards for Canada in 2014.

Sidney Crosby

Jonathan Toews

Rick Nash

Steven Stamkos

Claude Giroux

Eric Staal

Corey Perry

Jordan Eberle

John Tavares

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That leaves four spots open. Taylor Hall will probably be chosen, because Hockey Canada and those who control the spin have a hard-on for him, but the real question is, Why?

Hall is perhaps the klutziest player in the National Hockey League. Yes, he can skate fast, but his puck handling is less than exemplary and his finish may not have a chance to bloom in a week-long tournament. Nash, Staal, Stamkos, and Crosby already give Canada enough flair.

Should Hall really be taken over his teammate (and linemate) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? RNH is perhaps already the best player in Edmonton, and he might be one of the top three solo setup men in the game along with Patrick Kane and Nicklas Backstrom.

Here is my final four:

Ryan-Nugent Hopkins

Jamie Benn

Evander Kane

Patrick Sharp

And, yeah, that leaves off several very qualified players. Of course, those final four and even more will be judged heavily on how they finish this season and then begin the next. Canada has to roll with the hot hand and realize the wealth of the nation it’s been given.

In 2010, Americans like Ryan Kesler, Zach Parise, and Patrick Kane outplayed almost everyone on Team Canada in that gold medal game. Big bodies who can skate (like Benn and Kane) and dynamite puck control players like Sharp and The Nuge get my vote, but I’m not forgetting the others…

Logan Couture, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Ryan Getzlaf, James Neal, and Martin St. Louis jump to the top of my list.

I’d also keep an eye on Jordan Staal, Mike Richards (the Brendan Morrow of 2014?) and Patrice Bergeron certainly deserve some attention.

I’d also not forget about another all-around guy who can play any position like Alex Burrows or Brad Marchand. There’s always a temptation to pick the lineup based on how the actual lines will play out. For example, select both Staal Brothers or put Marleau-Heatley-and Thornton in there as one player, but that’s a risky game.

The international game — the Olympic game — is far different from the NHL game. If pre-selected lines don’t pan out (like the above-mentioned Sharks trio in 2010), then you’re basically shooting blanks.

Kesler, Kane, Parise, and Pavelski were not teammates before 2010, and yet they all played like they knew each other for years.

Guys like Benn, Kane, and Crosby are so valuable because they can play with anyone and come out with largely the same results.

If Canada picks that way, the win. If not, the Americans do the Yankee Doodle Dandy all the way down Disney’s Main Street.

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