What Could Have Been

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Look, we all sadly know the NHL won’t be sending its players to the Olympics for the first time since 1994. It sucks, in all honesty. My entire life all I have ever known and seen is the best players in the world playing, well, the best players in the world. Canada will be looking for a three-peat, and its fourth gold in five Olympics, not to mention a World Cup of Hockey win in 2016. This time however, the team is made up of names some may remember. Mason Raymond, Derek Roy, Ben Scrivens, just to name a few. For people who are curious on what they will see, here’s a link to the full roster:

http://www.sportsnet.ca/olympics/hockey-canada-announces-mens-olympic-roster/ 

But lets not talk about that, for now. Lets talk about who would, or more who I think should be on the team if the NHL was going. I’ll break it down like this. I’ll start with the goalies, then go the defence, followed by the forwards. I feel like it’s the easiest way to go through a team, where you could argue about 50 different players that would’ve been on the squad.

We will do this the same way Sochi was done. 14 forwards, 8 defensemen, and 3 goalies. So, without further or do.

Goalies:

Carey Price

Braden Holtby

Extra: Corey Crawford 

This one to me is almost a no brainer. Even despite the numbers of both Carey Price, and Braden Holtby being off by their standards, they are both still top level goalies, and with a team like Canada in front of them, I’m sure they wouldn’t have many issues. Corey Crawford is the extra, with two rings, a world cup, and with still stellar numbers on a Blackhawks team that isn’t quite living up to the hype. Even with his current stint on the DL, if he’s healthy, he’s going. 

Again I feel like their isn’t many other names. One could argue Matt Murray of the Penguins for how he does when it’s crunch time. He has only been in the playoffs twice, and has two rings to show for it, so not to shabby.

Defence:

Duncan KeithDrew Doughty

Marc-Edouard VlasicShea Weber

Morgan RiellyAlex Pietrangelo

Extras: P.K. Subban, Dougie Hamilton 

You can argue that Finland has better goaltending, or the States would have better forwards, but I don’t think many can argue that anyone would have better defence than Canada. First five to me are locks. Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty have been nothing but spectacular together in international play, plus Doughty is having another Norris caliber season. Duncan Keith, you know what your getting with him night in, and night out. Former Norris winner, three time cup champion, a Conn Smythe, two gold medals, what more does he need?

The next line of Shea Weber and Marc-Edouard Vlasic is what I would imagine as the shutdown line. All Shea Weber does with Canada is win, and he is one of Babcock’s favourites (assuming he’s coaching), and throw that shot on the powerplay? May just put another right through the net. Vlasic is similar to Keith, but without the offensive touch. He is so quiet in his game, and just does it all right. I remember when he was named to the 2014 team and I was just like, who? Vlasic can do everything right, and beside Weber I expect no one to score.

Alex Pietrangelo is the fifth lock to me, especially considering the fact he would probably be top five in Norris voting this season. Pietrangelo is that overall stellar D. He doesn’t have Doughty’s killer offence, or Vlasic’s tenacious defence, but he is a jack of all trades. Here is where things begin to get interesting. Morgan Rielly is doing everything I hoped and predicted in an earlier article. He is finally recognized as one of the top defenders in the league. I don’t put him on a level of the previous five, but he’s right there. His skating would give him an edge on the big ice, plus, he would round out a beautiful top six composed of three lefties and three righties.

The extras aren’t even really extras. P.K. Subban is back at top level, and taking the Predators with him. This isn’t the same P.K. we saw in 2014. He’s better, and has a much more sound game. He isn’t as risky, which scared the coaching staff in 2014 leaving him as the number eight guy. Assuming he would make this team, I could easily see him moving up in the tournament and being a star. Dougie Hamilton is the final guy I have and the reason is quite simple. He’s just great. Hamilton, like Vlasic, isn’t talked about enough and deserves it more than anyone. He is one of the best defenders in the NHL, and is the best on a up and down Calgary Flames team (who has won 6 in a row, and he has two of the game winners). If he’s on his game, they win. If he isn’t, they lose. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

There is always names you may question, but keep in mind it’s just an opinion. Brent Burns, Mark Giordano, Kris Letang are just few names who could, and maybe should be there. But now we move on to the most controversial group. The forwards.

Forwards:

Brad MarchandSidney CrosbyPatrice Bergeron 

Steven StamkosConnor McDavidJohn Tavares

Jamie BennJohnathon ToewsMark Scheifele

Nathan MacKinnonRyan GetzlafMark Stone

Extras: Claude Giroux, Tyler Seguin

You can easily debate these fourteen guys all day long, so I’ll try and keep it all short and sweet. The first line is pretty set in stone for me, at least for the start of the tournament. Captain Canada is obviously the first line centre and after a dominating World Cup beside Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, who are both having great years, why not keep it together? 

Easy to say Connor McDavid is on this squad, and is arguably the top forward. His speed would tear up the big ice, and with his two wingers, could really scare some opponents. Steven Stamkos is back at a Hart caliber pace, so, what else to do then to put him with last years winner, and another potential candidate this year, John Tavares. He is having arguably his best season in a contract year. This line to me easily has the most skill, and being completely honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if they scored every time they stepped on the ice.

Look, we can score all the goals we want, but team Canada will still have to shut guys down. We can assume Bergeron and Marchand would be some first unit penalty killers, but Leaf fans know how much Babcock loves his checking lines (that means you Leo). Johnathon Toews is a lock, no ands, ifs, or buts. Jamie Benn is also a guarantee to me, having another great year, and can kill penalties as well. If Mark Scheifele is healthy, he’s on this team. Before his injury he was averaging a point a game, and was in talks for the Hart trophy. He is still so young, and will, and is, making the Winnipeg Jets great again.

The fourth line is where questions will start to be asked, and it will mostly revolve around the centre man. Personally, Ryan Getzlaf deserves to be on this team without question. He has done nothing but score since coming back from injury, and does everything right. He can kill penalties, has a great shot, can run a power play, basically whatever you need. Oh, and by the way, he has a world junior gold, two oily pic golds, and world cup, and a ring. Nathan McKinnon, especially considering the year he is having, is on this squad. His speed is essential on the big ice, and he is single handedly making the Colorado Avalanche relevant in the NHL this season. And personally, I wouldn’t mind to see the two Cole Harbour boys on the same line, but that’s just me. Mark Stone to a casual fan may be a head scratcher, but to any hardcore fan, he’s a no brainer. Taking Erik Karlsson out of the equation, he is the best player overall on the Ottawa Senators. He is arguably the best two-way right winger in the NHL. He is the number on penalty killer on the Sens, and packs one heck of a shot. He would be my pick as a breakout star if named to the team.

Same as the D-man, these two players aren’t really extras. Tyler Seguin, and Claude Giroux are masters in the offensive zone, and its easy to say that no one runs a halfway quite like Giroux. Both these players, could easily slot into the lineup, and maybe that’s my favourite part of this team. Anyone can play anywhere.

Again, the biggest question people might have is where is Taylor Hall. He is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL, and is having another great season with the Devils. My conclusion is just that he isn’t in my top 14. There will always be players that wont make this team that should’ve, and players that did that maybe shouldn’t have.

But honestly I think that’s what makes our country so good. Every four year this is the most fun debate to have amongst family and friends. Sadly we don’t have the opportunity this year, but maybe we will in 2022. One thing is for sure though. I’ll still follow this team like a hawk and cheer on the red and white as they go for gold. So best of luck to the great stories and players in Pyeongchang. Go Canada go.