- Craig Custance
Team Canada claimed gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and it's doubtful it will be considered anything less than the favorite when the 2014 Games begin in Sochi, Russia. Once again, assuming a new NHL collective bargaining agreement permits the league's players to participate in the Olympics, the defending champs will offer up an insanely talented roster. But there could be more turnover than what we will see with Team USA.
On Wednesday, we took a look at a projected American roster. Today we take a look at Team Canada.
2010 Holdover Locks
Comment: This is the best group of forwards in the world. Canada has the size that Team USA lacks and there's no drop-off in skill. Bergeron is one of the best two-way players in the game and it's hard to imagine general manager Steve Yzerman breaking up the fantastic line of Richards, Nash and Toews from the 2010 Games. That was arguably the best line in the tournament. Canada also has Crosby, the best player in the world when he's healthy.
Comment: You might be able to pencil Duncan Keith in this group, but he hasn't played consistently at the same level he maintained in 2010. Like the Americans, there's potential for a remake on defense, especially with the departures of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, two invaluable veterans. Doughty quickly earned coach Mike Babcock's trust during his first of many Olympic tournaments.
Goalie: Roberto Luongo, Canucks
Comment: Luongo has a gold medal on his résumé and benefits from a lack of goaltending depth in Canada. He should have a spot on the roster, but it might be as Canada's third goalie.
2010 Players on the Bubble
Goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins
Comment: Getzlaf should have a spot on the team, especially after gutting out an ankle injury to put up seven points in Vancouver. But you can't ignore his drop in production this past season, when he put up just 57 points. The (former) Sharks line of Marleau, Heatley and Thornton had its moments in Vancouver, and Thornton has the strongest case to return to the Olympics from that trio. Only Canada's incredible depth in the middle puts him on the bubble.
2010 Long Shots
Goalie: Martin Brodeur, Devils
Comment: Brodeur just signed a two-year deal with the Devils, which means he'll still be playing in 2014, but he lost his job at the 2010 Olympics to Luongo, and Carey Price's emergence makes Brodeur a long shot.
Defensemen: Chris Pronger, Flyers; Scott Niedermayer, Ducks
With Niedermayer retired and Pronger battling a concussion symptoms, these two spots certainly will be open in 2014 -- not that either player will be easy to replace.
Potential 2014 additions
Forwards: Jason Spezza, Senators; Brad Richards, Rangers; Milan Lucic, Bruins; Danny Briere, Flyers; Evander Kane, Jets; Steven Stamkos, Lightning; Claude Giroux, Flyers; Tyler Seguin, Bruins; Jordan Eberle, Oilers; Jordan Staal, Hurricanes; John Tavares, Islanders; Jamie Benn, Stars; Taylor Hall, Oilers; Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers; Martin St. Louis, Lightning
Comment: Stamkos is in. So is Giroux. The rich get richer, with several young Canadian stars poised to make contributions internationally, including Seguin, Eberle, Tavares, Benn, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. There will be some extremely tough choices up front for Yzerman and the Canadian brain trust.
Comment: Letang and Pietrangelo should have a place waiting in Sochi. Myers, who was born in Texas but grew up in Calgary, has a long future of international hockey waiting for him with Team Canada.
Comment: This is where things get interesting for Team Canada. Team USA, Sweden and Finland all have better goalie pools to choose from. Price is the favorite right now to be the starting goalie in Sochi, although Smith's incredible season in Phoenix puts him firmly in the mix. Like Team USA, the goalie competition will be one of most compelling battles to watch as the Olympics draw closer.
With the 2012 Summer Games serving as a back drop, Craig Custance starts looking ahead to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia, projecting what a possible Canadian roster might look like given an influx of young talent.