Like any good ol’ Canadian boy, I am incredibly excited for Canada to take to the world stage in Vancouver’s GM place to show the world who dominates at hockey. But with the taste of Turin’s 7th place finish still lingering in many players’ mouths, it’s hard to say definitely that Canada has a team that could put every other on ice this time around. While the 23-person roster (found on www.hockeycanada.ca) is a showcase of some of the greats in the game, there are still five major flaws that this team has to smooth over if they want to think about kissing gold.
1. The Ghosts of Power Plays Past
One of the biggest problems with the 2006 teams was the fact that their power plays failed to convert at key times. Looking around the league, there are strong power play quarterbacks that can make the man advantage really tilt in their favour. Chara, Markov, Streit, Gonchar, Kaberle are all people that can make people really feel the burn of killing off penalties. Combine that with the smart forwards that can pick apart a goalie and you have a vital unit. Unfortunately, these elite quarterbacks mentioned are all non-Canadian and all of the elite Canadian snipers did not get picked. Don’t get me wrong, Drew Doughty is lighting it up, and Weber is one of my favourite people to see on the PP, there is just a fair bit of talent that got overlooked.
2. The Ghosts of Mike Green
Speaking of looking to recoup from a bad power play, wouldn’t they look to the defenseman with the most power play points, and the most points for any defensemen? Mike Green has made a killing feeding talented stars on the man advantage, or even strength. Sporting a nice and large +22, it looks like Green seems to know how to get the puck away from our net and into the opponents. Put him with a group of talented forwards, and magic will happen. But, unfortunately, he’ll have to hope for an injury.
3. We Lack the European Touch
Well isn’t that obvious; a group of Canadians are weak at playing the European game. The NHL is much more bump-and-grind than international hockey, where stick handling and sniping dominate over pure physical grit. You know what’s a scary line in international hockey? Put the most electrifying goal scorer on a line with a playmaker with hands that could perform surgery and top that off with the best sniper in the league. I can’t think of something scarier in the international game than Russia’s top line of Ovechkin-Datsyuk-Kovalchuk (sure you could replace Datsyuk with Malkin, but that doesn’t make it any less scary). Canada may boast more well-rounded players, but in the realms of pure talent, they can’t compare in the individual areas like Russia’s lines. And that could hurt.
4. Goalies Win Tournaments.
This has happened many times in playoff hockey, a hot goalie will carry an under talented team much farther than they should have gone, and a cold goalie has made the strongest team bow out early. Brodeur is having an amazing season, and in all respects he is Canada’s number one. But we have to remember that he is no spring chicken. He is doing some unheard of things at his age, cementing his place into record books on a monthly basis; the fact remains that the Olympics is a demanding tournament, one that could cause an older goalie to fold very quickly. While I have faith in Marc-Andre Fleury as a competent crunch-time goaltender, as he’s proved it in the last two playoff runs for Pittsburgh, Luongo has not shown himself as a competent playoff goaltender. It’s hard when someone who has had very little playoff success like Luongo to be expected to carry a team if Brodeur should falter.
5. Crosby is a True Captain
While I have bashed Crosby as a whiny baby many times before, no one can deny the true leader that he is. Taking a team to the cup last year as the youngest captain in history, Crosby can motivate men much older than him and he gets results. The current captain, Neidermayer is captaining a cellar dweller of a team with a terribly unimpressive -17 and an equally unimpressive 30 points on the year. If I had to pick a better captain, I’d probably choose the one that has seen success since the last Olympics.
Go Canada Go!