Here at Pucknology we plan to ramp up our hockey coverage for the 2016-17 season by covering the 2016 World Cup of Hockey with many of our writers dedicated to cover specific teams throughout the tournament. Being the only Canadian in the Pucknology Family I will be covering Team Canada.
The Leadership Group
I don’t think anyone should be overly surprised by the announcements of the players who would be wearing the letters for team Canada. Sidney Crosby was going to be the captain of this team and every team that Canada puts on the ice in international competition where he is available until he hangs up his skates. Jonathan Toews is an alternate captain and probably the only guy on the team that could legitimately challenge Crosby for the captaincy. In fact, after Crosby was named the captain of Team Canada’s 2014 entry to the Sochi Olympics he called the Blackhawks captain to ensure that he was ok with it. The final alternate captain is Shea Weber who until he was traded this summer to the Montreal Canadiens for PK Subban had served as the Nashville Predators captain sometime and has a wealth of experience representing Canada in international tournaments. Yes, you could make arguments for other players to wear letters on the team but I think that the players chosen are solid choices as any.
Team Canada so far has had to make some replacements to the squad that they announced back at the end of May due to injuries. San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture replaced the still recovering Jamie Benn who underwent surgery in the offseason. I want to start this by saying I have nothing but respect for Jamie Benn and his loss to the team is a tough blow to team Canada. That being said the drop off from the Dallas Stars forward to San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture is not as drastic as some writers would have you believe. Although Couture lacks the international experience of some of his peers he is still an excellent two-way forward who is excellent at both ends of the ice. He plays against the top competition the league has to offer and does it quite well and he lead all point scorers in the playoffs. Sure my glasses may be a bit teal tinted here but I think you would have a hard time finding a player that is clear cut better than Couture to take that spot. Couture also does not need to play center as he is also very effective on the wing.
Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith is a far bigger loss to Team Canada and his replacement in Jay Bouwmeester is a touch more puzzling in my opinion we know from previous tournaments that Canada is married to the idea of having a left and right hander on each defense pair which automatically excluded polarizing omission PK Subban. The fact that the general manager of Team Canada Doug Armstrong also serves as the General Manager for the St. Louis Blues can’t be overlooked. While Bouwmeester will not be expected to play the minutes or roles that Duncan Keith was expected to log it is still puzzling when players like Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano would seem to have been the obvious choice for this spot.
It is also fair to note that when asked Bouwmeester generally answers the call when Team Canada calls, he has represented his country on numerous occasions and in far “lesser” tournaments like the World Championships. Team Canada does tend to reward that kind of loyalty but again being a St. Louis Blues player probably didn’t hurt either.
Strong Sharks Presence
Although in international competitions national pride generally reigns over NHL team fandom Team Canada should still be of interest to Sharks fans as it features four Shark players and while I don’t expect all Shark fans to be cheering for Canada I’m sure that they will still be must watch games. Logan Couture joins a team that already consists of defenceman Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and forward Joe Thornton. I expect Vlasic to be a part of Team Canada’s main shut down pair if I had to guess after their chemistry in Sochi don’t be shocked to see him on the top pair with Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty. Burns will likely be in the middle or bottom pair and be expected to quarterback one of Canada’s power play units during the tournament. Joe Thronton will likely not be counted on to play the role he does for the San Jose Sharks expect him to play bottom six minutes as well as get some secondary power-play unit time. Logan Couture is difficult to pin down where one can expect him to enter the roster because of his versatility. He could be a 3rd line center or even top-six winger who can penalty kill and power play of needed.