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"How Bad Could It Be?" - A Great Big Long Look at Team Canada 2018
If you're a Team Canada fan, I'm sure you had the same reaction I did when the NHL stonewalled the idea of top-tier pro players in the next Olympics - a feeling of dread, some minor chest pains, and a couple of stray tears. After hearing the news, I had one big question – how bad could it be? Would Canada get crushed? Would every team be affected equally by the NHL block? Will I wind up drinking myself to death next February? I did some research and made my conclusion – it's not going to be as bad as you may think. To back that up, I made a detailed list of players who may possibly don the maple leaf at next year's Olympics. It isn't easy to make a new national team from scratch. You can't just take a roster from the Spengler or Deutschland Cup tournaments and call it a day. Those rosters are usually just picking players from one or two European leagues at a time – they aren't the best we can do. I'll admit, the talent pool for Canada is pretty shallow once you get out of the NHL. Most of Canada's elite players are under contract with NHL teams, leaving them ineligible to play (there's no word yet if players on NHL contracts playing with farm teams or in junior can play, but that would create one hell of a mess. We're going to assume here that any player with an active NHL contract, whether it's entry-level, two-way or whatever, will be ineligible.) So let's make a trip to the Island of Misfit Toys, and see what Canada has to work with. Before we go over the possible choices, here's some extra context for the Not-Quite-Ready-For-Prime-Time Skaters. The last time Canada was unable to bring NHLers to an Olympics was the 1994 games, held in Lillehammer, Norway. Canada boasted players such as Paul Kariya, who was still a freshman with the Univ. of Maine, and Petr Nedved, who was out of the bigs in the midst of a contract dispute. The bulk of the roster was made of AHL/NHL tweeners and junior players who hadn't yet made their mark on the hockey world. Players like Todd Hlushko and Chris Kontos played big minutes, and Corey Hirsch played every minute of the tourney in net. Nonetheless, Canada made it to the gold medal game, losing to Sweden in the shootout when the world met a kid named Peter Forsberg. There's a precedent for a cobbled-together team of scraps winning a medal. Here's some quick info on the likely makeup of the 2018 team.
Some players will be top prospects who aren't in the NHL just yet. Some players will be from the minor leagues, playing on AHL contracts. Others will be in Europe, suiting up in Russia, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Switzerland. A couple of possible players could be found from the NCAA. This roster will be older than the one in Lillehammer, mostly because it relies on minor-leaguers and European pros more than can't-miss prospects.
The tournament will be played on international-sized ice, giving players experienced with big ice hockey an advantage toward making the team. Also, the surface gives smaller, faster and more skilled players a significant edge over bigger, stronger but slower players.
Hockey Canada tends to lean on players who have represented them in the past, either at World Championships, World Juniors, or smaller events. Experience and good performances with the maple leaf will do wonders for a player's chances.
In the past, Team Canada had to lean on players who were on extended contract holdouts. Nedved in Lillehammer was a prime example. While we haven't seen a good old-fashioned season-long holdout for a long time, the run-up to the Olympics is different. It's possible that some free agents will either sign overseas or with an AHL team as a way to make themselves available for the squad.
As an alternative, Hockey Canada organised an official exhibition team of players in the past who train together and play exhibition games during Olympic years. It's unclear if that type of program will be brought back in time for PyeongChang – after all, the NHL announcement didn't leave anyone with a lot of time. However, bringing back this program and providing a small stipend for interested players could attract higher-quality free agents and give some lesser-known hopeful high-end training and resources.
Allowing non-NHL players with NHL contracts to play would greatly improve Canada's chances, but this roster is made with the assumption that they would be blocked from playing. As a chaser, I'll provide a list at the end of players who will become free agents this summer who could be sniped for this team. I'll also provide a short list of players who have supported, either to the press, to teammates, through Twitter or whatever, the idea of playing in PyeongChang, despite league rules.
Let's start with the forwards.
Brandon Kozun Will be 27 5'8, 172 Los Angeles, CA (moved to Calgary as a kid) Lokomotiv (KHL) Barring any changes, Kozun will be a crucial part of the Canadian team. He never got his due in the NHL, getting four points in 20 games in bottom-six minutes with a bad Leafs team. His small stature was always going to hold him back in the show. Since leaving to the KHL's larger ice surfaces, he's taken off. 49 points in 58 games last season, 56 in 59 this year, with point-per-game playoff performances. The kid's got game, and a guaranteed KHL contract next season, getting rid of any potential NHL complications. To make things sweeter, Kozun's been money every time he's ever worn a Team Canada sweater, getting 7 points in 6 World Junior games and adding two assists at this year's Deutschland Cup. Jason Akeson Will be 27 5'10, 185 Orleans, ON Binghamton (AHL) Akeson is fast as hell. He's got terrific playmaking skills, and his defensive coverage is okay. The main reason he's never been able to stick in the NHL is simple: he's 5'10, 185, and not strong on the puck. Three big concerns, though: he's never been able to produce in the NHL, scoring only one goal in 15 games; he's never played for Canada before; and he faired poorly in his lone big-size outing, getting only 5 points in 17 games in a KHL stint. He's coming off a barnburner of a year with the Binghamton Sens on an AHL deal, where he's nearly hit a point-per-game. While his performance has been great, he's vulnerable for what I'm going to call a “deal and steal” - he may be offered an NHL deal and accept, therefore making him ineligible for the Games. Mason Raymond Will be 32 6'1, 179 Cochrane, AB Unsigned Hockey fans always knew he had speed to burn. Had offensive upside, too, with two NHL seasons of 40+ points. Not the toughest or strongest player, but given open space, he could be important. Has Spengler Cup and Word Championship experience. Raymond will be a wildcard – he hasn't played professional hockey this season, choosing instead to take care of his wife, who's been suffering from Lyme disease. Personal matters aside, he is clear to play, contract-wise and his skill set could benefit the team if he isn't rusty. Dan Paille Will be 33 6'0, 196 Welland, ON Brynas (SHL) Paille is long past his best-before date, granted. But the former World Junior Captain and Spengler Cup champ can still pull his weight in a bottom-six role. Paille took his game to Sweden this year, where he helped push a stalling Brynas squad into the playoffs. Paille's calling card is his work ethic and energy level, and he still has decent speed. He will fill a leadership role with the team, if selected, possibly serving either as captain or an assistant. To make things slightly better, he plays his best hockey under pressure, winning a Stanley Cup, an OHL title and two World Junior medals to go with the Spengler Cup title. Jordan Szwarz Will be 26 5'11, 201 Burlington, ON Providence (AHL) Szwarz has no Team Canada experience on any level and has never played for a full season on big ice. He has won no major awards and hasn't impressed on an NHL level – 4 goals and no assists in 35 games. So, why is he on the list? Simple – he's scored the most points of any Canadian on an AHL contract this season under age 30, getting 52 points in 60 games. His contract is up this summer, however, and his high level of play could mean a deal and steal. Gilbert Brule Will be 31 5'11, 187 Nizhnekamsk (KHL) It's probably been a looooong time since you've read that name. Yes, I assure you I'm serious. First of all, Gilbert Brule is alive. Secondly, he's actually been pretty good in Russia. He finished this season with 32 points in 37 games with Nizhnekamsk, after getting 10 points in 16 games with Zagreb. Most importantly, he's already got a contract for next year with the team, keeping him eligible. He's still got some energy, speed and offensive touch – whether he can stay healthy, though, is the biggest question. Max Talbot Will turn 34 during Games 5'11, 181 Lemoyne, QC Lokomotiv (KHL) Talbot was the captain of this year's Canadian team at the Deutschland Cup, which is not nothing. Since he left the NHL last year, Talbot has found a home along Brandon Kozun with Loko, with 36 points this year. Talbot has taken on more of a leadership role with Loko and the Deutschland Cup team, and if he's picked, he'll likely do the same in Korea. Talbot has experience with big ice, having played in Finland during the last lockout and playing this season in Russia. He's also played for Canada before, both at the U17s and World Juniors. Oh, and he's got a Cup-winning goal. Justin Azevedo Will be 29 5'7, 174 West Lorne, ON Kazan (KHL) Azevedo is living proof that good things can come in small packages. The former CHL player of the year has been in Europe for five years now, spending most of that time with Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL. While his offensive output decreased this year, his compete level hasn't. He can thread the needle with a good pass and possesses an incredible set of hands. He's used to the big ice and played U17 and U18 hockey for Team Canada. He's as close to a lock for this team as we can get. Francis Pare Will be 30 5'10, 190 Lemoyne, QC Geneve-Servette (NLA) Pare won't be in danger of a deal-and-steal; he's already signed Russia for next year. The former KHL All-Star, Gagarin Cup champion, QMJHL MVP and Calder Cup winner grew up in the same town as Max Talbot, and now has a chance to play with him again. Pare was on this year's winning Canadian team at the Spengler Cup. Pare can play all three forward positions, and can protect the puck quite well, despite his size. Curtis Valk Will turn 25 during Games 5'9, 170 Medicine Hat, AB Utica (AHL) Valk is another small dynamo. He's had a good year with Utica, going 69-16-28-44 this year on an AHL contract. Potential deal-and-steal aside, he's a dark horse pick for two reasons – he's never played for Canada and ever set foot on European ice. That being said, he's versatile, able to fit anywhere on the top four lines and can find the net. Wojtek Wolski Will turn 32 during Games 6'3, 220 Zabrze, POL (grew up in Toronto) Magnitogorsk (KHL) Wolski is a rare quantity – a big forward who's proven to be useful on big ice. He's spent four years in Siberia, literally, putting up better point totals each year until this season. Then, things changed. Wolski broke his neck in an ugly head-first collision with the boards early in the year, wiping him out for the season. He hasn't played since. If he's healthy, his knowledge of big ice play and his incredible individual skill will be useful, as well as his size and surprising toughness. If he can't suit up, Canada will need to hunt hard for a similar player. Luke Adam Will be 27 6'2, 207 St. John's, NL Mannheim (DEL) A poor man's Wojtek Wolski, Adam is adapting well to the European game. He spent his first year on big ice with the German league's Adler Mannheim, where he put up good offensive numbers. Adam was dominant at the World Juniors for Canada seven years ago, with 8 points in 6 games, but never got it going long-term in the NHL. He's under contract for another two seasons. Andrew Ebbett Will be 35 5'9, 176 Vernon, BC Bern (NLA) This is a bit of a reach, but hey – this whole team is a bit of a reach. Ebbett is doing fine in Switzerland with a good team but is getting up there in age. He's a jack of all trades, but master of none. His main attraction is how he played at this year's Spengler Cup. Wearing the maple leaf for the first time, Ebbett tore ass in Davos, scoring 8 points in 5 games. Don't count him out – pencil him in for a depth spot. Matt Ellison Will be 34 5'11, 231 Duncan, BC Minsk (KHL) Two-way player with tonnes of European and big ice experience. He's been in Europe since 2008, playing in the KHL and NLA. Ellison is a Swiss Army Knife on skates, playing all three forward spots and shifting his game to what is required. He's even got some offensive upside, flirting with point-per-game numbers for the past three years in the K. Bud Holloway Will be 29 6'0, 214 Wapella, SK Skelleftea (SHL) I want to see him make it, just so Canada can be represented by someone named Bud. Bud signed a deal with Montreal in 2015, hoping for an NHL shot after tearing apart Europe for four years. He didn't stick, but led his AHL team with 61 points, then left for the K before going back to Sweden. Holloway has played 16 games for Canada and has won two Swedish titles. He's got some size, strength, and can lead a team into battle if needed. He could be a great tool for Team Canada. Derek Roy Will be 34 5'9, 187 Ottawa, ON Chelyabinsk (KHL) Two seasons removed from being an NHL 30-point scorer and a decade from his point-per-game peak, Roy will not be – or at least, should not be – relied on as an offensive threat. His main purpose would be as an experienced leader. Roy played at the World Juniors, World Championship, Spengler and Deutschland Cup, and has done well in each. His current play isn't encouraging. He's coming off a KHL season where he scored only 22 points in 65 games. Even by our new, much lower standards, that still sucks. Rob Klinkhammer Will be 31 6'3, 214 Lethbridge, AB Minsk (KHL) Klinkhammer has made a good niche for himself in the K as a power forward, finishing with 38 points and 65 penalty minutes. Nobody's ever going to mistake Klink for a top-flight sniper, but he will certainly be useful in a bottom six role. He's deceptively fast for his size, possesses good hockey IQ and can use his size to win crucial corner battles. His biggest hurdle: he's never played a second for Team Canada at any level. For a player with his skill set, that's not surprising, but it might be enough to keep him off the ice in PyeongChang. Nick Petersen Will be 28 6'3, 196 Wakefield, QC Berlin (DEL) Five years in Germany have treated Petersen pretty well. A larger player, he can play a strong puck-possession game and his skating isn't bad. He's strong in front of the net. All these things could help him make the final squad – especially since there don't seem to be a lot of players Petersen's size in contention. Kevin Clark will be 30 5'9, 172 Winnipeg, MB Brynas (SHL) He's scrappy, and fast as hell and can find the net quick. The biggest knock on Clark is his size. Even on this team, which will likely be shorter than average, Clark is basically fun-sized. His Spengler and Deutschland Cup experience and four full seasons abroad will be important for his bid for ice-time. That's 19 players. I don't know who will be named, but given the state of affairs, I'd expect most of them to be on Team Canada in PyeongChang. There are some other options at forward, including CHL stars who haven't signed contracts with the teams that drafted them. WHL scoring whiz Adam Brooks hasn't signed with the Leafs yet, and Erie Otter set-up man extraordinaire Taylor Raddysh hasn't yet hooked up with Tampa. Despite being picked last summer by Florida and Buffalo, Adam Mascherin and Cliff Pu also haven't signed. If none of the four signs a deal before next February, they're all good to go. Draft-eligible players like Nolan Patrick, Gabe Vilardi, Owen Tippett, Nick Suzuki and Mike Rasmussen could also join in. However, I wouldn't bet on most of them hitting the ice in Korea – no team will wait until late February to sign a lottery pick, after all. I've got my eye on two NCAA players, too. Union Dutchman Spencer Foo will be heading into his senior year, while Dylan Sikura will do the same with Northeastern. Foo led all Canadian college players with 62 points in 38 games (yes, you read that right) while Sikura ended with 57 points in 38 games. Foo is undrafted - the Hawks snagged Sikura with a late pick in 2014. Since both are active college players, neither has an NHL contract. So that's the forward corps. Let's move back, shall we?
Marc-Andre Gragnani Will be 30 6'3, 205 L'Ile-Bizard, QC Minsk (KHL) Gragnani will likely be the defensive anchor for this team. He's played at the U18 level and at the World Championships for Team Canada and has three seasons of big-ice play under his belt. Excellent on the powerplay when given space, which he will have in abundance. Has decent speed, terrific passing skills, and isn't afraid to use his size when needed. Chris Lee Will be 37 5'11, 185 MacTier, ON Magnitogorsk (KHL) On the surface, Lee is everything you're always taught to avoid in a defenseman. He's small, not very physical, and can sometimes make mistakes in his own end. He's poised to be one of the team's oldest players, too. So what's the biggest thing about Lee? Offense. He's 100% pure, unbridled power-play energy, and has two Gagarin Cups to show for it. Lee's been a hockey journeyman since his college days, but scored more than a point-per-game as a defenseman on a KHL club that could challenge a few NHL sides. He's played in two Deutschland Cups, giving him a small, but not ignorable, amount of experience. Ryan O'Connor Will be 26 5'11, 192 Hamilton, ON HIFK (FIN) Another smaller defender, O'Connor has four years of European play under his belt and is a key figure on one of Finland's top teams. He has a solid two-way game and some U18 Team Canada experience. Unlike Lee, O'Connor is a good hitter and can defend himself against bigger players if needed. One wildcard issue comes up in his past, however – O'Connor was once suspended in junior for a doping offence. While that was long ago and he's long since paid his debt, it may be a red flag to those picking the team, especially under strict IOC doping standards. Colby Robak Will be 27 6'3, 194 Gilbert Plains, MB Utica (AHL) Robak is currently on an AHL deal with the Canucks' farm team in Utica. While he hasn't impressed in limited NHL time, the defensive-minded Robak has had a good year with Utica, with 25 points in 58 games at the time I wrote this. The deal-and-steal issue is up in the air. He played for Canada's U18 team but has little experience with big ice and his footspeed might be a problem. Jonathon Sigalet Will be 32 6'1, 203 Vancouver, BC Frolunda (SHL) Great skater with good size, a good physical player, and decent at both power plays and penalty killing. Sigalet spent this year with Frolunda in Sweden, where he's still in the thick of a playoff hunt. He played with the U18 Canada program in 2004 but only made his second appearance this season at the Deutschland Cup. Sigalet did okay, finishing with two points in three games, but his defensive play caught the eye of national team Svengali and former Olympic coach Dave King. King knows talent when he sees it – expect this guy to be in the mix. Geoff Kinrade Will be 32 6'0, 185 Nelson, BC Nizhnekamsk (KHL) Seven-year European veteran Kinrade knows how to play big-ice defence. It's as simple as that. Another of King's favourite sons, Kinrade managed to help out some pretty bad teams in Zagreb before getting his due with better KHL squads. Kinrade has Spengler and Deutschland Cup experience, which will prove valuable. Kinrade's skating, passing, two-way game and physical play will be his biggest calling cards. Mark Katic Will be 28 5'10, 181 Timmins, ON Skelleftea (SHL) Katic will be one of the top skaters on a team full of good skaters. That will be his way in, along with being able to play well both on the power-play and penalty kill. Katic is one of those mythical talents who just never got the call – after an incredible offensive season in the AHL as a 22-year-old, Katic missed most of the next year hurt before bolting for Europe. A former Canada U17 and U18 player, Katic also has Spengler and Deutschland experience, as well as five good years in Europe. Andre Benoit Will be 34 5'11, 192 St. Albert, ON Malmo (SHL) Benoit is another small, smooth-skating offensive defender. What sets him apart from the others is that he's been able to produce in the NHL. Benoit pumped in 28 points in bottom-four minutes on a below-average Avs team three years ago, but a bad run in Buffalo and getting stuck in St. Louis sent him back to Europe. Chay Genoway Will be 31 5'9, 176 Morden, MB Jokerit (KHL) I know, another small defenseman on the wrong side of 30 – stop me if you've heard this before. Genoway will be stuck in the pack, much like Benoit and the others, with his spot depending on his own performance in the run-up to the event. Genoway's earned rave reviews from Dave King, however, which could be big for him making the final team. Mat Robinson Will be 31 5'9, 185 Calgary, AB Dynamo Moscow (KHL) Last little guy, I swear. Robinson will be one of the best options out of the Lollipop Guild logjam that's forming on the Team Canada defence. Robinson is a two-time KHL All-Star who runs one of the league's top power-play units. He doesn't make many mistakes defensively. He'll be an interesting figure to watch. Stefan Elliott Will be 27 6'1, 190 Vancouver, BC Kazan (KHL) Holy crap, a defenseman who's taller than six feet? AND he doesn't completely stink? Well, don't ask too much. He's an okay two-way option, but hasn't played well for Canada in the past and hasn't adapted well to the big ice. If he makes the team, expect him to be on the bottom pair. Dante Fabbro Will be 19 6'1, 192 New Westminster, BC Boston U (NCAA) Here's a wildcard who could legitimately earn a spot. Fabbro tore up the college ranks and had a strong World Junior performance this year. He's still eligible for this year's World Juniors but may find himself on the biggest stage. He's got few weak points in his game, including his skating, shot, and in-zone defence. The deal-and-steal problem exists, though. If he signs with Nashville this summer, he's out, and Canada will have to look elsewhere for a young D talent. Shawn Lalonde Will be 27 6'1, 205 Orleans, ON Koln (DEL) One key thing held Lalonde back from the NHL – he was a Blackhawks defensive prospect at a time where making Chicago's roster was tougher than walking across the Atlantic. Five years later, Lalonde has become one of Europe's top defenders. He's topped 30 points in every season he's played in Germany, and usually tops 100 penalty minutes. Lalonde has played four games in his career for Team Canada, each as a teenager at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. He can fit anywhere in the defensive scheme for the team, which will be very, very valuable. Cam Barker Will be 31 6'3, 218 Winnipeg, MB Astana (KHL) Just hear me out, okay? Barker's experience with Team Canada is more extensive than most people on this list, having played 18 games for the team at various levels. He's done rather well since leaving for the KHL. He can play physically and can play solid offence. Two problems will follow him, though – his less-than-stellar speed and his occasionally sloppy defensive play. Top prospects Callan Foote, Nic Hague, and Junior A prodigy Cale Makar could all stand a legitimate chance of making the final squad, especially the first two, who can adapt to shutdown roles. Makar, another undersized offensive defenseman, stands less of a chance than the others, but shouldn't be ruled out.
Ben Scrivens Will be 31 6'2, 181 Spruce Grove, AB Minsk (KHL) Not the best goalie in the world, but on this limited list, he's a damn fine option. Scrivens fared well as a Team Canada netminder at the 2014 Worlds and is coming off a strong season in the crease for KHL side Dinamo Minsk. The main issue with Scrivens, obviously, is consistency. On any given night, one of two Scrivens' can show up: either the one who can steal you a game and make 50+ saves, or the one who lets in goals from the red line. He's a high-risk, high-reward proposition. Danny Taylor Will be 31 6'0, 198 Plymouth, GBR (grew up in Ontario) Novosibirsk (KHL) Taylor, much like several of the other players on this list, has put up good numbers everywhere he's played – OHL, ECHL, AHL, DEL, SHL, and now the KHL – but never broke through. He played his first Team Canada hockey at this year's Deutschland Cup. He's also coming off an incredible season in the KHL, where he finished with a .936 SV% over the full season. He's got a terrific butterfly and glove and moves quickly around the crease. Barry Brust Will be 34 6'2, 227 Swan River, MB Slovan (KHL) There really isn't a goalie around quite like Batshit Barry. He's an old-school guy who plays on reflex, great puck-handling and high-risk moves, and isn't afraid of some fisticuffs. Think a poor man's Hasek with Ron Hextall's mean streak. He'd be very fun to watch, but could easily become a liability for the team. He's only played for Canada once, at this year's Deutschland Cup, where he didn't do well. Tanner Jaillet Will be 24 5'11, 174 Red Deer, AB Univ. of Denver (NCAA) This one's off the board, but an interesting choice. He's young, he's small, but he gets results. The former Fort McMurray Oil Baron goalie is finishing up his junior year with the Denver Pioneers, where he stoned the whole country cold, giving up less than two goals per game and winning the NCHC goalie of the year award. He's also been a key part of getting his team to the Frozen Four, Kevin Poulin Will be 27 6'2, 205 Montreal, QC Astana (KHL) Poulin started the year playing semi-pro in Quebec but spent the rest of the season with the KHL's lone Kazakh team. Poulin is one of the youngest legitimate options on the table, but he's never played for Canada and had a fairly lousy season. His experience with big ice is negligible, and his NHL experience hasn't been great. Chet Pickard Will be 28 6'2, 216 Winnipeg, MB Iserlohn (DEL) A former World Junior and first-round flameout, Pickard has found order in the German League. Pickard first headed to Europe after a disastrous season in the ECHL five years ago and has settled in well. He's a big goalie who uses his frame well. He's not that fast, but his agility problems are offset by terrific position. He may have an outside shot at the gig, depending on his performance next season. Leland Irving Will be 29 6'0, 176 Barrhead, AB KooKoo (FIN) Irving suited up this season for a team with one of the best names in hockey. Irving was briefly the 'next great hope' for Canadian goaltending, backstopping Team Canada both at the World Juniors and the Canada-Russia Super Series (not so super if you're Russian, as it turned out). Irving never stuck in the NHL, but he may be able to use his solid positional game to earn a spot on the squad – if he can focus and give up fewer timely goals. Now, I can understand if you read all that and thought, “Dear God... this is awful.” First off, it actually isn't as bad as you think. Secondly, if NHL help is needed, there have been some players who have intimated that they'd be willing to go.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Mark Scheifele, Kris Letang and Carey Price have all come out in support of playing in PyeongChang and future Olympics. None have explicitly said they would break league rules to play – they'd be foolish to do that – but if there's a possible way to smuggle them out, Hockey Canada will find it. In addition to these four possible insurgents, there are multiple players whose contracts run out this year who may be willing to make a move.
Joe Thornton and Chris Kunitz both have Olympic golds from Sochi, and each is getting up there in age. Despite a great year, Kris Versteeg isn't guaranteed an NHL contract next year. Daniel Winnik and Mike Ribeiro are both serviceable vets who will look for work, while Curtis McElhinney could become a candidate in the crease. In addition to those guys, Jonathon Drouin, Scott Laughton and Gabriel Bourque all have expiring deals, and while they'll likely be re-signed or joining an NHL team, you never know.
I don't pretend to know who Hockey Canada is looking at for the next Olympic team. All I know is that these are likely the best guys to fill that void, in absences of NHL players. I don't think it'll be the end of the world - in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Canada got onto the podium with a roster like this. Keep in mind, the NHL block will hurt countries like the US, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Germany just as much as Canada. Besides, the thought of seeing players who would not be able to play for their countries under normal circumstances could make for very entertaining play. So, to answer the question I asked myself waaaaay up there at the top - you know, "how bad could it be?" The short answer is it'll be alright. You just read the long answer.
Sri Lanka's limited overs record over the last 12 years and the Windies' two unlikely triumphs
Every Sri Lankan who watched last Sunday's final would have been thinking that their team must be paying for sins of a past life. In their head, they must have reasoned that losing 4 on the trot was far too many and surely would not occur. Alas, but to the great delight of this jovial set of calypso islanders, Sri Lanka's dream was not realised. Since their 1996 World Cup victory, Sri Lanka have acquired a reputation as a lively, exciting and combative limited overs side, capable of competing on an even keel with the very best. In the last 12 years, they have qualified for 17 finals and 2 semifinals. The appearances are as follows: 1) Asia Cup 2000 Final (vs. Pakistan) Host: BAN 2) Singer Triangular 2000 Winner (vs South Africa) Host: SRI 3) ARY Gold Cup 2001 Winner (vs. Pakistan) Host: UAE 4) Morocco Cup 2002 Winner (vs. South Africa) Host: MOROCCO 5) Champions Trophy 2002 Shared Winner(vs India) Host: SRI 6) World Cup 2003 Semi (vs. Australia) Host: SA 7) Asia Cup 2004 Winner (vs. India) Host: SRI 8) Paktel Cup 2004 Winner (vs. Pakistan) Host: PAK 9) Indian Oil Cup 2005 Winner (vs. India) Host: SRI 10)VB Series 2006 Final (vs. Australia) Host: AUS 11)World Cup 2007 Final (vs. Australia) Host: WI 12)Asia Cup 2008 Winner (vs. India) Host: PAK 13)T20 World Cup 2009 Final (vs. Pakistan) Host: ENG 14)Idea Cup 2010 Winner (vs. India) Host: BAN 15)T20 World Cup 2010 Semi (vs. England) Host: WI 16)Asia Cup 2010 Final (vs. India) Host: SRI 17)World Cup 2011 Final (vs. India) Host: IND/SRI/BAN 18)CB Series 2012 Final (vs. Australia) Host: AUS 19)T20 World Cup 2012 Final (vs. AUS/WI) Host: SRI Winners: 8 Runners-up: 9 Semi-Finalist: 2 What can be deduced is that a lot of these tournaments have been held in Asia where Sri Lanka of course thrive and where tournament organisers would hope that Sri Lankan fans would turn up in their numbers. However, exceptional performances in challenging conditions like in South Africa in 2003, England in 2009 and Australia in 2012 must not be ignored. The failure to clear the last hurdle has created an almost psychological block for most Sri Lankan fans. However, the consistency in reaching 4 finals in 4 years must be applauded and Sri Lankan fans will come to appreciate it once the heartache soothes with time. Windies' two unlikely triumphs At exactly the halfway stage of the West Indian innings, you would not have found too many punters lining up at the betting shops and backing the men in maroon. 32-2, 10 overs read the score card. Mathews, Kulesekera and Mendis were asphyxiating an explosive lineup and were controlling the game. The ensuing fireworks from Samuels & co, then, wrestled the game back. It was a comeback that didn't look likely but even at the innings break, Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews opined that the Windies' were 20 runs short. He wasn't fooling anyone, for even Mahela's face etched worry. The momentum was swinging the way of the Caribbean and the dismissal of Dilshan stifled Sri Lanka's run chase. The West Indies playing in a cauldron of cacophonous, raucous Sri Lankan supporters silenced them at regular intervals. The dark horse had ran the race of her life and left the men in blue to assume bridesmaid duties once more. It was a fine feat and one that reminded me of another great West Indies escape act. The 2004 Champions Trophy final too, was played between the host nation and the West Indies. After having restricted England to a modest 217 (courtesy of a Trescothick masterclass 104), the Windies themselves were reduced to 147-8. They were staring down the abyss but somehow stitched together an unlikely 71 run partnership between Courtney Browne (34) and Ian Bradshaw (35). (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz-4rcb8ko8) The miracle was complete with 7 balls to spare. The old adage 'stealing victory from the jaws of defeat' couldn't be more appropriate and though the manner of victory wasn't as similar as in 2004, one can sense that the situations have parallels. On both occasions, the Windies' had to play against the host nation and had to outmatch a very worthy opponent. Thoughts?
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