Team Canada selections a hurtful process
Emotional Steve Yzerman leaves Martin St. Louis off roster
The team is named, but the arguments are just beginning. We know who’s on Team Canada. Now we ask, “are they good enough to win?”
We wonder, will they be able to handle the differences on international ice? (Ken Hitchcock has said the rink in Salt Lake City was measured to be smaller than the full-sized surface.) But there is a good reason to believe.
Why? There is no room for personal agenda here. Hours after Czech selectors took the coach’s son-in-law, an emotional Steve Yzerman answered question after question about omitting the heart and soul of his NHL team.
All the players who attended August’s Olympic camp were contacted, with Team Canada’s general manager taking responsibility for reaching out to those who came closest, yet so far.
Cutting St. Louis hurt Yzerman
And no call was harder than the one placed to his captain, Martin St. Louis.
“I’m hopeful we can get through this and continue,” Yzerman said moments after the selections were announced. “[St. Louis] is a guy who I want to finish his career [in Tampa Bay] and I’m hopeful that somehow we can be fortunate enough to win a Stanley Cup. There’s not much I can say. I can’t apologize. We’ve got to make these decisions.”
St. Louis declined to speak to reporters in Winnipeg, sending word he would meet the media post-game. Who can blame him? There’s no doubt it shook him to the core.
“It was a little emotional when he got the news,” Steven Stamkos said. “It's tough. I don’t know what more you can do or expect from him to be able to make this team. For me it's tough to see Marty as upset as he was. He may not admit it, but he's worked extremely hard to try to get an opportunity to get himself in the mix.”
There’s also no doubt Yzerman stood up for his player as the selection committee closed in on its final roster. But as the team was cemented after midnight Tuesday morning, he didn’t have consensus. He could have overruled, but didn’t.
You can’t wear two hats at once. He chose red, white and black over Tampa Bay blue.
He wasn’t the only one who acquiesced. Edmonton’s President of Hockey Operations, Kevin Lowe, sat through discussions that eliminated his franchise cornerstone, Taylor Hall.
Hall was classy in his comments, talking about the large pool of great players left off.
“It’s a sad day,” his head coach, Dallas Eakins, said.
There will be heated debate, because that’s what we do. Canadians make the best of week-long ice-storm power losses, but tear each other limb-from-limb discussing Rick Nash vs. James Neal.
Possible line combinations
Head coach Mike Babcock wouldn’t discuss his vision for the individual lines and pairings. So, let’s assume players taken from the same team will be together.
Canada might look something like this:
- Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Steven Stamkos
- Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Jeff Carter
- Patrick Marleau-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
- Matt Duchene-John Tavares-Rick Nash
- Jamie Benn-Patrice Bergeron
- Duncan Keith-Drew Doughty
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Shea Weber
- Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
- Dan Hamhuis-P.K. Subban
- Roberto Luongo
- Carey Price
- Mike Smith
Injuries could play role
Injuries could affect all this, and several players were told to be prepared just in case. Any such substitutions will likely depend on the expected role for the injured body.
The Swedes seem formidable. Russia is at home. The Finns have ridiculous goaltending. Everyone wants to beat Canada. And the big ice may be the biggest obstacle of all.
But they put politics aside, making hurtful choices in the process. That’s all you can ask in building the best possible roster.