Hockey

Radio-Canada Sports - Tuesday Nov. 12, 2013 17:28 ET

Olympic power rankings of 30 Canadian NHL skaters: Week 6

The Kid's influence: Does Chris Kunitz belong on Team Canada?

crosby-kunitz-getty-rankings-8110820
Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz have great chemistry in Pittsburgh. They could work well together in Sochi too. (Bruce Bennett/Getty)

In Week 6 of our Olympic hockey power rankings, Radio-Canada’s Guillaume Lefrançois ranks 30 Canadian skaters according to their performance over the past seven days. Each week, Lefrançois and Tim Wharnsby of CBC Sports also debate one player in greater detail.

This week: Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

GL: If you want to kick-start a good hockey debate, throw Chris Kunitz and Sochi in the same sentence and enjoy the show.

You can certainly argue that Kunitz wouldn’t put up such amazing numbers if he wasn’t paired with Crosby. But do we really need to find an explanation as to why he’s become a point-per-game forward over the last two years?

The chemistry is there with Crosby, the production is there, so why not give your best forward a bit of familiarity? In a short tournament, chemistry is crucial.

TW: I like Kunitz, too, and I don’t have a problem with him playing the left wing on a line with Crosby. The Regina native, however, doesn't have experience on the big ice. His lone international experience was at the 2008 world championship, which was played in Quebec City and Halifax.

I find chemistry is overrated in events like this. The familiarity helps at the beginning, but as the tournament goes on everybody else catches up. Want proof? Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley were good for Canada in the early games in Vancouver, but played more of a fourth-line role in the end.

I still would rather see the left-shooting Crosby on a line with a healthy Steven Stamkos on the right wing and Matt Duchene on the left side. But now that Stamkos is questionable after breaking his right leg on Monday afternoon, maybe that opens the door for Kunitz.

GL: A Duchene-Crosby-Stamkos line looks like a very efficient one, and should Canada struggle to generate offence, it would be logical to put those three together. But I still think Kunitz should get a crack at playing with his close ally from the get-go.

Also, his Stanley Cup experience is valuable. Two-time Stanley Cup champions just don’t grow on trees. In fact, he’s the only non-Blackhawks player with two rings among Team Canada’s hopefuls. For all those reasons, Ryan Getzlaf shouldn’t be the lone Saskatchewan player on this team.

(Note: Starting this week, we're separating the forwards and defencemen. For this week only, you'll notice the "previous ranking" is based on our old format. We made editorial decisions on whether the player received an "up" arrow, "down" arrow or no arrow at all.)

Forwards
1. Sidney Crosby

Key Stat: Has not scored in his past 7 games
Guillaume says: Despite his recent slump, we can't see him anywhere else but on top of this list.
Previous ranking: 1
2. Jonathan Toews

Key stat: 69% in the faceoff circle this week
Guillaume says: Another example of how versatile he is.
Previous ranking: 5
3. Corey Perry

Key stat: 6 points and a rating of +6 in 4 games
Guillaume says: His +14 differential is the best among the forwards competing for a spot on Team Canada.
Previous ranking: 6
  4. John Tavares

Key stat: 5 points in 4 games this week, but 4 losses
Guillaume says: Disappointing performance at even strength on Sunday in Montreal.
Previous ranking: 4
5. Matt Duchene

Key stat: 6 points in 3 games for this 22-year-old
Guillaume says: He's keeping up his crazy pace of more than 1 point per game.
Previous ranking: 7
  6. Patrice Bergeron

Key stat: 2 goals, 1 of which on an empty net, in an important game against the Leafs
Guillaume says: When the stakes are high, he always delivers.
Previous ranking: 6
7. Ryan Getzlaf

Key stat: 6 points in his last 2 games before getting injured
Guillaume says: This season, he can already boast 3 games of 3 or more points.
Previous ranking: 11
  8. Logan Couture

Key stat: Only 1 point only this week, despite having played 3 games
Guillaume says: Just like his team, he has slowed down since the end of October.
Previous ranking: 17
  9. Eric Staal

Key stat: His Tuesday assist got him his only point in the past 7 games
Guillaume says: He's at the heart of the Hurricanes' offensive struggles.
Previous ranking: 14
  10. Martin St. Louis

Key stat: Held pointless in last 2 outings
Guillaume says: At least his team wins.
Previous ranking: 18
11. Claude Giroux

Key stat: Finally got his 1st goal this season, in his 16th game
Guillaume says: His -9 rating doesn't reflect well on him.
Previous ranking: 19
12. Jason Spezza

Key stat: 2 assists in 3 games
Guillaume says: He had a slow week.
Previous ranking: 19
13. Taylor Hall

Key stat: 4 points in 3 games since coming back
Guilluame says: A spot as 13th forward for this young prodigy?
Previous ranking: 29
14. Mike Richards

Key stat: 5 points in 2 games this week, for a total of 8 points in the last 4 games
Guillaume says: He's on fire.
Previous ranking: 24
15. Patrick Sharp

Key stat: Pointless in last 4 outings
Guillaume says: If he were from another country, his spot in Sochi would be a no-brainer.
Previous ranking: N/A
  16. Joe Thornton

Key stat: 4-straight games with at least 1 point
Guillaume says: Has played more than 20 min in each of his 4 outings this week.
Previous ranking: 22
  17. Joffrey Lupul

Key stat: Only 1 goal, despite 14 shots this week
Guillaume says: He will have to stand out more if he wants be part of this.
Previous ranking: 25
  18. Tyler Seguin

Key stat: Only 1 goal in 3 games this week
Guillaume says: He has to work harder if he wants to beat some of the other forwards.
Previous ranking: 27
19. Rick Nash

Key stat: Has yet to come back since his concussion
Guillaume says: At least he's started skating again.
Previous ranking: 30
20. Steven Stamkos

Key stat: Suffered a broken right tibia Monday afternoon against Boston
Guillaume says: It's unclear how long the NHL's top goal scorer will be out of the lineup.
Previous ranking: 2
Defencemen
1. Shea Weber

Key Stat: A rating of -7 this week
Guillaume says: His plus-minus raiting is suffering from the absence of goalie Pekka Rinne.
Previous ranking: 3
2. Duncan Keith

Key stat: Scored in 4-straight games
Guillaume says: Perfect week for the Blackhawks, and he had a lot to do with it.
Previous ranking: 8
3. Drew Doughty

Key stat: Has played for more than 30 min for the 2nd time this season, last Tuesday in Montreal
Guillaume says: Has finished with a minus rating only once in his last 10 games.
Previous ranking: 10
  4. Alex Pietrangelo

Key stat: Scored key goals in two wins
Guillaume says: A young player whose spot on the team seems basically guaranteed.
Previous ranking: 13
  5.Marc-Édouard Vlasic

Key stat: -1 this week despite the fact his team scored 14 goals
Guillaume says: He's reliable and he plays from the left: two arguments in his favour.
Previous ranking: 16
  6. P.K. Subban

Key stat: 3 more points, he remains No. 1 for points among Canadian NHL defencemen
Guillaume says: His goal scoring will be counted on in Sochi.
Previous ranking: 12
7. Jay Bouwmeester

Key stat: Another assist this week, for a total of 10 in 15 games
Guillaume says: Forms an efficient duo with Pietrangelo, which is an argument in his favour.
Previous ranking: 26
  8. Brent Seabrook

Key stat: 3 assists and a rating of +4 despite less ice time this week
Guillaume says: He's dependable but he's on the right side. Will this play against his odds?
Previous ranking:15
  9. Kris Letang

Key stat: 29 min on the ice on Saturday. He's back to his last-season self
Guillaume says: It seems that he and Subban are fighting for the same spot.
Previous ranking: 20
10. Dan Boyle

Key stat: 4 goals in 10 games for the most senior player of the group
Dan says: There are plenty of youngsters competing for this spot.
Previous ranking: N/A
Out of the Top 30 this week: Milan Lucic, Mike Green

 

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