Anyone with any sports sense at all knows the Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team for Sochi was announced today.
They’re also likely upset about a player left off the roster or happy that someone made the team that was on the bubble, but either way it all really doesn’t matter because it’s picked and throwing a fit won’t change Hockey Canada’s mind.
Multiple sports outlets and reporters drew up ‘B’ teams for the Sochi Games, showing the depth that Canada has and could send to the Olympics. Well if that’s the case, executive director Steve Yzerman and Team Canada’s management staff had a deep pool to draw from. That means they were looking for top talent that will work well together, not necessarily the 25 best individual players. There is a difference.
Chris Kunitz was one of the notable selections on the Canadian roster, but more for the fact that people couldn’t believe it. Many said that it was only because he plays with Sidney Crosby that he was selected. He’s sixth in the NHL in scoring with 23 goals and 24 assists for 47 points, so why the surprise from so many Canadians?
His stats are good, but National Post reporter Bruce Arthur likely summed it up best with stats showing the difference Kunitz makes.
A Tweet from two days ago by Arthur showed that from 2011-13 Pittsburgh scored 1.86 goals per 20 minutes with Kunitz and Crosby on together, while Kunitz without Crosby was 1.087 goals.
You’re all jumping up and down saying we definitely need Kunitz when you see those numbers right?
Well, the end of the Tweet showed Crosby without Kunitz was 1.85 goals per 20 minutes. So how much do we need him? He’s likely not a necessity, but he was selected, so we’re moving on.
That leads me to possibly the only player I was truly upset about not making the team. To clarify I didn’t think it was the end of the world or democracy in Canada when he wasn’t named, just thought he would be better than Kunitz, bring experience and also have a fellow teammate to be partnered with.
Joe Thornton is fifth in the NHL in scoring with 48 points and first in the league in assists with 43. His five goals aren’t astonishing, but neither are the 19 goals his teammate Patrick Marleau has scored this season. Marleau also has 22 assists for 41 points in 43 games, yet he made the team.
Marleau deserved to make it, but Thornton also deserved a shot to join his linemate again in an Olympic role. I understand Kunitz is only a point behind Thornton going into Tuesday night, but feel there is more value to having him in Russia than the numbers on the scoresheet.
Aside from Thornton it’s hard to be critical of the team until we see the product against their opponents in Russia. It’s pretty obvious that anything other than gold is not acceptable to the country and Yzerman said they are going there to win, but who isn’t going there to win?
Coming off a fourth place finish at the World Junior Hockey Championships the Hockey Canada selection of the men’s hockey team was likely given a little more scrutiny than recent years.
Not only does the nation want a gold medal to come home, but Hockey Canada needs this one because they’re under the microscope for making history at the World Juniors by not medalling for a second straight year for the first time since 1980 (not medalling from 1979-81). If they don’t return with gold they will be met with more scrutiny and saying other nations have caught up likely won’t be an acceptable excuse.
Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NGNewsChris. His column runs weekly on Wednesdays.