COLUMN: Dave Leaderhouse — Jan. 11, 2014

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Dave Leaderhouse
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Can Canada repeat as gold-medal winners in men’s hockey at the 2014 Winter Olympics?

They certainly have a chance, but after this week’s roster announcement I think they are going to be in tough. While some players like Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews were locks, others were questionable.

For me the biggest disappointment was the omission of Martin St. Louis. After watching him play live a couple of times in Tampa Bay last month, this guy has all the tools to be on that team and at 37 years of age will never have another chance to represent his country on such a grand stage.

St. Louis might be small, but his speed and tenacity would have been a big asset to the team. That is where I think including a guy like Jeff Carter is a mistake. Although gifted, Carter doesn’t strike me as the kind of player who will embrace any role doled out to him.

Therein lies the problem with Canada’s team as I see it.

Players are going to have to shed their egos when they head to Sochi and I don’t think Carter or a guy like P.K. Subban understands that concept. Selecting players who have had injury-plagues seasons makes no sense either.

While a healthy Steven Stamkos would have put him in the same category as Crosby and Toews, it is unclear if he will be ready for the Games and even so he has been on the sidelines for two months and will hardly have had any time to get any game action before the event starts.

Team Canada at the recently completed junior event did the same thing with the inclusion of Jonathan Drouin. While the speedy winger had moments of brilliance, his lack of game time due to a concussion three weeks prior to the tournament started ultimately played a role in his performance. I think Stamkos will be in a similar situation no matter how badly he wants to be on that team.

Dan Hamhuis, Rick Nash, Jay Bouwmeester and Roberto Luongo are other players I kind of look at with doubt.

Luongo had a great run at the 2010 Games  in Vancouver, but ever since the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup final in 2011 he has hardly been one of the top three Canadian netminders in the league.

Hamhuis over Marc Staal? Seriously! If the club is going to bring along injured players then Staal certainly should have been listed.

Bouwmeester, although smart in the defensive zone, isn’t near quick enough for the big ice surface and Nash has kind of slid into obscurity since moving to the New York Rangers a couple of years ago. His past success at the world championships, and he was only there because he played on some real bad teams in Columbus, hardly warrants him to be selected over a future Hall of Famer like St. Louis or even a Claude Giroux.

I do agree with the inclusion of Chris Kunitz as he is lightning fast and plays well with Crosby or even former Anaheim teammates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He could quite possibly be the unsung hero of that team.

Canada has a great chance to strike gold once again, but they are going to have to come together as a team. They open the tournament against Norway which gives them some time to see who gels with each other, but the question marks of Stamkos’s health, and even Luongo’s, raises some early concerns.

All of this debate, in the end, is rather moot for me as I still believe the Olympics should be for amateur athletes and not professionals. I long for the days when guys like Dave Tippett, Robin Bartel and James Patrick represented our country and wore their national pride on their sleeves.

There was a year-long competition for spots on the team and not a glitzy press conference a month before the event where 25 names are announced. I feel the same way about basketball in the Summer Olympics.

The Olympics have become so commercial and truly do take away from what they were originally intended to accomplish. With that said, though, it is what it is and I will be glued to my television like everyone else cheering for Canada to do well and not just in hockey, but in every sport. The armchair quarterback in me just thinks some mistakes were made, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they have a shot at getting another gold medal.

 

Dave Leaderhouse is a reporter with the Prince Albert Daily Herald.

 

Organizations: Canucks, New York Rangers, Prince Albert Daily Herald

Geographic location: Canada, St. Louis, Tampa Bay Sochi Vancouver Columbus Anaheim Norway

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