This year, it could be a very deep Team Canada that takes part in the World Championships in Sweden and Finland. After last year’s disappointing quarterfinal loss to Slovakia, could the team that nobody really cares about make people stand up and take notice?
This year is different than most for a couple of reasons – 1) There won’t be as many players as usual to pick from; 2) It will be a hastily assembled team; and 3) Players better answer when called upon.
To explain a little further:
1) Usually, the Canadian team can be selected from the teams that do not make the playoffs as well as some who get beat in the first round. That will not be the case this year. Due to the lockout, the playoffs will not begin until April 30th, with the World Championships set to begin on May 3. The first round will not be over until the team is well into the Worlds.
2) With the regular season ending on April 27th, there will not be much time to get the team together and off to Stockholm, where Canada will play their round robin games. This means that there will not be much time for practice and some of the European teams will have an advantage because many of their players, with a few NHL exceptions, will already have the better part of a month of practice together heading into the tournament.
3) The leadership group for this team will be the same decision makers that will be picking the Canadian team for the Sochi Olympics next year. If a player is on the bubble and turns down the invite this year, that decision will be remembered when it is time for team selection for Sochi. The decision makers include Steve Yzerman (Tampa), Kevin Lowe (Edmonton), Doug Armstrong (St. Louis) and Ken Holland (Detroit) as well as Bob Nicholson and Brad Pascall from Hockey Canada.
So, with a number of teams already essentially eliminated and a bunch more on life support, here are some early candidates to get the call to represent Canada:
This list doesn’t include players from teams like the Stars, Coyotes, Blue Jackets, Devils, Jets or any team currently occupying playoff spots.
While the forwards are very deep, just like the Olympic team, the defense isn’t really stacked. And unless Smith is available and agrees to play, goaltending could be questionable as well.
It would be good for team Canada chemistry if they could get all of the units that might be familiar with each other, if not always playing together on a line, like the Edmonton, Carolina and Tampa units.
Any way, as long as players answer the call, Canada should have a pretty solid team. And for most there is no reason to not say yes, since they are coming off a shortened season and wouldn’t have the usual 2-3 week-long break in between the end of their season and the beginning of Canadian camp this year.