Two days before the final decisions on Team Canada’s roster for the 2014 Olympics have to be made, Team Canada’s entry in the World Juniors pulled a no-show for their semi-final matchup against Finland.
While the differences between the teams is obvious, being a bunch of kids as opposed to a team of professionals, there are also some similarities. Canada’s depth in all ages is up the middle. Nine of the 13 forwards on Team Canada’s junior team played centre for their club teams in the CHL. That led to players playing out of position and some of them never really got comfortable playing on the wing.
The biggest decision facing GM Steve Yzerman and the rest of his staff will be how many of the elite level centres can make the smooth transition to the wing, and how many do they want switching positions? One argument is that you take the best players and they can adjust to the situation. The argument against that is the tournament is so short, that you cannot afford to have an adjustment period.
When the intensity is cranked up in the medal round of the Olympics, you want people playing out of instinct, and not thinking too much. Many players will also be asked to play a different role than they do on their respective NHL teams. Having too many centres playing the wing could make them think for that split second on where they should be on the ice, and their role in the game.
I named my 14 forwards yesterday, and among them were 10 natural centres – Crosby, Stamkos, Getzlaf, Giroux, Toews, Bergeron, Carter, Richards, Tavares and Couture. Carter has been playing the wing for the better part of a full season, since he was dealt to LA. While having a second centre on the ice in case one gets tossed from a faceoff is a good thing, I don’t know how many of them will be really comfortable on the wing. Would you be better off removing Mike Richards and Claude Giroux in favor of Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash, for example?
My alignment would have 5 or 6 of those men playing out of position. Are they smart enough to handle the transition? Probably. But the fact that the Junior team had such a problem adjusting could serve to make Yzerman and co. think twice about the mix they put forward on their roster this Tuesday.