Team Canada, host of the World Cup of Hockey in September, has its most difficult decisions to make shortly ahead of the May 27 deadline to name the final seven roster players. For starters, it was brilliant to name three goalies back on March 2 because it left Canada with an extra forward spot to further examine ahead of the final roster decisions. Here’s what I would do if I were GM Doug Armstrong (my final seven picks in bold):
Come on, tell me you wouldn’t want to see Jumbo Joe play on a line with Crosby and Stamkos.
The bubble group of forwards on Canada’s radar in the final weeks I believe included the likes of Corey Perry, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Taylor Hall, Joe Thornton, Ryan O’Reilly, Brendan Gallagher, Milan Lucic, Mark Stone, Brad Marchand and Matt Duchene. Perry, Hall, O’Reilly, Gallagher, Stone, Marchand and Duchene all went to the world championships, which was smart on their part to further enhance their chances.
I put Marchand on this team because I like his foot speed and two-way game; his game elevated to a whole new level this past season, and I think he deserves this chance. I also have Giroux on here, even though his first-round playoff exit and subsequent surgery might hurt his chances, but I just think the Philadelphia Flyers‘ captain is such a versatile, offensive force and power-play maestro. And Thornton, well, there might be some concern over foot speed, but his playoffs and overall season scream World Cup invite to me.
Again, some mighty big names left off this roster. As is always the case with Team Canada.
It is very important to coach Mike Babcock to have his lefty-right combos. Essentially what I’ve done here is bring back the 2014 Olympic pairings, plus I added Burns as the newcomer. The choices on the right side are ridiculous, having to pick two guys from a list that includes Pietrangelo, Burns, Kris Letang, P.K. Subban and Brent Seabrook. All five of those right-handed studs deserve to be on this team. But what are you going to do? Can’t take them all. For me, it really came down to Pietrangelo, Burns and Letang, the three guys having great playoffs. Pietrangelo is the trusted hand from Sochi who has showed his poise in the postseason this spring. Meanwhile, Burns has been unbelievable all season, earning himself a Norris Trophy nomination. Somehow I have this feeling he’ll move his way up the ladder come September and do something special in that tournament (if indeed he’s picked to make the team).
On the left side, the candidates for the one remaining spot were Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Jake Muzzin, Karl Alzner and T.J. Brodie. I really struggled with this one because I haven’t been blown away by Bouwmeester in these playoffs, but he’s a steady veteran who also played in Sochi and played with his Blues partner, Pietrangelo. It really came down to Giordano or Bouwmeester for me, and it was a toss-up. The tie goes to the incumbent.
The only question here is whether Price, who missed most of the season with a knee injury, will be ready to go for the World Cup. But all indications to this point are that he’s going to be. He’ll be the No. 1 guy with Holtby as the likely No. 2.