Canadian Olympic hockey team won’t be named for four months
Oilers Eberle and Hall will need great starts in NHL season to have a chance to make roster
Canada head coach Mike Babcock gives instructions during a ball hockey training session at the national men’s hockey team’s orientation camp at Calgary on Tuesday.
Photograph by: Jeff McIntosh, THE CANADIAN PRESS
CALGARY — The first TV question for Canadian Olympic hockey team coach Mike Babcock on Tuesday was if he had all the answers for his 25-man roster for Sochi, Russia.
“Uh, no,” said Babcock, who prefers to pick up clues during the first three months of the NHL season.
“What I will say is if any player leaves here without an idea on how to make this team, they weren’t listening. All the teams that win play right, their offensive players know how to play when they don’t have the puck. And if you think you’re coming (to Sochi) playing the other way ... like I said we made it very, very clear,” Babcock said at the end of the three-day orientation camp.
“We’ll be keeping an eye on everybody who was here ... but there are a few guys we don’t feel we have to watch (like Sidney Crosby). They are going to be on the team, assuming they are healthy,” said Hockey Canada general manager Steve Yzerman, who knows Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews — maybe his top three centres — have all had concussion issues.
Crosby and Toews will be 1 and 1a, with Sidney likely the captain and Jonathan an alternate.
Yzerman was asked how many players were guaranteed to be on the roster.
“Conservatively, eight or nine guys,” he said.
That might be low, but every player should feel like they’ve got a shot, right.
“I don’t think the team’s even close to being picked, but everyone’s going to make their own team and I’m sure we’re going to hear about it,” said Crosby, who is shockingly 26 years old.
There are host of young players in their early 20s, like John Tavares and Logan Couture, who are very much in the mix.
“I do look at that for sure ... this game keeps getting younger and younger. I’m certainly in a different position than last time (at Vancouver in 2010),” Crosby said.
Hockey Canada said the team will be named in mid- to late December, maybe on New Year’s Eve, but the Americans are supposedly rolling out their 25 guys on New Year’s Day to coincide with the NBC-themed Winter Classic game at Ann Arbor, Mich.
For fans who don’t want to wait four months, here’s a possible roster:
Forwards: Crosby, Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, Bergeron, Steve Stamkos, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Couture, Tavares, Martin St. Louis, Claude Giroux, Patrick Sharp, Jordan Eberle.
Defence: Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo, Marc Staal, Kris Letang, Dan Hamhuis.
Goal: Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Cam Ward (who wasn’t at the orientation camp).
Team Canada was only playing ball hockey this week, so it was a little hard to tell that a slimmer-looking Milan Lucic, while a frightful NHLer, might not be best suited for the bigger ice surface in Europe, although he was told after the Stanley Cup final by Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli to work on his edges.
But maybe 12 to 15 picks are automatics and the TSN Monkey could tell Crosby looks like a player.
At the risk of being labelled a homer, I’ve got Eberle as the 14th forward because every time a big goal’s needed, he’s like a gift from god in international competitions, plus he’d be dynamite in a shootout and he’s played in several world championships in Europe, plus he’s good.
“He’s played well over there. He’s got really good hockey sense. You watch him in the NHL, but you also see him at the worlds on the big ice, playing different roles, in different spots, and it’s all part of our information gathering on who we bring to these camps,” said Yzerman.
Taylor Hall may have his nose pressed up against the glass unless he plays lights-out the first three months, which is certainly possible. His play away from the puck has to improve and he knows it. But it may be just too deep of a roster for the youngest player at the camp who has only one world championship on his resume.
“Probably the hardest lineup in the world to crack,” said Hall, who finished ninth in the NHL scoring race last season and should have been the NHL second-team all-star left-winger last season.
Hall’s game needs a wider focus, as somebody suggested, but how many 21-year-olds in the NHL, if strong with the puck, also know how to play away from it?
“They haven’t told me what I have to do (defensively), but it’s what I need to do. You look at the guys who play on Team Canada at the Olympics, they are reliable ... they don’t take any risks with that part of the play. I know that; everybody competing for a spot does,” said Hall, who plays hell-bent when he’s bolting up the ice.
“When I was 18, I wasn’t looked upon to be that kind of defensive player and lead by example, but the time has come ... not only for Team Canada but for the Oilers,” he said.
Hall knows there are maybe seven forward spots available on the Olympic team.
“There’s guys who’ll be on the team (no matter what). That’s completely reasonable. They’re all-stars and have done so well for Canada in the past. I’ll have to beat guys to get on the team,” he said.
“Taylor has to be a dynamic scoring threat for us and needs a really, really good first 20 games (in the NHL season),” said former Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger, who is part of the Olympic coaching brain-trust.
“And we’re looking for a complete game from everybody, whether you’re Eric Staal or Taylor Hall. I just picked them because they rhyme. Taylor is in the group of guys competing, everybody battling had to get that. There’s no magic there.
“Taylor worked hard at that last year, the puck management and that’s hard when you’ve done things a certain way a long time. His learning curve is definitely in the right direction,” Krueger said.
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