Monday June 22nd, 2015

The return of the World Cup of Hockey is still more than a year out but planning for the event gets underway in earnest today in Toronto.

That’s where Hockey Canada is expected to name St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong as the executive director for a Canadian entry that is seeking to win its third consecutive best-on-best event.

Armstrong will take the reins from Steve Yzerman, who stepped down after building the gold medal-winning Canadian teams at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. He’ll be assisted by Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray and Los Angeles Kings assistant GM Rob Blake.

Several gut-churning decisions await Armstrong during the next several months, but picking a coach won’t be one of them.

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That will be Mike Babcock’s gig if he wants it. The new coach of the Maple Leafs earned right of first refusal after guiding Canada to back-to-back Olympic golds. If he passes on the opportunity, the torch likely falls to Joel Quenneville, whose résumé includes guiding the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups in the past six seasons.

Selecting the final 23-man roster for the World Cup won’t be so easy.

Armstrong has plenty of time to mull over his options, though. He has until March 1, 2016 to submit a preliminary list of 16 players with the balance due on June 1—right in the middle of the Stanley Cup Final to ensure maximum exposure. He is expected to build a team that leans young with an emphasis on speed, creativity and puck possession skills. That means there could be significant roster turnover from Sochi.

Canada's new GM will have an obscene wealth of centers from which to choose, led by holdovers Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and John Tavares. Patrice Bergeron, who’ll be 31 when the tournament kicks off, could lose his defensive-minded role to Ryan O’Reilly. Colorado’s 25-year-old center was brilliant for the gold medalists at the 2015 World Championship.

Corey Perry is expected to return on the wing, along with NHL scoring leader Jamie Benn and speedster Matt Duchene. Among the fresh faces could be Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Claude Giroux and Logan Couture. Others in contention include Ryan Johansen, Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher, Tyler Ennis and Jordan Eberle. Sochi medalists Patrick Sharp, Patrick Marleau, Chris Kunitz, Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash and Jeff Carter will have to make way for the youth explosion.

The blue line should have a more familiar look. Conn Smythe-winner Duncan Keith will lead a deep group that also includes Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, P.K. Subban and Alex Pietrangelo. Brent Burns and Jake Muzzin, who impressed with their defensive work at the Worlds, have played themselves into the mix along with Mark Giordano, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kris Letang and T. J. Brodie. Dan Hamhuis and Jay Bouwmeester are unlikely to return.

In net, Canada’s hopes will rest in the capable hands of Carey Price. Braden Holtby and two-time Stanley Cup-winner Corey Crawford are the favorites to round out the group.

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An announcement regarding Team USA’s management staff doesn’t appear to be forthcoming, but one report suggests that Dean Lombardi has the gig nailed down.

The two-time Cup-winning GM of the Kings has the international chops, having served on the advisory committee that helped piece together the 2010 and 2014 American Olympic squads. The U.S. earned a silver medal in 2010 but was shut out in its final two games and finished fourth in 2014.

Stan Bowman, the reigning golden boy of American hockey for his impressive management of the Blackhawks, also deserves consideration. He’ll likely serve as a lieutenant to Lombardi if not given the executive director position.

Todd Richards of the Columbus Blue Jackets is the favorite to be named head coach after guiding an inexperienced Team USA to a stunning bronze medal at the 2015 World Championship.

There’s no word on the management or coaching staff for the North American Young Stars team although that’s expected to be discussed jointly by Hockey Canada and USA Hockey after they get their houses in order. Jon Cooper of the Lightning is the favorite to coach the squad. The exact age/cut-off date for eligibility remains up in the air as well.

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