Doug Armstrong knows the challenge that lies ahead for him. In the introductory press conference where the St. Louis Blues GM was officially unveiled as Canada's GM for the men's 2022 Olympic team, Armstrong joked about the "37 million special advisors" he'll have working with him along the way - and he's right; all of Canada will be watching.
But with a team deep in managerial experience and roster depth that is the envy of the hockey world, Armstrong and his cohorts - Ken Holland, Don Sweeney, Ron Francis, Roberto Luongo and Scott Salmond - at least head into the process with a lot of firepower and brain power.
While no one is 100 percent sure that the NHL will send players to the Beijing Games, Hockey Canada nonetheless wanted to be prepared for the possibility and Armstrong's body of work made him a great candidate to lead the charge in 2022: he has already won two Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, two World Championship gold medals and a World Cup of Hockey gold medal.
"Doug's experience on the international stage is unparalleled," said Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney. "To say Doug's resume is impressive would be an understatement."
When NHLers are involved, Canada is always a favorite to win gold at the Olympics, but the 2022 roster will be intriguing because there is a significant gap in the timeline: NHLers did not go to the 2018 Olympics, so there will be less connective tissue than before.
Having said that, returnees from 2014 could include the likes of Sidney Crosby, Carey Price, Alex Pietrangelo and Patrice Bergeron - which is a pretty great crop of veterans to build off. And as we all saw at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey with Team North America, the 'kids' will be massive. Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon and Colton Parayko all played for that Fun Machine and with Cale Makar already establishing himself as one of the top blueliners in the game, the new guys won't just be along for the ride.
"Youth will be served on this team, for sure," Armstrong said.
Finding a coach that can shepherd such a squad along will also be crucial and there are plenty of candidates out there. Perhaps most importantly, Armstrong is aware that the game has changed over the years.
"Today's players have evolved," he said. "We want someone who can communicate with this group."
The name that will attract the most attention is Mike Babcock, who left Toronto under a shameful cloud, but is still respected amongst his peers for his insights on the game. Babcock guided Canada to gold medals in 2010 and 2014 and Armstrong cited him and Steve Yzerman as two minds who have provided Canada's program with a blueprint on how to be successful on the international stage.
"We want to be fast, we want to be skilled and we want to use our depth to our advantage," Armstrong said. "Today's NHL is quick and we have the players to play a 200-foot game. We want to be fast and hard to play against."
Whether Babcock has any formal role with the team remains to be seen - though it would seem awkward to have him behind the bench of a squad that could very well include Mitch Marner and John Tavares. More practical hires could include the likes of Jon Cooper, Barry Trotz or Craig Berube. It's also worth noting that no hires will be made until after the Stanley Cup final, as Armstrong doesn't want to distract anyone from their NHL duties.
What is clear about this mission is that there will of course be second-guessing from the media and those 37 million special advisors, but the table is set for success. Armstrong naturally isn't guaranteeing a gold medal, but he did promise a hard-working squad. And with all the talent Hockey Canada has assembled, that hard work could very well pay off on the podium in China.