- After losing Jamie Benn and now Duncan Keith, World Cup favorite Canada looks far less intimidating, especially when Keith's replacement is a curious choice.
The bad news keeps coming for Team Canada.
One day after learning they'd be without star forward Jamie Benn, the pre-tournament favorites for the upcoming World Cup were told that defenseman Duncan Keith has chosen to sit out the event.
“As Duncan continues off-season rehabilitation on the right knee injury that he sustained last season, we understand his decision not to participate in next month’s World Cup of Hockey," Chicago Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement. "We believe it is in his best interests to focus on getting stronger and not risk further injury.”
Keith missed 10 games back in October and November of last year, but completed the season and competed in Chicago's brief playoff run, all of which makes this decision seem more like a bail-out than a medical necessity.
Either way, he will be replaced on the roster by Jay Bouwmeester. The St. Louis Blues defender was a teammate of Keith's on Canada's gold-medal winning squad at the Sochi Olympics two years ago, but he's hardly a full value. The 32-year-old brings experience (10 previous appearances for Canada), size and skating ability, but his most appealing trait appears to be his left-handed shot.
“Our management team and coaching staff felt it was critical to ensure continuity between the number of left- and right-handed defensemen on our roster," said Team Canada (and Blues) GM Doug Armstrong. "And Jay’s experience with what it takes to be successful in these short tournaments can’t be undervalued.”
While that may prove true, it clearly leaves Armstrong open to criticism. Bouwmeester's game is relatively safe, which could make him a good fit in coach Mike Babcock's system. But selecting him over more aggressive and offensive-minded options like Kris Letang, who finished fourth this past season in the Norris Trophy voting, or 2014 vet P.K. Subban won't sit well with fans.
Even someone like Mark Giordano, who plays a smart, well-rounded game and shoots left, seems like a more obvious choice.
But Bouwmeester got the call. And Canada, while still the favorite, doesn't look quite as intimidating as it did just two days ago.