Crosby, Luongo highlight Team Canada camp invitees; Spezza, Fleury snubbed
By Allan Muir
Canada is going with the all-inclusive plan for its pre-Olympic orientation camp.
Hockey Canada announced today that it is inviting 47 players to the camp, scheduled for Aug. 25-28 in Calgary. That list includes five goaltenders, 17 defenders and 25 forwards.
It's a group that places a heavy emphasis on youth and speed as an antidote to the problems Canada faced in previous Olympic events that were staged on the larger international ice.
Among the notable omissions were Jason Spezza, who is the fifth-highest scoring Canadian over the last three years, and Jamie Benn, who brings a nice blend of size and speed and has answered the call for Canada in the past.
Here's a look at the camp roster:
Corey Crawford: Chicago netminder probably should have earned the Conn Smythe for his playoff performance. Not spectacular, but plenty steady. That may be the the best that Canada can hope for.
Braden Holtby: Youngster has several admirers in Hockey Canada's camp, but needs a strong start to make his case. Has a very real chance of making the team.
Roberto Luongo: Veteran of 2010 comes into camp as the likely starter, which won't soothe the concerns of Canadian fans. Just wait until he gets off to his usual slow start with the Canucks in October...
Carey Price: Plenty of questions about whether he's mentally tough enough for this gig. Don't bet on him making the club.
Mike Smith: Maybe the only goalie in this bunch who has game-stealing potential. Played well in his first exposure to international hockey at the 2013 World Championships. Come February, he could be the starter.
Karl Alzner: Steady, young defender is a long shot to make the club, but this will be a good experience for him.
Jay Bouwmeester: Plays the sort of game that Steve Yzerman loves. Great skater, makes good first pass. Always answers the call for Canada. Has a good shot at the third pair.
Dan Boyle: The 2010 vet brings experience, smarts and a bit of quickness to the back end. Could be valuable on the power play, but is probably a dark horse to make the club.
Drew Doughty: Maybe Canada's best defenseman in 2010 once he got his legs under him. He's a lock.
Mike Green: A brilliant offensive weapon, especially on the power play. Yeah, he has his flaws, but no one's forgotten about Canada's scoring struggles in Turin. Green's definitely in the mix.
Dan Hamhuis: The solid vet has always come when Canada has called in the past, and that's probably what got him this invite. Could be used in a pinch if injuries strike, but he's not a top-seven option.
Travis Hamonic: A gentle reminder to those who laughed at the huge extension he signed earlier this month: this kid's good. Hamonic brings a nasty physical presence, but it's likely that he's here as a set-up to 2018 ... if the NHL goes to South Korea.
Duncan Keith: Another holdover from 2010 and another lock. He'll anchor the second pair.
Kris Letang: No denying the Norris Trophy finalist belongs in camp, but does he belong on the team? Great offensive player and has obvious chemistry with Crosby but, like Green, he's a risky bet in his own zone. Those two might battle it out for the seventh D role.
Marc Methot: A surprising choice? Not hardly. Methot may be a long shot to go to Sochi, but if he's called on, he'll provide safe, simple play on the back end. Think of him as a Normand Rochefort type, one who more than earned his keep at the 1987 Canada Cup. Plus, he's a lefthanded shot, a quality that's in short supply.
Dion Phaneuf: He deserves an invite, but his flaws have been widely exposed because of the coverage Toronto gets. He's highly unlikely to get the call.
Alex Pietrangelo: He struggled at times last season, but he has the attributes to make an impact on the third pair. A favorite to make the team.
Brent Seabrook: Another 2010 vet, he's all but certain to make the club and skate alongside regular partner Keith.
Marc Staal: The question is, how's his eye? If it's compromised in any way, he won't be there in February, but his strength and reliability, especially on the penalty kill, have him well in the mix for a depth role.
PK Subban: Not as sure a thing as some might suspect. Likely competing with Pietrangelo for that offensive-minded third-pair role.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic: Always nice to see an underrated player get the appreciation he deserves, and Vlasic is a much better player than most fans would imagine ... but he's not making the team.
Shea Weber: Canada's best all-around defender. He's a lock for the first pair alongside Doughty.
Patrice Bergeron: Arguably the best two-way center in the game and the man you want at the dot when there's a face-off that has to be won. Assuming he's healthy, Bergeron is a lock.
Jeff Carter: Great hands, good wheels and capable of playing the wing .. but not one of the best options. He can fill a role if needed, but he's not a leading candidate to make the team.
Logan Couture: Young forward proved his big-game ability during the 2013 postseason. Strong two-way play and the versatility to play on the wing make him a favorite to nab a spot.
Sidney Crosby: The best player in the world and the author of the 2010 Golden Goal. If there's one mortal lock, he's the guy.
Matt Duchene: Speed to burn and a maturing two-way game puts him in the mix for the 13th forward slot.
Jordan Eberle: He's coming off an inconsistent season, but it's tough to imagine Eberle not making the squad. The kid has scored more big goals for Canada internationally than just about anyone, and he's a natural winger.
Claude Giroux: Another player who struggled at times last season, but he brings all the qualities Canada needs. He's a strong favorite to make the cut. The only question: how will he and Crosby co-exist in the room? Shades of the 1981 Canada Cup...
Taylor Hall: Size, speed, power and a natural winger. Not everyone is sold on Hall's viability as one of Canada's 13 best, but he's a unique package. Look for him to make the club.
Chris Kunitz: Chemistry is critical in a short tournament that demands you hit the ground running after one practice. We all know what he can do when lined up alongside Crosby -- Kunitz might be Canada's first line left winger.
Andrew Ladd: A very serious contender for a job. Great leadership skills, a bruising physical presence who can be used in all situations and a great set of hands. Very likely to earn a depth role.
Milan Lucic: He brings a lot of the same qualities as Ladd, but isn't as strong a skater. The trade-off? He's so strong that he's virtually impossible to contain. He'll need a blazing hot start to make the club.
Brad Marchand: Yes, he's one of those guys everyone hates ... unless he's on their team. And Canada, he's ready to play for your team. Boston's leading scorer would bring speed, a determined forecheck, and yes, a dose of nastiness that would drive the opposition to distraction. Add in his chemistry with Bergeron and he has a strong shot at the fourth line.
Rick Nash: Always looked upon as a top-six forward for Canada in the past, Nash is lucky to have gotten a courtesy invite this time around. His name value is much higher than what he actually brings to the table these days.
James Neal: Brutally effective power forward has one of the best shots in the league. Not sure he's a top-12 guy for Canada, but a hot start and a couple of injuries would get him into the mix quickly.
Corey Perry: The 2010 returnee is a natural winger with proven goal-scoring ability and a willingness to pay any price to finish a play. He's been inconsistent over the past two seasons, but he's essentially a lock for this team.
Mike Richards: A focus on skill and speed means Richards will be hard-pressed to keep the role he earned in 2010. Unless there's an injury, he's on the outside looking in.
Patrick Sharp: A natural winger blessed with speed and smarts, Sharp would fit nicely in a checking role alongside either Toews or Bergeron. Count him among the favorites.
Eric Staal: The 2010 holdover proved to be comfortable moving from center to the wing -- not an easy task. If he comes out of the blocks hot like he did last season, it's hard to imagine him not being on this team.
Jordan Staal: Hockey Canada loves his size, strength and versatility, and he'd be a boon to the penalty kill ... but it's going to take a few men down before he's in serious consideration for a role.
Martin St. Louis: Not exactly part of the New Wave of forwards, but the reigning Art Ross winner still knows how to generate offense. His foot speed, leadership skills -- and most important, his chemistry with Steven Stamkos -- rate St. Louis as highly likely to make the club.
Steven Stamkos: Hockey's most dangerous finisher was considered too young for Vancouver. That won't be a problem this time around. He looks like your second-line center.
John Tavares: A finalist for the Hart Trophy and a lock to make this club with his world-class offensive skill. The only question is: where do you put him?
Joe Thornton: For as many knocks as he's taken over the years, Thornton has earned his keep while skating with Team Canada. And while his ethereal passing skills would help this team, his diminished foot speed is likely to cost him a berth on the club.
Jonathan Toews: He started the 2010 Games as Canada's 13th forward and finished as its best. The Selke winner is a certainty for the team and could center either the third or fourth line.
First line: Eric Staal-Sidney Crosby-Claude Giroux
Second line: Taylor Hall-Steven Stamkos-Martin St. Louis
Third line: Andrew Ladd-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Sharp
Fourth line: Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Corey Perry
Extra forwards: Jordan Eberle, Logan Couture
First pair: Drew Doughty-Shea Weber
Second pair: Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Third pair: Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Extra defenders: PK Subban, Kris Letang
Goaltender: Mike Smith