One final Team Canada roster prediction for the Sochi Olympics
About four hours after Sidney Crosby scored the Golden Goal that capped off the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the first of many articles predicting what Canada's team might look like in 2014 appeared online. In the four years since, every armchair GM in Canada has weighed the wealth of options and taken a shot (or two) at assembling the perfect squad to defend that gold medal next month in Sochi.
Finally, on Tuesday, we'll find out how Steve Yzerman and the rest of Team Canada's staff put the pieces together.
Here's how I think it plays out tomorrow morning when the roster is unveiled in Toronto, along with a look at how the players might be utilized by coach Mike Babcock:
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks: First-pair left D: NHL's best blueliner this season will open up the ice for Canada's top offensive players with his transition skills.
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues: Third-pair right D. Speed, smarts and sees lanes before they open up. He can be the puck mover on this pairing.
P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens: Extra. Forget about the "risk." When Canada's offense dries up -- and it will -- Subban is the one player who can open up the pipes and make things happen from the back end. Should key the first power play.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks: Third-pair left D. He might be the NHL's top defender at even strength. He'll be a revelation at this event.
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators: Second-pair right D. He can move the puck, too, but he's best suited here playing the tough, physical role.
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins: Fourth-line center, penalty killer, faceoff specialist. He looked overwhelmed at times in Vancouver, but he's ready to be a high-performing role player this time around.
Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks: Extra. Terrific two-way player who'll carry the water bottles or block a shot Doug Glatt-style if that's what Mike Babcock asks him to do.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: First line center. The focal point of this team. He's the best player in the world, but he has to be more consistently effective than he was in Vancouver.
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers: Fourth-line right wing. If Canada learned anything at previous Euro-Olympics (or at the World Juniors), it's that skill wins out. That gives Giroux the edge over a more traditional depth player like Mike Richards.
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks: Fourth-line left wing. Speed, experience and defensive play make him a safe pick, but his finishing touch adds some menace to the fourth line.
Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks: Second-line right wing. A pure finisher, he may be moved around the lineup if the absence of elite speed on this unit becomes a problem.
Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks: Third-line right wing. Recent scoring outburst proves he could be a dangerous offensive weapon; strong two-way play and penalty kill prowess seal his value.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: First-line left wing. Sid exploiting gaps to set him up for one-timers is the next best thing to Gretzky/Lemieux in 1987. He'll leave a gaping hole if he's not ready to go.
John Tavares, New York Islanders: Second-line left wing. Natural center has to play out of position. Pace of his game seems to fit best with Getzlaf and Perry, but he could play on any of the top three lines.Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks: Third-line center. He'll handle the tough defensive assignments at even strength, kill penalties and dominate possession time. Don't be surprised if he wears the C.