By now you’ve heard the news about Steven Stamkos (well unless maybe you spent all evening shoveling yourself out of the almost two feet of snow that hit a good chunk of eastern North America, or are out in the middle of a late in an ice fishing hut, or maybe you just live in Sunrise, Florida and don’t care). He will not be making the trip to Sochi to suit up for Team Canada because he did not receive medical clearance to participate in game action. Big news? Sure. Devastating news to Team Canada? Hardly. It would be nice to have the sniper in the lineup, but thanks to the best depth in the world the drop off between Stamkos and the next in line (whether it’s Giroux, St. Louis or whoever) is minimal. Canadians have been claiming for years “We could send two even three teams that would compete for Gold”. That statement is true and exactly the reason the news about Stamkos is being blown out of proportion.
A much more pressing issue for Team Canada is how well Sidney Corsby will play in Sochi. People forget that Sid had a very poor tournament in Vancouver, lucky for him scoring the gold medal winning overtime goal goes a long way to erase that. After a bit of a slump in past weeks, Crosby put on a show last night that Canadians hope carries over to the Olympic tournament.
While Sidney Crosby remains probably the single most important player to the Canadian Olympic team, the defensive side of the game may fall heavily on Drew Doughty, a player ESPN’s Scott Burnside has identified as the one who is looking to take a key leadership role on the blue line. Doughty’s experience in the 2010 Olympics as well as his growth as a player and as a man over the past few years make him one to watch in Sochi.
While Crosby leads a star studded forward group and Doughty is the key on possibly the best D-corps seen in a long time, the one question mark for Team Canada has been between the pipes. A position that has always been a strength in Canada, this tiem around the goaltending could be the weak link. A couple days ago Head Coach Mike Babcock stated he’d likely start both Carey Price and Roberto Luongo once in the opening two games then go from there. Many believe that even thought Luongo is the returning goalie, Price is the one that should and will take the job and run with it. Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet Magazine looks at the Canadiens goaltender and how he’s set his sights high this year.
As the Olympic break approaches, so does the NHL’s trade freeze. As of tomorrow at 3pm EST, NHL teams will not be allowed to make any trades until business opens abck up two weeks later. This has cause a lot more early trade rumblings then in most years. Teams are forbiden by the CBA to hold any practices for the first 10 days of the two and a half week break, however, there will be about a week where teams can get back together and have a sort of mini training camp. GMs see this as an opportunity to try to swing deals before the trade freeze and have the new acquisitions work with coaches and aclimate themselves to their new surroundings beforfe playing in any game action. As a result this Friday might see a few bigger names moved that we’d normally see on trade deadline day. Names like Mike Cammalleri, Ryan Miller and Steve Ott are among the bigger ones out there. And ironically so are Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson who have already been traded once this season., as both their new teams are out of the playoffs and fear losing the pending UFAs in the summer. One team to keep an eye on in the next 24 hours is the Vancouver Canucks.