With the year winding down and our beloved Habs in, let’s face it, a much better place than anyone expected going into the season, it’s time to take a look ahead to Sochi and see who will be representing their nations at the 2014 Olympic Games.
The Habs currently have 10 Canadian players on the roster, but it will only be two suiting up in the red and white come February: Carey Price and PK Subban.
Price is the only thing separating the Canadiens from the playoffs and a top-five draft pick. He’s been the best Canadian goalie over the past two years, let alone this season, and would have the record (and probably a ring) to back it up if he had Pittsburgh or even Vancouver playing in front of him. There should really be no debate here. Price is Canada’s No. 1.
There was a lot of talk the Subban’s Norris Trophy winning year may have been a flash in the pan or the byproduct of a shortened season. The D-man has proved his critics wrong (yet again), tied for third in scoring and fifteenth in plus/minus on a team that has a serious scoring problem. Furthermore, Subban’s skating ability should give him a leg up playing on a larger ice surface in Sochi.
Again, it shouldn’t be a question. Subban makes the team.
As anyone who played for Canada in Vancouver will tell you, it’s a big deal to suit up for your country on home ice. It would be surprising to see either of Montreal’s Russians left off the roster, with Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin among the best Russian defencemen in the NHL. They could face some competition from their KHL counterparts, but if Russia is interested in being competitive – especially as they’ve struggled on the defensive end in Olympics past, both guys should make the cut.
The more interesting question will be whether or not the Canadiens allow them to go. Emelin is coming off of a significant injury and the fact that Markov has played months in a row of healthy hockey has some people around these parts preparing for the end of days. Many fans, and general managers, would breathe a lot easier if these guys decided to take a vacation in February but I expect getting the call will be too much.
The Americans will likely be the stiffest competition Canada will face at Sochi, if they’re not considered the favourites going in. Montreal dresses three Americans most nights, with captain Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk coming from south of the border. Our captain will surely be watching from home, but both Pacioretty and Galchenyuk have a solid chance at making the squad.
Despite his poor start, Pacioretty has been one of the hottest players in the league, picking it up at just the right time for selection.
Galchenyuk already has a world junior gold and a world championships bronze under his belt and played a significant role on both squads – he’s a bit of a fringe pick, but his international success may be just enough to put him over the top.
Team Czech Republic
Tomas Plekanec. No doubt. Probably the biggest “lock” the Habs have. He’ll either centre the top line or take a wing with Jaromir Jagr and Daniel Krejci.
This is the most intriguing choice but I’m going to see he makes it.
While Jaroslav Halak will be the no. 1 for the Slovaks, Peter Budaj may have very well earned himself a backup role. Budaj has gone 13-3-2 over his last two seasons with the Habs and could be just the guy to give Halak a break.
Lars Eller. Had Denmark qualified, Eller would have been the no. 1 centre and captain. No doubt.