Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Who makes Team Canada’s Olympic B-Team, and how many other teams could they beat?

Last week was 2022 Olympic roster preview week around these parts, with various writers offering their projections of who’ll make the cut when the games begin (we hope) a year from now. And as always, filling out the Team Canada roster was both the hardest job, and the easiest.

Easy, because there’s so much talent to choose from. But also hard, for the same reason. How do you narrow it down? Who do you cut? What do you do with all the worthy stars who won’t make it?

Luckily for us, we can bend the Olympic rules to answer that last question: You take those players and put them on Canada’s B-Team. And I’m just the writer to put that roster together, because when you think B-team talent, I should be the first guy who comes to mind. Let’s do this.

We had several writers take a crack at a traditional Team Canada roster, with Eric Duhatschek and Thomas Drance offering up competing versions while Pierre LeBrun came up with his own and Dom Luszczyszyn heckled from the cheap seats. As you’d expect, there was plenty of overlap between those rosters, although each had its variations. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to defer to seniority and use Eric’s version as the one I’ll be working from.

Unfortunately, Eric has an annoying habit of picking good players, which makes my job tougher. He also took a 25-man roster, and I’d like to make it clear that I plan to try to steal those five taxi squad players away with promises of playing time. For now, though, we’ll assume they stick with Team Eric and work with the rest.

Can we still build a decent team? It’s Canada, so you know we can. But how decent, and how many of the other teams could we beat? Let’s find out…


Eric’s team has Carey Price, Jordan Binnington and Carter Hart. That’s three good players gone from a position that’s become the weakest pool in Canadian hockey. The days of having to decide between Roy, Brodeur, Joseph and Belfour are long gone. We’re going to have to dig a bit.

My first pick, although not necessarily my starter, is going to be Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s a veteran who’s won Cups and was playing well before last year’s dip. He’s off to a decent start this year, and he even has international experience. OK, it’s not good experience, but there’s nowhere to go but up. He’ll be 37 by the Olympics, which is a concern, but so was Martin Brodeur when he helped win gold in 2010, and we don’t have a ton of options. Fleury’s on our team, as the veteran presence who can win the starter’s job if he gets hot.

As for who he’ll split time with, I think I’d feel OK with a healthy Darcy Kuemper back there. He’s not a big name, partly because he’s in Arizona and partly because he’s really only had one season as a full-time starter. But his numbers are excellent; since coming into the league in 2012, he’s got the second-best save percentage of any active Canadian goalie, just behind Price. Go back to 2016 instead, and he’s in first place all on his own, by several points. He’s never gone deep into the playoffs and his international resume is limited to a single World Championships, so the spotlight will be brighter than he’s used to, but we’re betting he can handle it.

For our third-string, we’ll follow the typical Olympic approach of giving it to a younger player who may be a bigger part of future teams. In our case, that guy’s pretty good, as we hand the taxi squad role over to Mackenzie Blackwood. We’ll save the Hart vs. Blackwood debate for elsewhere, since we only have one guy available to us, but if there’s any controversy here it might be over whether Blackwood is already good enough to nudge one of our two veterans out of playing time. I think he is.

Team C candidates: Cam Talbot, Braden Holtby, Jake Allen

That’s not a bad start. Of course, no goalie can help you much without a solid blueline ahead of him. Let’s see what we can do there…

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