Inside the making of Team Canada: Quotes, reactions, and projections

Bruce Bennett

CBC premiered a special called "Defending Gold: The Making of Team Canada" prior to the Winter Classic on Wednesday. For those who missed it, I transcribed some poignant quotes and reacted to what I heard

Team USA's executives allowed ESPN's Scott Burnside and USA Today's Kevin Allen to sit in on their meetings and take notes, leading to two very interesting pieces on the process that went into selecting the 25 players who will represent the United States at the Sochi Olympics. Hockey Canada allowed CBC's Craig Simpson to take in the meetings, armed with a camera crew. They censored what could be reported, for obvious reasons, but there were still some interesting tidbits. Here are some of the notable quotations.

The GMs meet in November to track the progress of the NHL season so far...

"We went into this series of meetings with locks, and with the Stamkos injury it's thrown it wide open again. And then with the resurgence of some guys who weren't locks, it seems like we have a bigger pool of almost locks now and less locks" - Peter Chiarelli

Just going to start with a mini-rant on the term "lock". What I said at the beginning of the year was that the only locks on this team are Crosby, Toews, Keith, and Doughty. By that I mean that there was virtually no chance that - injury aside - those guys won't be there. Even if somehow they were awful. If a bunch of guys go from being locks to no longer being locks... clearly those guys weren't actually locks.

"I thought what we lacked in 2010 was speed - those breakaway guys - that's why Carter's in this mix here. I think there has to be some emphasis on skating. You know Jonathan Toews is a powerful skater. The Duchenes, Crosbys, Carter..." - Steve Yzerman

"I think you can have 3 or 4 chuggers as long as you have the speed mix around." - Ken Holland

I like hearing Yzerman talk about the weaknesses of a team that won gold. Too often, people look at a winning team as the perfect team, rather than attempting to improve it. I would agree with Yzerman's assessment.

"Is Nash...is he the same player that he was in 2010? I guess that's debatable. But every event I've taken him to, he's been like the best player." - Yzerman

"All that stuff I've seen before, but I'm saying the last time I saw him - for 5 games - he was ineffective." - Chiarelli

You'll see the EOTP picks for Team Canada in a different set of posts, but over the last few weeks I reached out to SB Nation hockey writers and editors for feedback about the candidates they watch and track every day. Nash was one of the only guys who I was told straight up shouldn't be on Team Canada. He hasn't been the same player since his injury, and it looks like Canada's execs may have picked up on that.

"Milan Lucic, Jamie Benn, if they continue doing what they're doing on December 27 there's a decision to make"

"My debate was Lucic vs. Benn, so I ended up dropping Lucic and taking Benn. But it's a flip of the coin." - Holland

"Having said that, I've seen Lucic carry us with his strength and speed. He's got a will to win like I haven't seen in a while." - Chiarelli

Tyler Dellow brought up an interesting point on Twitter yesterday about the make-up of these management teams, after considering the treatment that Penguins defensive pairing Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin got from USA Head Coach Dan Bylsma. Why doesn't Canada have its own GM, assistant GM, and coaches separate from NHL teams? One would think that the chance to guide the greatest hockey nation in the world on the international stage at the World Championships, World Cups, and Olympics would be a top job. And wouldn't it be better to have a group that isn't biased in selection of players? It's obvious that Chiarelli is going to stick up for his Boston players. It's not that he's being dishonest, it's just that these are all good players and team stars. Every GM and coach is going to think their team stars are up there with the best team stars. It's natural. I don't think Lucic is on the same level as Jamie Benn. We'll see what management decides.

"Couture, he can go anywhere. He can go right side too if he has to. He can play on the first line, fourth line, he's a penalty killer, he's a power play guy" - Yzerman and others

Couture is a stud. Spot on.

"No doubt mobility is gonna be a real factor on a rink which is 15-feet wider. Certainly want mobile, puck-moving defense. I think you always do." - Holland

"I put Subban on the list, because my thinking is he's one of the leading scoring defensemen in the league, he's a got a fucking rocket of a shot, and you can put him on the right point on the power play. Does he make a mistake? Yeah, probably. But I think you've gotta at least talk about Subban." - Holland

Interesting comments from Holland considering that Hockey Canada invited guys like Marc Methot, Marc Staal, and Karl Alzner to their orientation camp. Also interesting to see his comments on Subban. I understand the reasoning that the Canadiens d-man is a risky player, but saying that he'll "probably" make a mistake is taking it miles too far.

"Doughty is a lock to play the power play. What about [Pietrangelo]? Is he a lock to play the power play?"

"Yeah, but he's not a shooter. He walks the line. He finds guys." -Armstrong

"He's a passer, which is what Keith is as well."

Doug Armstrong is the GM of the St. Louis Blues. Alex Pietrangelo is the star defenseman for the St. Louis Blues. If there's a reason that P.K. Subban doesn't make Team Canada (although at this point I think he will) it's because just as Dan Bylsma decided his power play didn't "need" Bobby Ryan, Mike Babcock decides his power play doesn't "need" P.K. Subban. A large part of that will likely be having Armstrong talking up the power play abilities of Pietrangelo.

"Hamonic is a terrific skater." - Chiarelli

"So he's like Seabrook but a better skater."

"Yeah. Seabrook makes good plays. He sees the ice calm, has the play in front of him. And he's smart. Really smart on rims and where guys are. Hamonic doesn't have that yet." - Chiarelli

"We're gonna have to watch Dan Boyle. He's got a little bit of everything those other guys have, he's a little smaller and a little older... is Danny still at that level?" -Yzerman

"I want you to watch Subban and Letang because they do some great things." - Yzerman

A little surprised that Hamonic is even being discussed, although I guess they may have discussed everybody. We don't know. Either way, Boyle and Seabrook are likely to be fighting it out for a spot on this team.

"I mean Phoenix never loses. I know they've got a good defense but the guy in net is...they went into San Jose last week and he had 50 shots against. Night after night after night."

"I think it's Price and Smith." "Or do we just put Price in [another] colour and then evaluate the other three."

"What does [Smith] have to do that he hasn't already done." -Holland

"Holtby's a good young goalie. He has his ups and his downs. If we get an injury - two injuries actually - he's in." - Yzerman

"Bernier and Reimer are both really good." -Yzerman

I figured Mike Smith would make this team, and I actually don't mind him making this team, just because of the instability surrounding many of Canada's other goalies, but I'm shocked he's held in this high regard. All I know is, Phoenix indeed loses. They've lost 29 times this year. And Mike Smith is 26th in the NHL in save percentage. Food for thought.

These comments make it sound like as of November, Holtby was 5th on the depth chart. Since 1-2 were clearly Price-Smith, that leaves Luongo and somebody else as 3-4. It's hard to understand why one would split Bernier and Reimer around Holtby, but I'm led to believe that is what was the case. Since Holtby has dropped off, I would guess that Price/Smith/Luongo/Bernier/Reimer is the current top-5 for Yzerman and co.

The GMs reconvene in December...

"I like to see how these guys respond to difficult situations. I like to see two road games for every home game. I like to see different matchups; how they respond to matchups; how they respond to hostile environments." - Armstrong

"I think when you're putting this team together, we're looking for synergy, whether it's been at past world championships, past team play. That's always a benefit." - Armstrong

I don't have a particular problem with this, as long as chemistry is more of a tiebreaker than anything else, and that they get to see more than a couple of games by each player.

"How do we not have Corey Perry on this team? Playing with Getzlaf. They just go together." - Kevin Lowe

"Perry, Getzlaf, and a guy like Duchene or something at left wing. Or Benn. Or Marleau." - Holland

OKAY WHAT. Haven't heard much from Kevin Lowe so far, but nice of him to speak up. I had to re-wind and watch this three times. Corey Perry is easily Canada's best natural right-winger and a born sniper. The argument had always been "does it help Getzlaf's candidacy that he plays with Perry," not the other way around. Wow. Oh, and I love the idea of a Duchene/Getzlaf/Perry line. I argued for that pretty hard in our War Room last week.

"If Kunitz wasn't playing with Crosby...how good is he. Well I keep going back to last year when they finished in the top 10 in scoring and Crosby missed [time]. So if god forbid Sid got hurt....it looks like [Kunitz] is making it on his own. You can play him with Getzlaf."

Take a look at these three tweets. Despite logic to the contrary, it sure sounds like Kunitz is going to be on this team. "You can play him with Getzlaf". Kunitz doesn't only have chemistry. He has *takes off sunglasses* backup chemistry.

"If Eric Staal scores nine goals in 14 games, does he get back in the mix?"

"For me, Eric Staal, on this team, he's still gonna be a 4th line left winger (maybe right winger, who's gonna skate hard." -Yzerman

"Well you can apply that to Seguin too." - Chiarelli

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Chiarelli stand up for Seguin, even briefly. It had been my dream at one point to see a Marchand/Bergeron/Seguin line tear it up at this tournament, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

"In fairness to [Babcock], he's got him on the team, and we've got him on a watch list. So one of us is off. Maybe we should watch him a little more." - Armstrong

"I know I'm not off. He's underperformed. [The coaches] just haven't seen him." - Chiarelli

Between Canada and the USA, these GMs have some harsh words for coaches. Yikes.

The GMs meet for a December 10th game in San Jose as the Sharks face the Islanders...

"See that little play down there by Vlasic to start that rush though. Just brings it up the boards. Gets it to him." - Armstrong

"He's got great hands, eh, Thornton. Just fishes pucks out of there." - Armstrong

"Thornton just hangs onto the puck, makes plays."

"That's a good line, eh?" "Pretty nice power play unit." -Armstrong, Yzerman on Couture, Marleau, Thornton, Pavelski, Boyle.

That last line refers to this goal:


The management department was on hand to see a nice rush from Tavares on a goal, and some nice teamwork from the Sharks contingent. It is just one game, but that likely plays in the favor of those guys.

Projected Roster

As I wrote earlier, our EOTP roster for Team Canada will be revealed separately, but based on these comments as well as some earlier reports, here is my projected Team Canada roster, listed in the order of how sure I am they make it:

Forwards:

Crosby

Stamkos

Toews

Couture

Marleau

Getzlaf

Tavares

St. Louis

Perry

Kunitz

Duchene

Benn

Carter

Thornton

Next call-up: Bergeron

Updated projection: Bergeron In, Thornton Out

Defensemen:

Doughty

Keith

Pietrangelo

Weber

Bowmeester

Vlasic

Subban

Boyle

Next call-up: Seabrook

Goalies:

Price

Smith

Luongo

Next call-up: Bernier

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