Winners of the last two consecutive Olympic gold medals, Canada is always a favourite in any international hockey competition. The returning World Cup of Hockey will be no exception to that general rule, as Canada will once again boast a very strong roster for the tournament in Toronto.
In the build up for the tournament, they had three separate players withdraw. Normally that could be a death blow, but Canada's talent pool is extremely deep. Jamie Benn, Jeff Carter, Tyler Seguin, and Duncan Keith all had to bow out, and were replaced by Logan Couture, Corey Perry, Ryan O'Reilly, and Jay Bouwmeester respectively.
Some of the decisions Hockey Canada made in constructing this roster have been criticized, but there is no doubt that they are the best team in the tournament on paper. Whether or not they can back that up on the ice is something we don't have to wait too long to see.
Here is the current roster Canada will be icing, barring any more unforeseen withdrawals.
|Carey Price||G||NHL||Montreal Canadiens|
|Braden Holtby||G||NHL||Washington Capitals|
|Corey Crawford||G||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Marc-Edouard Vlasic||D||NHL||San Jose Sharks|
|Jay Bouwmeester||D||NHL||St. Louis Blues|
|Shea Weber||D||NHL||Montreal Canadiens|
|Drew Doughty||D||NHL||Los Angeles Kings|
|Alex Pietrangelo||D||NHL||St. Louis Blues|
|Jake Muzzin||D||NHL||Los Angeles Kings|
|Brent Burns||D||NHL||San Jose Sharks|
|Joe Thornton||F||NHL||San Jose Sharks|
|Brad Marchand||F||NHL||Boston Bruins|
|Claude Giroux||F||NHL||Philadelphia Flyers|
|Matt Duchene||F||NHL||Colorado Avalanche|
|Logan Couture||F||NHL||San Jose Sharks|
|Patrice Bergeron||F||NHL||Boston Bruins|
|Steven Stamkos||F||NHL||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Corey Perry||F||NHL||Anaheim Ducks|
|John Tavares||F||NHL||New York Islanders|
|Sidney Crosby||F||NHL||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Jonathan Toews||F||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Ryan Getzlaf||F||NHL||Anaheim Ducks|
|Ryan O'Reilly||F||NHL||Buffalo Sabres|
With an incredibly deep group of forwards, the Canadian squad will roll with four lines that can all do serious damage. The top line so far in the pre-tournament games has been Sidney Crosby centring Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, who outshot the entire American group of forwards in their exhibition loss last Friday.
Now two of those players are centres, and looking at the roster, they definitely brought a lot of those. But the sheer talent they have coming together should make that a non-issue. Most of the natural centres they have are likely more than gifted enough to skate on the wing without much trouble.
Simply put, any team that faces them is going to have legitimate matchup problems. Four deadly lines will do that.
Well, this is going to be short. I think that the only real weakness, if you can even call it weak, is the defense. Leaving guys like P.K. Subban and Mark Giordano home, in favour of guys like Jay Bouwmeester and Jake Muzzin, were particular decisions that raised some eyebrows across the country.
Add in the fact that Duncan Keith had to bow out of the tournament, and it seems fair to say that a better blueline could have been iced. It is far from being a shoddy defensive corps, but I do believe that they left some seriously good talent at home, most notably Subban, Giordano, and Kris Letang.
Other than that, I'd be a tad worried about penalty troubles. In both exhibitions against the Americans they ran into some extended shorthanded situations, so they're going to want to see a little less of that moving forward.
At the risk of sounding biased; this has to be Carey Price. Way back when he was named to the team, he was injured, but the Hockey Canada Brass made it clear that he would start if he could. Braden Holtby, the heir apparent, even said himself that Price should start if he is good to go.
Price is the best goaltender in the world. Even if other teams can manage to weather the offensive storm Canada will bring, they're going to have a very hard time getting pucks through that man and into the net. Few will forget his two consecutive shutouts over the United States and Sweden in Sochi.
A healthy Price means a lot of trouble for the opposition. But it has been a while since he played, so I'm calling him the x-factor since we'll have to see if there is any rust on him. He looked good in his lone tune-up game, but not quite like the dominant presence we're used to seeing. If he can get back to being the stud that he is known for being, Canada will be virtually unstoppable.
In the end, as is usually the case for Canada at international hockey events, anything but first place will be disappointing.