A year from now the Olympic gold medals will be on the line in Beijing.
Assuming a deal is worked out to send NHL players back to the Games, the next men’s best-on-best tournament will arrive before we know it.
It won’t sneak up on Doug Armstrong’s Team Canada management group, which has had a steady dialogue dating back to the summer. They are already scrutinizing players and zeroing in on those battling for the depth roles on this team — most of whom would be counted on as core contributors for any other country.
Armstrong is expecting a massive amount of turnover from Canada’s 2014 Sochi gold-medal team, the last to feature NHLers. And as a veteran of several international events he understands that his Olympic selections will be closely scrutinized and debated.
“I’d like to welcome aboard and thank all of our special advisors — the 37 million Canadians out there that will have an input on this team,” Armstrong said last month. “I can’t guarantee victory, but I can guarantee this [management] group will work tirelessly to put a team on the ice you can be proud of.”
By virtue of owning a Canadian passport, it only seemed right for me to toss in my two cents. This is the first iteration of CJ’s projected 2022 Team Canada, with more versions to come in the months ahead.
(Remember that teams dress 13 forwards, seven defencemen and two goalies for international tournaments, with an extra player carried at each position)
Nathan MacKinnon-Connor McDavid-Mitch Marner
Brad Marchand-Sidney Crosby-Patrice Bergeron
Jonathan Huberdeau-Brayden Point-Mark Stone
John Tavares-Sean Couturier-Steven Stamkos
Extra: Mathew Barzal
My rationale: There’s a long list of worthy candidates left at home here. My apologies to Ryan O’Reilly, Taylor Hall, Bo Horvat, Tyler Seguin, Logan Couture and Claude Giroux. You were all taken under close consideration, but couldn’t knock out one of the players listed above. Scheifele and Barzal are both appealing depth options in this tournament because of their ability to move up the lineup, if needed.
Shea Theodore-Alex Pietrangelo
Thomas Chabot-Cale Makar
Morgan Rielly-Dougie Hamilton
Extra: Bowen Byram
My rationale: Avert your eyes, Drew Doughty. This will be another projection to fuel your fire. I’m also moving on from fellow mainstays Shea Weber and Duncan Keith, and leaving Samuel Girard, Brent Burns, Colton Parayko, Josh Morrissey, Mark Giordano and Jake Muzzin on the outside looking in. In fact, Pietrangelo counts as the only holdover from the 2014 Olympic team and 2016 World Cup team among this group. Keep your eyes on the 19-year-old Byram, who still has time to make like an early-career Doughty and grab a bigger role with this team.
Extra: Mackenzie Blackwood
My rationale: Some may view the loyalty to Price in the No. 1 spot here as misplaced, but his experience with handling this level of pressure means something. The goaltending position is unique and can ultimately mean the difference between gold, silver or bust. Plus you can always turn to Binnington if Price struggles early, and the Stanley Cup on his resume suggests he’d be up to the task. The toughest decision was leaving Carter Hart off the roster. He and Blackwood represent the future of Team Canada in best-on-best.