Published On: Mon, Aug 29th, 2016

3 questions facing Team Canada

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Another international hockey display is about to get underway, which means the pressure will once again be on Team Canada to reign supreme.

The host nation enters as the odds-on favorite to capture the first installment of the first World Cup of Hockey in 12 years. However, that doesn’t mean the team is immune to questions and concerns that must be addressed if they plan to prove once again that they own hockey.

Here are a few to consider:

Will Crosby finally dominate?


Sidney Crosby‘s flare for the dramatic has overshadowed mediocre play in his last two Olympic appearances.

He scored dramatic goals in the gold-medal games of both Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, but has otherwise failed to produce consistently on the world stage.

In his first taste of Olympic action in 2010, he lit the hockey world ablaze with his iconic “Golden Goal” against the United States, but otherwise enjoyed a fairly quite tournament.

He did finish with seven points in seven games, but three of those came in the club’s 8-0 shelling of Norway in their opening game. Crosby failed to record a point in both the quarterfinals and semifinals.


Fast-forward to 2014, and his lack of production was once again a cause for concern. This time around, Crosby managed just three points in six games for the red and white en route to another gold medal. He scored in the final game on a great breakaway effort, but again was held pointless in the quarters and semis.

Captain Canada has since represented his country at the World Championship last year, where he contributed 11 points in nine games as Canada claimed first prize, but the tournament rarely features every country’s top talent.

This time around, he should be surrounded by a strong core of players (he won’t be forced to play alongside Chris Kunitz again), and while the 29-year-old will once again don the “C,” whether he’ll lead the team on the scoreboard is another matter.

Will omissions of Hall, Perry, and Subban hurt?


There were rumblings after the initial roster was named about why Canada excluded the likes of Taylor Hall, Corey Perry, and P.K. Subban.

News last week that both Jamie Benn and Duncan Keith won’t be participating in the tournament as they continue to deal with offseason ailments only increased the chatter, as once again the trio was glanced over in favor of successors Logan Couture and Jay Bouwmeester.

Smart move or strange omission? Let’s take a closer look at each player:

Perry

As far as his career numbers go, Perry has seen a decline in production the past two seasons, but he’s still managed 33- and 34-goal campaigns, respectively. Factor in his suiting up for Canada at the past two Olympics, and in three World Championships, and it’s quite surprising he was overlooked.

Perry has scored more goals from the right wing than anyone since the 2012-13 season, and he could have helped balance a roster that’s very center-heavy.

Hall

Hall hasn’t had the chance to represent his country at the Olympics, but has done so admirably at the World Championships.

The 24-year-old has dressed for Canada at the past two installments of the tournament, combining for 13 goals and 21 points in 20 games while capturing gold both times.

Over the last four seasons, only Benn and Alex Oveckin have more points than Hall among left-wingers in the NHL.

Subban


After it was announced Keith would miss the tournament and be replaced by Bouwmeester, many wondered why P.K. Subban wasn’t slotted in.

Of course, it appears Babcock and company have elected to construct their defense lines with a left and right shot each, so switching out Keith (a left-handed shot) for Subban (a right-handed shot) didn’t make sense.

That aside, over the last three seasons, only Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns have more points from the back end than Subban. The 27-year-old was part of the Sochi gold-medal-winning team, but was used sparingly, only dressing in a single game.

Even so, a former Norris Trophy candidate with a booming shot from the back end like Subban would be no weakness to the team.

Will Canada’s offense wake up?

While Canada did manage to go undefeated in Sochi just over two years ago, fans will remember it certainly wasn’t thanks to their scorching offense.

In fact, the club managed just 17 goals in the six games they played, with six of those goals coming against a weak Austrian team.


Along the way, Canada also managed just three goals against Norway and had a slim 2-1 victory over the Latvians, whose best finish in international competition has been seventh.

This time around, Canada doesn’t have the luxury of playing more inferior squads, and with the firepower at each team’s disposal, relying too heavily on defense and goaltending is unlikely to be a winning strategy.

Canada had just three players in the top 32 in scoring in Sochi, with two of them being defensemen in Shea Weber and Drew Doughty (the other was Jeff Carter), and, as discussed earlier, Crosby was nearly silent.

The team is fortunate enough, however, that Steven Stamkos is healthy, John Tavares will be good to go for the entire tournament, and players such as Tyler Seguin have established themselves as elite goal-scorers.

Defense wins championships, but a lack of offense loses them.



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