August 12, 2011; Montreal, QC, Canada; General view of the exterior of the Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Sochi Olympics : Will Team Canada Wilt Under The Pressure Of A Nation?

Team Canada announced their Sochi 2014 training camp roster hours before the Americans, who were previewed on these very pages yesterday. And that makes perfect sense, as not only are they the defending gold medalists from 2010 but the early favorites among hockey fans and pundits for this February as well. Camp will be from August 25 to August 28 in Calgary.

No other nation can field such a tremendously dangerous and skilled team up and down the 25 man lineup. If you don’t believe me, closely follow the breakdown of the invites below. As I make my predictions for who I would take to Russia, wait until you start seeing the names that just have to be left out.

Back in 2010, the Canadians started very slowly, as chemistry apparently suffered in the qualification round. Limping to a 1-1-1 finish and losing to the United States 5-3 in the last tune-up did not give the nation a warm and fuzzy feeling heading into the medal stage of the tournament. That is when Canada absolutely exploded, as if they were conserving it,  to the tune of 8-2 over Germany, 7-3 over Russia and 3-2 over Slovakia setting up a dream all-NHL gold medal game against the pesky Americans.

And what a game it was. After Zach Parise tied the game in the final minute of the 3rd period when all seemed lost, the United States was riding a wave of emotion. That is when Ryan Miller gifted the gold medal to Canada, failing to cover the puck when he had every reason to, then swiping it into the corner putting Brian Rafalski under pressure. Finally after the resulting turnover, Sidney Crosby beat Miller through the five hole coming off the side boards to crush the Americans dream and send an entire nation into pandemonium. That is how great international play can be, especially when the NHL allows the best players from the best league in the world to participate.

The pressure on Canada from a national perspective is immense and cannot be ruled out of any tournament they choose to take part in. It has the ability to overtake the massive skill on the ice and crush emotions like a groom being stood up at the altar (I, personally, could not think of anything more painful and embarrassing than that!). Imagine how you would feel going to work each and every day with 35 million people hanging on your every minute expecting you to do great things at a moment’s whim.

Below is the official invite list for Team Canada. They return 15 players from the team that won it all in 2010 under coach Mike Babcock. In keeping with the trend, my selections to make the team are in underlined and in italics. Feel free to comment in the section immediately beneath whether you agree or disagree with my picks.

-AG (@tazman19)

Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Forwards

  • Patrice Bergeron – Boston’s emotional leader has to have a place for his all around game.
  • Jeff Carter – LA speedster might become a victim of an all-star camp lineup. Injury replacement
  • Logan Couture – Amazing offensive skill-set earns him a place on my squad
  • Sidney Crosby – Ummm….I don’t have to even comment on this one, do I?
  • Matt Duchene – With a new contract in tow, should be more relaxed. Superb passer.
  • Jordan Eberle – At only 23, this kid is an offensive dynamo. Age a huge plus, not a concern.
  • Ryan Getzlaf – His exclusion is not related to anything but a numbers game.
  • Claude Giroux – Easy selection, wizard when he controls the biscuit.
  • Taylor Hall – Still so young, his time for permanent inclusion will be here soon enough.
  • Chris Kunitz – Unless a fiery cheap shot artist is needed, Kunitz does not make my squad.
  • Andrew Ladd – Love Ladd as a player, just don’t think he qualifies with the talent present in Calgary.
  • Milan Lucic – Big lumbering Bruins train wreck will be staying in the station.
  • Brad Marchand – See Carter, Jeff
  • Rick Nash – The Rangers ultra talented star brings offensive creativity to this lineup.
  • James Neal – One of the elite snipers off the wing in the game. Plays with Crosby on this first line.
  • Corey Perry – An olympic veteran, Babcock hoping to see him regain 50 goal form.
  • Mike Richards – Veteran presence, Stanley Cup winner, faceoff and defensive specialist….Yes
  • Patrick Sharp – 2 cups in 4 years will have to hold Sharp over for the break
  • Eric Staal – Aging veteran cannot beat out this selection of talent.
  • Jordan Staal – Injury replacement, especially for Richards.
  • Martin St. Louis – Scoring champ has one last shot at a gold and he gets that chance in 2014.
  • Steven Stamkos – Ummmm…..See Crosby, Sidney
  • John Tavares – Leave JT off this team? Never happen. Could lead team in scoring.
  • Joe Thornton – Sorry big Joe, keep working on that beard man.
  • Jonathan Toews – Hawks super captain earns C for my Canadian team. Quiet and super serious about winning.

Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Defensemen

  • Karl Alzner – Just a fill in to the invite roster. No serious chance at making team.
  • Jay Bouwmeester – Same for Bouwmeester, who has still not lived up to billing or hype.
  • Dan Boyle – Experience goes a long way for Boyle and earns him a ticket to Russia.
  • Drew Doughty – Will key Canadian transition game from blue line.
  • Mike Green – Too injury prone, probably won’t even make it to November healthy.
  • Dan Hamhuis – Stay at home defensive shot blocker will end up…..staying at home.
  • Travis Hamonic – Not Hammer’s time yet with the players he has to beat out. Lock for 2018 squad.
  • Duncan Keith – Pair him with Doughty and watch magic happen.
  • Kris Letang – Man I hate to admit this but offensively has to make this team. Power play needs him.
  • Marc Methot – Next…..
  • Dion Phaneuf – Why would he beat out my other 8? Give me one good reason. Just one….thought so.
  • Alex Pietrangelo – Future Norris trophy winner in my opinion.
  • Brent Seabrook – Rock solid, brings physical game and can chip in offensively as well.
  • Marc Staal – Don’t think physically he could do it, even if he were to make it.
  • P.K. Subban – Cannot leave this years Norris winner off team. Too dynamic.
  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Nope, not even in NHL13.
  • Shea Weber – Monster shot, size and ability make him first team selection on defense.

Mandatory Credit: Harry How/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Goaltenders

  • Corey Crawford- Don’t think he wins starting job, but playoff performance earns him backup role.
  • Braden Holtby – Not quite there yet. Show me consistent performance.
  • Roberto Luongo- If his head is right, and I am betting it will be, starter for Canada off 2010 gold medal win.
  • Carey Price – Can’t figure out what Price you are going to get? Babcock won’t be bothered trying to either.
  • Mike Smith – Consistent in the desert. 3rd string.

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