Edmonton - July 23, 2013 - On Monday afternoon, Hockey Canada unveiled not only their coaching staff for the 2014 Sochi Olympics but also released the list of invitees who will be taking part in Team Canada's orientation camp from August 25th -28th, in Calgary, Alberta.
Outside of a couple of omissions, most notably Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza and Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, and one surprising inclusion, hello Travis Hamonic of the New York Islanders, the forty-seven players listed were no real surprise.
The Edmonton Oilers will have two of their young forwards attending the camp, in Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall.
While Eberle made a name for himself as Mr. Clutch for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, the talented winger will have his hands full in trying to crack what will be another star-studded Canadian lineup.
Having said that, should the former CHL Player of the Year bounce back with a strong start to the 2013-14 NHL season, after having a bit of an off year in 2013, don't be surprised to see his name among the players selected to head over to Sochi in early February.
As far as Taylor Hall goes, it looks as though the Oilers budding superstar will have to prove his worth one more time, before being given serious consideration at earning a possible spot.
While his professional debut wearing the Maple Leaf at the 2013 IIHF World Championship was less than impressive, some of that can be attributed to how Lindy Ruff and his coaching staff decided to employ the Western Conference's second leading scorer.
The combination of his overall skill set and flat out foot speed, should make him an obvious selection...especially with the games being played on the much bigger European ice surface. However, over the last year or so, you have rarely if ever, seen or heard Hall's name mentioned as a legitimate candidate among the mainstream media.
Whereas Eberle and former Boston Bruins winger Tyler Seguin, were routinely mentioned as guys with a great chance at earning a spot, as far back as February 2013. While both were coming off strong showings during the 2011-2012 season, playing a major role in them gaining more notoriety among the masses, curiously enough, the same has not occurred for the former first overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Heading into August's orientation camp, the coaching staff of Mike Babcock, Ken Hitchcock, Claude Julien and Ruff will have the following players to form a rather heisty opinion on:
Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Logan Couture, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Eberle, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, Hall, Chris Kunitz, Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Rick Nash, James Neal, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, Patrick Sharp, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews
Karl Alzner, Jay Bouwmeester, Dan Boyle, Drew Doughty, Mike Green, Dan Hamhuis, Hamonic, Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf, Alex Pietrangelo, Brent Seabrook, Marc Staal, PK Subban, Marc-Édouard Vlasic, Shea Weber
Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith
Outside of goal, the embarrassment of riches Team Canada have at their disposal are frankly laughable. As many have previously suggested, they could arguably put together three rosters that would all compete for a medal. However, the task at hand will be to select a group of players capable of defending their 2010 gold medal from Vancouver.
The group of Crosby, Giroux, Nash, Perry, Eric Staal, Stamkos, Tavares and Toews look to be a lock upfront. That is not to say I would necessarily have all those names on my roster but the smart money would be on them all being part of Babcock's final selections, barring injury or poor play.
Those names take up eight of the available fourteen spots, leaving only six remaining openings. Passing over the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner in St. Louis would seem to be almost unthinkable, as would not including Getzlaf as part of the equation. Bringing us down to four available slots.
In my mind, those spots should be earmarked for Hall, Ladd, Sharp and one of Couture or Neal. Some will point to the likes of Bergeron, Carter, Lucic, Richards and even Marchand and think how do you pass up on those guys. Fair point but at what point do you stop duplicating players on the roster and actually look to add an element that might be missing?
As good as Bergeron, Carter and Richards are at what they do, there are players already on this roster that do what they can do. Canada tends to struggle on the bigger ice surface, no matter the event, because they never seem to get away from the mindset of building a " big" team. This collection of forwards, in no way shape or form, lacks size making a player like Lucic unnecessary. When the Bruins power forward is engaged and on his game, he is a force in the National Hockey League. However in this setting, he'll be a penalty taking machine that will struggle badly on the bigger ice.
Whereas adding a guy like Hall into the equation, would have the complete opposite effect. The former Windsor Spitfire standout is a handful to contain at the best of times but on the bigger ice and with All-Star talent all around him, the Oilers leading scorer could be an absolute force whenever he hits the ice. While he won't play a starring role for Canada, his inclusion will give Babcock a wild card to play, whenever he so chooses. Something the remaining players on the outside looking in, simply do not do.
For a player who just finished top ten in league scoring and appears to be on the verge of stardom, one has to wonder what else Taylor Hall has to do to get noticed. Lucky for him, Team Canada's coaching staff includes two men who have always held him in fairly high regard, especially for such a young player, in Mike Babcock and Ken Hitchcock.
Though if Hall comes out of the chute in2013-14, as good or better than he should during the abbreviated 2013 campaign, this will all be a moot point. At that point, the powers at be will have no choice but to include him among the very best players this country has to offer...which is exactly where he belongs.