September 07, 2016
World Cup of Hockey Previews: Canada
There is absolutely no doubt that the host Canadians are the team to be at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Canada always is at least a co-favorite if not the absolute favorite.
And how could they not be? Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Claude Giroux, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin..... no nation can match Canada's fire power.
Canada is so strong that the only forward on Team USA - the tournament's consensus second favorite - who could crack this line up would likely be Patrick Kane. And if Canada could add only one forward from another team, it would almost certainly be Canadian Connor McDavid from the North American under 23 team.
The blue line is also the deepest in the tournament, though stalwart Duncan Keith's exit is notable. They still have Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Alex Pietrangelo. And Jay Bouwmeester, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jake Muzzin are no slouches. Ryan Suter is probably the only American defenseman who could crack this roster which also excludes PK Subban, Kris Letang and Aaron Ekblad.
Being the considerable favorite comes with a lot of hype and a lot of expectations. Can Canada cope with all the hoopla?
Some people are trying to suggest Canada's biggest concern should be the pressure of playing at home. Funny how in the old Canada Cup set up one of the biggest complaints by the old Soviet teams was that Canada always had the home ice advantage. Canada faced amazing pressure back then, too.
If they could win on home ice at the Vancouver Olympics, they certainly can win on home ice at the World Cup.
More concerning should be their goaltending. They have the best goalie in the world in Carey Price, but he's coming off an injury plague season that saw him play just 12 games. He's back and healthy, but will throwing him into a best-on-best tournament be a problem? This has to be Canada's number one concern, and back ups Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford best be ready.
It is also interesting to note Canada has switched tactics a bit with it's roster.
In each of their past two Olympic wins, Canada chose elite role players such as Christ Kunitz to join the team. They did this to have instant chemistry on key lines, and fill specific roles.
This time Canada seems to be bringing mostly superstars. The coaching staff will have to clearly define roles and get players to buy into lesser roles than many of them are used to.
That likely will not be a problem, as to varying degrees this always happens to Canadian players at best on best tournaments.