He is the reigning Norris trophy winner and current leader in points by defencemen. That being said, according to information gathered by TSN Insider Darren Dreger, P. K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens is a ‘long shot’ to play for Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
If I were picking the CDN Oly team, Subban would be on it. Based on intel gathered, at this pt, he's a longshot…behind Boyle and Letang.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) October 31, 2013
According to Dreger’s tweet, Subban is held in lower favour than fellow offensively inclined right-handed defencemen Dan Boyle of the San Jose Sharks and Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boyle was a contributing member of the Canadian men’s team that won gold in Vancouver 2010. That may give him the inside track.
The hardest part about arguing which player(s) should be on a team as deadly in depth as Team Canada is – well then who do you leave off allowing room for Subban?
At the moment, there are three widely accepted locks on Canada’s blue line. Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith are practically guaranteed to be there. They can do it all – strong defensively – great offensively – and this trio played big minutes along with Boyle, Pronger and Niedermayer in 2010.
Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks was the seventh defenceman in Vancouver. If anything, he has improved since then. Seabrook put on an incredible display of dominance in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs en route to a Hawks Cup victory. While it can be argued that Boyle, Letang and Subban are offensively more effective than the Hawks big blueliner, lest we not forget that Seabrook has proven himself a capable scorer in big games, like this one and this one.
How do you leave off a two-time Stanley Cup champion, 1-time Olympic gold medalist who is 6’3″, plays with a mean streak, and moves around the ice as well as most smaller, mobile defencemen? You probably don’t. Seabrook is very likely rounding out the top four on Canada’s defence, playing alongside his familiar partner Duncan Keith.
The biggest issue with Canada’s defence options for the 2014 Winters’ is that aside from Duncan Keith, all the favourites to make the team are right handed shots. At the moment, Weber, Doughty, Seabrook, Boyle, Letang, Subban, and the highly touted Alex Pietrangelo all shoot right. Which means while maintaining offensive pressure this group would feature multiple defenders forced to hold the line on their off-wing. That could lead to a scenario where someone like Letang or Subban may be forced to attempt a keep-in on his backhand against a player like Alex Ovechkin or Patrick Kane. That is risky business in a tournament where one bad goal gets you eliminated. And the opposition is certainly talented enough to burn Canada on an odd man rush going the other way.
Duncan Keith shoots left. He stands alone as the only obvious choice on defence who is best suited to play the left side.
Other lefties Jay Bouwmeester, Marc Staal and Marc Edouard Vlasic could factor in simply because of the hand they shoot. Bouwmeester is helped by the fact that he regularly skates his NHL shifts with Pietrangelo. Canada has proven in the past to prefer pairs if they can find good ones. Keith and Seabrook in 2010, Pronger and Macinnis in 2002 – it could happen again.
Narrowing the blueline down to 7 or 8 will not be easy, that is for sure. There may not be a place for all three of Boyle, Letang and Subban. If only one can make it, perhaps Boyle is first choice because he has been there before. Maybe it’s Letang because he’s more of a 5-on-5 threat offensively, although you could argue he is more of a liability. But Letang has the Crosby connection, which may help his cause. Or it could be Subban they choose because he has one of the best point shots in hockey. The worry for Subban is that if it’s his point shot that earns him favour, he competes with Shea Weber for the right to play big shot righty on Canada’s main power play. Subban is good, but Weber is just as good if not better from the point. Plus, Weber is better known as an effective defensive player.
Luckily, personal team biases aside, any collection of players mentioned above can unite to form a defence corps that is more than capable of winning gold for Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics. If Subban makes the team, I won’t be worried. If he doesn’t, ditto. Whereas Team Canada’s goaltending depth at the high-end may be in question this year, you cannot argue weakness amongst their unbelievable crop of defencemen. At least one very good NHL blueliner will probably not play for the 2014 Canadian men’s hockey team in Sochi.