Team Canada’s forward depth guarantees surprising omissions from Olympic roster

Tomorrow morning, Team Canada will announce its final roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and strictly due to an abundance of qualified forward options, there will be some interesting omissions. Dependant on how Canadian general manager Steve Yzerman decides to structure his roster, there is enough space for fourteen, or fifteen forwards on the team. Fourteen is a number some nations struggle to fill, but Canada is not one of those nations. Realistically, there are twenty-seven strong candidates to make Team Canada’s final forward cut:

Patrice Bergeron – Milan Lucic – Steven Stamkos – Martin St. Louis – Sidney Crosby – James Neal – Chris Kunitz – Claude Giroux – Eric Staal – Jeff Skinner – Rick Nash – John Tavares – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Sharp – Matt Duchene – Tyler Seguin – Jamie Benn – Andrew Ladd – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry – Joe Thornton – Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mike Richards – Jeff Carter – Taylor Hall – Jordan Eberle.

That list doesn’t even include talents like Brad Marchand, Joffrey Lupul, Jason Spezza, Matt Moulson, Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Staal, Chris Stewart, Evander Kane, Justin Williams, Shane Doan, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; all of whom would be very serious contenders to play for any other hockey nation at Sochi 2014.

Can you confidently select fourteen names from that list of more than thirty players? It’s tough narrowing it down. Thus, there will, inevitably, be some very talented Canadian players absent from the final roster. Conversely, any combination of the forwards available should translate to a four line forward group that can win a gold medal.

In 2010, Canada’s most glaring omissions were the Tampa Bay Lightning crew: Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Brad Richards (then with the Dallas Stars). You could even argue Jason Spezza was a noticeable non-selection, however, very few did.

Canada’s gold medal winning squad in 2010 was stacked up front. From that group, using the most conservative prediction, at the very least three players are an absolute guarantee to return: Crosby, Toews, and Perry. After them, Getzlaf and Bergeron are basically locks, also. Then, you have Staal, Nash, Thornton, Marleau, and possibly Richards – all very worthy of strong consideration. Throw in 2010 taxi squad member Jeff Carter, and you practically have a full forward unit already, assuming 2010 experience is important to Yzerman and his assistants. However, to think Canada will bring back as many relevant names from 2010 is based in nothing more than one angle of speculation. I personally believe that 2010 experience will only weigh heavily as a tiebreaker, not a determining factor.

There is no doubt that Dany Heatley, Brenden Morrow, and Jarome Iginla will not be invited back this time around. All three were components of the 2010 team, however, they aren’t what they used to be, and younger players have stepped up to take their place. Although, the latter, Iginla, is still a very good NHLer.

The list of new names is lengthy and impressive. Stamkos and Tavares lead a grouping of several highly skilled Canadian forwards who are offensively gifted enough to be in Sochi. Duchene, Couture, Hall, Eberle, Skinner, Benn, Seguin, and Neal; they are goal scorers who can skate. Strictly regarding raw talent and goal scoring appeal, this list of youngsters contains elements of elite offensive flair that could produce game deciding tallies for Canada in Russia next month. In fact, most reputable roster predictions in circulation include Duchene, Couture, and Benn, and to a lesser extent, Hall, Eberle, Seguin, and Neal. Any of these players could easily be on the the final roster.

Lastly, there are the veterans – the ones who didn’t get the call in 2010 – who are still excellent players, if not better now, and may very well be selected to Team Canada 2014. The list includes: Milan Lucic, Martin St. Louis, Chris Kunitz, Claude Giroux, Patrick Sharp, and Andrew Ladd. Within this group of Olympic hopefuls there is a lot of Stanley Cup pedigree and strong defensive acumen, as well as, elite offensive talent. In fact, from this group of noteworthy vets, only Claude Giroux has never won the Stanley Cup, although, he’s played in the Finals, and has exceptional playoff numbers. Aside from Ladd, every member of this group has garnered significant media attention for a spot in Sochi.

If you were selecting Team Canada for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which fourteen forwards would you select for your final roster? Drop your comments in the box below.