Opinion

Hodge: Rolling the dice with Luongo

Corey Crawford is hardly a household name in hockey mad Canada and he will certainly not increase his name recognition ranking during this month’s Olympic Games either.

That’s because he is not taking part.

Amid all the controversy that residents north of the 49th parallel have endured the past months regarding who is, or is not, a member of Canada’s Olympic hockey team, the name Corey Crawford has barely garnered a whisper.

By the time this year’s gold medal game is over in Russia, however, anticipate some discussion by armchair coaches around the world on whether or not Corey should have been involved.

Sadly the answer is—duh, yes for sure.

When the final game puck is dropped at this year’s Olympics, chances are good it may well be old nemesis Canada and Sweden lined up across from one another.

The biggest mystery for many will be, can Carey Price carry the team all the way—because Roberto Luongo will not.

When Team Canada’s original roster was announced in January, questions arose about two or three players who were not named to the line-up.

With so many stellar players available, obviously some great talent would be left off. That, of course, did not stop the boo-birds and naysayers from making comment. (Moi included).

The majority of controversy revolved around Martin St. Louis, Claude Giroux, and Dan Boyle not being picked for the team in favour of Matt Duchene, Jamie Benn and P.K. Suban.

Discussion also swirled around about Crawford being rejected over Price, Luongo or Mike Smith. With the exception of St. Louis, who was ultimately picked this week to replace injured Steve Stamkos, I had no issues on decisions made—except Crawford.

However, the brain trust in charge of team Canada clearly has greater confidence in Luongo than I do.

Roberto’s days in the sun are nearly done, and with the exception of the last world wide hockey on the big stage (when Luongo led Canada to gold) he has dropped the ball in big games fairly regular.

Crawford, on the other hand, has helped Chicago Black Hawks win two Stanley Cups.

With that in mind, here are my men’s Olympic hockey predictions.

Sweden will edge Canada in overtime with one of the Sedin twins notching the winner. [Editor’s Note: It was announced Thursday that Henrik Sedin will not be playing.]

No team has the overall depth of Canada, certainly at centre ice and on defence. The two biggest concerns are the use of too many forwards playing on the wing instead of centre where they normally play and the questionable goaltending consistency.

Sweden is the next overall team with depth, boasting strong goaltending and forwards. The two weaknesses for the Swedes will be perhaps defence and players playing wounded.

Russia could replace Sweden in the final, however, injured players are again a question with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Ovechkin and others still bruised and battered. Defence is somewhat suspect for the Russians as is goal but perhaps the club’s biggest threat is the pressure of playing at home. If former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk and some of the other Kontinental League players pull through, Russia could take it all.

Team U.S is big and tough up front but their defence sucks. I am still shocked that big-mouth bully Brian Burke and others were silly enough to not have Bobby Ryan named to the club.

Finland (with Temu Selanne playing his sixth Olympic games) could likewise do very well this Olympics, but I look for teams such as Slovakia and the Czechs to take a step backwards this year.

Based on the snubbing of Ryan, Crawford, and prior to this week St. Louis, I compiled a team of rejected players and the list would make one heck of a team.

I call this group the United Nations Castaways.

Consider this team’s medal potential:

Goal: Corey Crawford, Corey Schneider, Craig Anderson, Tim Thomas.

Defence: Chris Letang, Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle, Brent Seabrook, Jack Johnson, Dustin Byfuglien, Erik Jonson.

Forwards: Bobby Ryan, Claude Giroux, James Neal, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Taylor Hall, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Eric Staal, Mike Richards, Kyle Okposo, Brandon Saad.

I figure that line-up is good for at least a bronze medal.

All that is left now is for someone to drop the puck and let the cheering begin.

 

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