Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Gold or Bust: Part 1

Hello everyone, been a little while since my last post.  Spent a much needed weekend off with family, friends, and my other half going to a wedding and then visiting my old hometown.  It was fantastic, and I feel more refreshed to continue writing.

Since Hockey Canada announced it's camp roster for the Sochi Olympic games, I figured a good start it to preview the roster, and give my two cents on it.  There is a lot to like on the roster, but there is quite a bit I don't like.  But for the magnitude of the post, I figured it would be best to split the article up by position.

Today, I'm going to start with the goaltending.

The five goaltenders that Canada is bringing to camp are:

Corey Crawford (Chicago)
Braden Holtby (Washington)
Roberto Luongo (Vancouver)
Carey Price (Montreal)
Mike Smith (Phoenix)

From first glance, I'm not overly surprised by this list.  Luongo and Price were guaranteed to at least be invited to camp, and Crawford definitely played his way into the picture during the Stanley Cup run for Chicago this past year.

Smith is somewhat of a shock to be on here.  He is a decently consistent goaltender, who was pretty much unknown until the 2011-12 season, when he put up some monstrous numbers for a mediocre Coyotes team.  This season he levelled off somewhat, posting a 15-12-5 season and a respectable .910 save percentage.  He also had 5 shutouts, more than any other Canadian goalie last season.  The question with Smith is the lack of international and playoff experience.  Is he a good clutch goalie to lean on?  Likely not.

Holtby was a surprise on this lineup for me.  He doesn't strike me as an elite goaltender just yet, and I initially questioned how he got the spot ahead of Fleury, Ward, and Brodeur.  But upon further review, he did have 4 shutouts last season (tied with Reimer, behind only Smith), had a good winning record with the Capitals, and had a very solid .920 save percentage.  He's young, and doesn't have much more than a full season of NHL experience, but he's been good in the backup role for the Capitals before as well.  The lack of playoff and international experience might be a trouble spot, and his age might make some scouts question his consistency.  But I think he's one of Canada's best young goaltenders right now, and he worked his way to the roster spot.

Crawford, as mentioned earlier, earned his way here through his play last season.  Before the season, many thought he wasn't a playoff-capable goalie, but oh how one season can change many things.  Still, despite his clutch cup run and his strong regular season, he hasn't sewn up a starting job in the least.  It's in his reach, but he needs to perform just as good and consistent this season in order to remain on the roster, because he's still a goaltender with many questions surrounding him.

Luongo made the roster because of his Olympic run in 2010, and deserves all the credit he gets for it.  But he has struggled in the last few seasons with his constancy and clutch performances, and will need to fix that if he wants a starting job, or a roster spot for that matter.

Price has had great experience with Team Canada in junior, but has been mostly overlooked on the senior teams up to this point.  But when he is on his game, there isn't a better goalie in the NHL than Carey Price.  Again, consistency can be a bit of an issue, as seen towards the end of last season, but he is calm, cool, collected, and usually a sure thing in net.  Usually.  I still expect him to be the top dog for the starting job, but theres a long way to go before we get on deciding that.

And there is lots of time for goalies to play themselves on or off the roster, which will be especially true for Crawford, Smith and Holtby.  But this is also true for some of the goalies who didn't make the roster.  Things look bleak for them now, but they still have an opportunity to make it.

For one, I'm surprised Brodeur wasn't given an invite, based on all of his playoff and international experience.  And if a goalie like Price or Holtby became the top contenders for the job in Sochi, Brodeur would be a fine addition to the bench, providing a good mentor role for the younger goalies.  He has fallen off a bit the last few years, which is expected given his age.  But as you seen in 2011-12, he still has the skill set to be a contending goaltender.  Maybe he's not the best anymore, but I'm sure he deserved one more chance to prove that he can be.

Marc-Andre Fleury would have been a huge snub if this was two years ago, but the last two playoffs were dreadful for Fleury, last year even losing the starting job during the playoffs.  Thats not good for a resume.  Plus, previous Team Canada experience has indicated that he is not always clutch during clutch time.  So I'm not overly surprised by his omission.

Cam Ward is a goalie that is always brought up in Team Canada conversations, but never seems to be on the winning end of it.  Injuries and some inconsistent play (and somewhat the team in front of him) have led him to be under the radar for Canada.  But he has good numbers in the NHL, with only one losing season so far in his career, and had great numbers in 3 World Championships for Canada.  A healthy, successful season in Carolina is his last chance to be a contender for a roster spot, but unfortunately doesn't look promising right now.

The only other wildcard that comes to mind is a goalie like James Reimer.  He has struggled for most of his career so far, but has also been on the back end of lousy defences and has been mismanaged by coaches.  However, last year he put up some great numbers, and was putting some good numbers at the 2011 World Championships, until he was replaced by Bernier (which was the reason Canada lost to Russia in the Quarters, I still believe Reimer was the better goalie).  As an aside, funny to think how Toronto has both of those goalies now, I hope Reimer has a chance to redeem himself over Bernier.  Anyways, it will be tough for him to make the roster now, but I think with a newly strengthened Toronto team, and some consistent play from Reimer, he has a shot to at least get back into the Team Canada conversation.

So finally, here's my projected depth chart for Team Canada.  Most of this will depend on next season's play, but so far here is how things are looking for Canada.

Starter: Price
Backup: Luongo
Spare: Crawford/Holtby


  1. I feel like Luongo has a lot of potential to swing either way. That being said, Luongo ALWAYS has a lot of potential to swing up to the level of starter and down to the level of spare...

    1. Totally agree. Luongo is a great goalie. I'd say A-game to A-game, Price is the better option, but Luongo has had more clutch moments. ...And more un-clutch moments. Luongo has the opportunity to sink or swim.