Next in my series of projections for the Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team for Sochi is the defensemen. The forwards issue will be next.
Defensemen: Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, P.K. Subban, Dan Girardi, Alex Pietrangelo
Explanation: The defensemen were a little bit easier to pick. Returning to the team are Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith, All-Star Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber and Los Angeles D-man Drew Doughty. None of their credentials were in question, but it was tougher choosing the rest of the D core.
My next choice was Pittsburgh All-Star Kris Letang. The 25 year old finished with 42 points in 51. He missed significant time with concussion problems, but when in the lineup he was dynamite.
Alex Pietrangelo and P.K. Subban were my next picks. Both are young defensemen who will provide speed and youthful energy to a loaded Canadian team that will have pressure to win Gold at all costs. Pietrangelo scored 51 points in his sophomore season with the St. Louis Blues while achieving a wonderful sophomore season. The 4th overall pick in 2008 was a mainstay on a crowded Blues defense core this year, and has broken into the NHL in a big way.
Montreal Canadien defenseman P.K. Subban recorded only 36 points, but had 119 penalty minutes, attesting to his mean streak that will only help his game on the big stage. He is feisty and has drawn the ire of many NHL stars including Mike Richards, a potential teammate of his in 2014. Richards was“[frustrated] to see a young guy like that come in here and so much as think that he’s better than a lot of people. You have to earn respect in this league. It takes a lot. You can’t just come in here as a rookie and play like that. It’s not the way to get respect from other players around the league.”
This could be an interesting storyline if they both make Team Canada, you might want to watch this one unfold.
But back to my selection of players, my final choice is Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi. Girardi was selected for his first All-Star game in 2012. He is a physical monster and will provide needed grit on the backend. Girardi led the New York Rangers, the Eastern Conference Champions, in blocked shots with 185.
He also has a good sense of humour, as demonstrated by him announcing the 2012 Winter Classic Lineup.
The Canadian backend will be loaded with talent, and my thoughts are that they will take some grit to complement the skill.