Seven Bolts will go to Sochi, but St. Louis and Hedman snubbed
A few weeks ago, we gave you a rundown of the players who were considered possible for their countries' Olympic teams. Final roster announcements were made on Tuesday, and there were some good calls, but there were some brutally bad ones made as well.
First, the Swedes passed over Victor Hedman, for reasons passing understanding. Raw Charge's Kyle Alexander gave the rundown on just how bad a decision this is, so I'm not going to go into it here. I knew Hedman didn't get enough recognition for what he does, but this is another level.
And with his snub from Team Canada, Martin St. Louis is cemented among the ranks of the criminally underrated. I feel like the discussions about must have gone something like Justin Bourne's "rationale" for leaving him off:
He’s older, but he’s still scoring at a terrifying pace (40 points in 43 games). He’s smaller, but he’s the type of thinker that would be deadly on bigger ice. There are a ton of good players so it’s not easy to make the team, but Sochi almost feels tailor-made for him....And yet…nope, I wouldn’t have picked him?
It seems a lot like it came down to the fact that he was born in 1975, so therefore he must be...um...slow! Yeah, that's it. He must be slow.
This was Marty's response to the situation:
He's eloquent, our Marty.
Adding another wrinkle is the fact that the guy heading the selection process is St. Louis' current boss, Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman, and there has been some worry expressed that this might damage the relationship between the two. A lot of Lightning fans believe Yzerman should have stood up for him more. Maybe so. But once you've made your case over and over, if people still aren't buying, you've got a decision to make. Here's Elliotte Friedman:
There’s also no doubt Yzerman stood up for his player as the selection committee closed in on its final roster. But as the team was cemented after midnight Tuesday morning, he didn’t have consensus. He could have overruled, but didn’t.
You can’t wear two hats at once. He chose red, white and black over Tampa Bay blue.
It comes down to, I suppose, what kind of leader you want to be. Yzerman is the kind of guy who surrounds himself with smart people and then listens to them. He's led the Lightning that way, so it's no surprise that he'd be leading Team Canada that way. He knows that he couldn't do this without those guys, so he acquiesced to the panel in the end, and if it goes wrong, he'll stand up and take the heat on himself. Regardless of how it plays out, I think that for the rest of his life, he'll feel like he could have done more here. And maybe he could have. We'll never know.
Still, seven Lightning players will be heading to Sochi, and they deserve some recognition, too.
For Canada, Steven Stamkos was named, despite the impossibility of setting a date for his return from injury. Speculation is that the team and Stamkos are eying an early February return, although that's far from a deadline of any kind. The bottom line is that if he's healthy, he can play for Team Canada. If he's not, he can be replaced at any point up to 24 hours before the first game. There's a chance he won't be ready to play, but if they failed to name him now, they don't even have that chance without making him the injury replacement for someone else. If they want Stamkos to play--and why wouldn't they?--they have to have him on the paperwork now.
Yesterday, Stamkos responded to both his and Marty's situation. Video here.
Among the Tampacuse gang, Radko Gudas and Ondrej Palat were both named to the Czech team. Gudas is no surprise at all, really. It would have been more shocking if he'd been left off. He's got both the production and the profile that puts a player in contention. Plus, they were probably scared his beard would eat them if he weren't named. I am glad to see Palat getting noticed, though. He's one of those guys it's easy to overlook--a quiet man with a quiet game. But he does many things well and he deserves a chance to shine.
Another Tampacuse guy, Richard Panik, was named to the Slovak team, despite his struggles here in North America this season. It will be interesting to see how this recognition affects his play in the NHL. Will he have more confidence? Will he finally "get" whatever it was he needed to "get" to earn ice time? What will the story be? In any case, I find it fitting that most of the sentences about Richard Panik right now end in question marks.
Unsurprisingly, the Finns named both Valtteri Filppula and Sami Salo. Not a surprise at all. I feel like Filppula's brand of hockey will be a definite asset for international play. Salo's one of the better Finnish defensemen these days, which is telling. Of the defense corps, six were born 1985 or before and two were born 1991 or after. There's a huge gap there, as the Finns simply haven't been producing defensemen. Salo will be the oldest on the team.
And finally, goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis, who was drafted this past summer and who is playing with the Syracuse Crunch right now, was named to Latvia's team. His season has been up and down so far. He can show incredible poise but has been very inconsistent, as young goalies often are. He might give up 4 or he might pitch a shutout. Last May at the World Championships, his ability to steal the crease from his older teammates helped get him drafted. If he gets a shot this time around, will he hold onto it?
Olympic Men's Hockey will begin on Feb. 12 and will be carried on a variety of NBC-owned networks.