Friday, May 03, 2013
2013 IIHF World Championship - Team Canada Preview
The latest edition of Team Canada's entry into the IIHF World Championship are set to kick-off their schedule in Stockholm, Sweden. As always, TSN will be airing the championships in Canada, starting with the opener against Denmark on Saturday morning at 10:15 am (EST).
Just like last year's edition, the team will have an Edmonton Oilers flavour to it. Devan Dubnyk and Jordan Eberle are both returning, while a healthy Taylor Hall and rookie Justin Schultz, have also been added into the mix. Lindy Ruff's crew looks as though they may have their challenges in their own end of the rink but upfront, he might just have one of Canada's most talented groups in some time.
Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Claude Giroux, Taylor Hall, Andrew Ladd, Ryan O'Reilly, Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Steven Stamkos
With the 2014 Sochi Olympics just around the corner, most were expecting many on Canada's high profile names to make the trip overseas this year and take part in the yearly event. Luckily for Hockey Canada, that is exactly what happened, leaving Canada with a forward group which should be able to impose their will on almost any opposition...no matter the style of game.
Carolina Hurricanes centre Eric Staal was named captain on Thursday evening and is slated to start the tournament on line with a pair of Philadelphia Flyers, in Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds. Ruff has an almost embarrassing amount of riches at his disposal upfront and has manged to construct what looks to be a rather scary looking four line attack.
On top of the aforementioned trio, Steven Stamkos will find himself on Team Canada's top line with Claude Giroux and alternate captain Andrew Ladd. While the Oilers duo of Hall and Eberle, will be centred by Colorado's Matt Duchene, in what could be one of the tournament's most entertaining trios to watch. Leaving the captain's brother Jordan Staal and fellow Hurricane Jeff Skinner, on a line with the Avs Ryan O'Reilly.
The quartet of Eberle, Laad, O'Reilly and Skinner are all returning from last year's team, who were surprisingly bounced in the quarter-finals, in a shocking loss to Slovakia. While that roster was missing more than a few big name players who were eligible to play, the forward group scored more than its fair share of goals throughout the tournament.
Safe to say, scoring goals should not be a problem for this year's edition either. Especially with so many guys having played with each other in previous tournaments or already being teammates, if not linemates, with their current NHL clubs. There's no question Canada will score a boatload of goals
T.J. Brodie, Brian Campbell, Brenden Dillon, Jay Harrison, Stephane Robidas, Luke Schenn, Justin Schultz
Unfortunately for Team Canada, the vast majority of this country's premier defencemen tend to find themselves in the National Hockey League playoffs and are rarely available for this tournament from the outset. On those occasions where one or two may be available, generally something gets in the way from them pulling on the the red and white Maple Leaf.
Last year, they were dealt a major blow with the loss of Montreal's P.K. Subban to a knee injury in the team's opening exhibition game against Switzerland. This year's blueline is fairly young and inexperienced but with the likes of Dustin Byfuglien, Braydon Coburn and Shea Weber all either unable or unwilling to take part, it should come as no surprise.
While much will be expected from both Brian Campbell and alternate captain Stephane Robidas, the duo of Brenden Dillon and Luke Schenn are coming off strong campaigns and should be able to lend a helping hand. Calgary's T.J. Brodie and Edmonton's Justin Schultz are both young developing defencemen and should excel playing on the larger ice surface, while helping Canada transition the puck up ice Though it would be safe to assume the two would not find themselves together in the starting lineup, unless Canada were to run into injury trouble or decide to rest someone against weaker competition.
As for the D pairings go, nothing appears to be set in stone but the fact Robidas & Dillion have seen time together in Dallas, would make them an obvious duo.Meaning Campbell will likely lineup beside Schenn and Carolina's Jay Harrison would find himself in third pairing with the Oilers young blueliner.
Look for Campbell and Schultz to each anchor a power play unit, as Ruff will run with four forwards on both groups. Leaving the quartet of Dillon, Harrison, Robidas and Schenn the bulk of the work on the penalty kill. Far from an ideal scenario but one that should be good enough...at least in the short term. You can bet Canada would gladly add some experience to their backend, should the opportunity arise after the completion of the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Devan Dubnyk, Michael Garnett, Mike Smith
One would think that Devan Dubnyk what get the chance to run with the ball, after putting together a nice season as the Oilers top goaltender and making his third consecutive trip to the World Championships. He had a far better season than Phoenix's Mike Smith but the Coyotes starter has the advantage of having Dave Tippett as one of Canada's assistant coaches.
While both guys will undoubtedly get their chance to play during the round robin portion of the competition, Dubnyk will have to be that much better to earn the starter's role come crunch time. Smith may have struggled with his consistency throughout much of the abbreviated 2013 NHL campaign but he is also the same guy that carried Phoenix all the way to the Western Conference Finals during last year's playoffs.
There is no question the starter's job is up for grabs but barring Devan Dubnyk playing out of his mind or Mike Smith falling flat on his face, the smart money would be on Smith being Canada's guy when they start playing for keeps.
Group H (Helsinki) - Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia, USA
Group S (Stockholm) - Belarus, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Sweden
TSN Broadcast and Tournament Schedule