08 February 2010
In between watching the Oilers flounder on the ice while playing the Avalanche on HNIC this weekend, I was flipping back and forth between the game and a program on CTV called Olympics: On Home Ice. CTV is a Canadian TV channel that along with TSN, Sportsnet and other channels will be airing the Olympics across Canada. So the special was a behind the scenes look at Team Canada, and is part of a larger shows in a series looking at the major Olympic hockey teams and their quest for gold. It's been a neat series so far. CTV usually has their shows available for viewing online, so if I see it up, I'll pass along the link.
The episode on Team Canada looked at the roster selection process, the August training camp in Calgary, all the way up to the night before debate in Saskatoon as to who should be on the final announced Team Canada roster.
When Team Canada announced their roster, and St. Louis was not on it, I noticed a lot of comments from Lightning fans with regards to the 'snub'. Certain Lightning fans think that Team Canada made the wrong choice by not including Martin St. Louis and were rather angry about it. I found the issue curious to say the least. It is interesting being a Canadian writing about a team located in Florida and getting to read about Americans (mostly) talk so heatedly about an Olympic hockey team that is not even their own.
What struck me as interesting, is that the most vocal of the Lightning fans that were upset or thought that Team Canada made the wrong choice, seemed to be not Canadian. There are Lightning fans here in Canada, yes we do exist, but when speaking to them, they didn't think that there was a wrong choice made at all. I brought this up to some people I know (Canadians) whether they thought that St. Louis should have been included on the team, they would acknowledge that he has talent, but ended up with two thoughts: 1. Stevie Y/the coaches have their reasons and 2. Who would you take off the team?
The program I watched filmed the Team Canada management team throughout their meetings and there were a couple of ideas that Steve Yzerman, Kevin Lowe and the coaches kept talking about. First off, is that they wanted to get younger with the team. Of course, there were going to be players that would have a leadership/experience role, like Niedermayer, Pronger and Iginla but overall the final roster is young. They wanted to have the team have speed in addition to the skill that the players already have. Youth would also help build experience for future teams that could represent Canada.
The other thing they looked at, is how does the team compare to what the other countries are assembling, namely Russia? Russia will bring Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk and Radulov as the opposition and have won the last two world championships in a row.
When it came down to picking the 13 forwards, they had certain players that were locks like Crosby, Nash and Thornton etc. St. Louis was not one of those players.
They also didn't want to separate lines (Heatley-Thornton-Marleau) or pairs (Getzlaf-Perry) of players that play together since they would have already established a chemistry. One reason for this is that between the last game of the NHL (Feb 14th 4pm PT plus travel to Vancouver) to the first game of the tournament (Feb 16 4:30 PT) there is less than 48 hours for this team to build chemistry, so lines or pairings could provide a familiarity that the players need to make their line work.
Both he and Lecavalier were invited to the orientation camp in Calgary, which to me already acknowledges that Team Canada thinks they are both great players. Had him and Lecavalier been on a line that was performing well, that pairing might have factored in to the selection, but of course they haven't realy played together this season.
And the last thing that they spoke of when they had their roster down to 14 forwards on a whiteboard (Carter was the extra one) is that the list that they had narrowed down was both physically huge and fast. Only 3 of those players are less than 6 feet (Crosby, Richards and Morrow all at 5'10"); St. Louis is 5'9".
Although St. Louis may have done a fantastic job as a member of Team Canada, his size and age went against him. In the end he just wasn't what Team Canada was looking for, and that is ok. I feel that many people who write that Team Canada made the wrong decision isn't looking at the bigger picture. If you ask a Canadian if they think that Team Canada made the wrong decision with regards to St. Louis, I'm sure the majority will say that they don't care about the situation as long as the team wins gold.