Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Trial Of Stevie-Y

There were decisions to be made, and he made them. There will be scrutiny to face, and he will face it. There will be discussions over who he included on the guest list and who he left off, and he will allow those invited to show why they belong. But as right or wrong as it may be, this version of Canada's Olympic men's hockey team has Steve Yzerman's fingerprints all over it as much as the others who helped him choose these twenty-five players, and, at the end of the hockey tournament in Sochi, Russia, it will ultimately be Steve Yzerman who answers for Canada's performance, gold or no gold.

There will always be notable omissions on Canada's team simply due to the vast number of excellent players we send to the NHL annually. Leaving Claude Giroux and Martin St. Louis off the team seems ludicrous based on their bodies of work, but leaving Patrick Marleau and Chris Kunitz at home always seems highly questionable when you look at their statistical achievements.

There will never be a consensus roster when Team Canada has to select just twenty-five players, and we need to understand this fact. Yzerman had Kevin Lowe, Ken Holland, Peter Chiarelli and Doug Armstrong. With the exception of Kevin Lowe, all of those men have built pretty respectable teams. Lowe is working on it with the Edmonton Oilers, but he hasn't quite achieved the level that Holland and Chiarelli have in terms of Stanley Cup parades as a GM, and the level that Armstrong has his St. Louis Blues at right now.

I'm pretty confident that these five men have watched enough hockey both at the NHL level and at the international level where NHL players participate to know that they made tough decisions when omitting some names from the final selection. The fact that Steve Yzerman had to call Martin St. Louis, a player he has immense respect for on his Tampa Bay Lightning team, to deliver the news that he wasn't going to Sochi is probably the worst thing he's had to do as a GM thus far. It is, however, a testament to the other four men in the room that they see something in the fourteen forwards they are taking to leave St. Louis off the list based on St. Louis' play over the last four seasons.

Let's not forget that this Olympic selection process hasn't been easy for the other countries either. The Americans took heat for leaving home players such as Bobby Ryan, Jason Pominville, Brandon Saad, Keith Yandle, and Ben Bishop. The Swedes decided they would be better off without the services of Victor Hedman or Jonas Brodin on their blue line. The Czechs took a pair of 40-somethings in Jaromir Jagr and Petr Nedved over the likes of Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata. The Russians will play without Alexander Semin, Sergei Gonchar, and Anton Volchenkov, opting for KHL players and younger players. Again, there are a lot of talented players that will watch the Olympics on TV rather than playing in them, and Canada is just one of the countries that has this problem.

In saying this, it's high time to put some faith in Steve Yzerman and his staff in their knowledge of hockey. Let's believe in the coaching of Mike Babcock and his staff when it comes to rolling lines and playing systems. Let's support the twenty-five men heading to the Russian resort town of Sochi who will wear the maple leaf for what they can do instead of calling them out for what they can't do. This is Canada's team, not yours or mine or Steve Yzerman's team. Sure, he gets final say on who goes and who stays, but he has earned that privilege.

No, I'm not going to complain about who is going and who is not. It's time that the people of Canada stop being critical of our hockey heroes when it comes to who was selected and who was not, and throw our support - 30 million strong - behind this team of stars. This team represents all of us as a nation under the red-and-white, proud and free, and I'm throwing all my support behind these twenty-five talented players as selected by the five men and four coaches as they defend the gold medal they so bravely earned in 2010!

Of course, if Canada happens to finish as they did in 2006, expect Steve Yzerman to get hauled onto the witness stand to face an angry jury of Canadians with a whole bunch of "I told you so" comments ready regarding who they would have chosen. Unless it's specifically one player who loses each and every game, Steve Yzerman will have to answer for this team's finish in Sochi. And it is at that moment that the judgment of Steve Yzerman will be handed down by public opinion.

The trial of Steve Yzerman had its opening statement today, and there are many people with differing opinions. The Olympic Games should polarize most of those opinions after everything is said and done.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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