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Summer’s Almost Gone: World Cup Hockey is Just Around the Corner!

John Tavares (New York Islanders)

John Tavares (New York Islanders)


The coolers are getting empty;  the grills are shutting off;  the bonfires are burning out; the pools covers are coming out; and the sandy beaches find less and less people until the season officially ends.  Monday, September 5th will provide Americans with one final hurrah to lament the end of the warm sunny weather.  Nobody likes it when summer ends – that is, unless you’re a hockey fan.

While you’re sipping your beer or cocktail poolside waiting for the burgers and dogs to cook on Labor Day, all eight teams competing in the World Cup of Hockey this fall will begin their first day of practices at various locations in North America and Europe.  Each team will go on a mini-tour for practices leading up to the first day of the tourney on September 17 in Toronto when the USA takes on Team Europe and Canada faces off with Czech Republic.

The eight teams will be divided into two groups, A (Canada, Czech Republic, Europe, USA) and B (Finland, North America, Russia, Sweden), and each team will face their respective group members in a preliminary round-robin to determine tournament seeding.  Single-elimination games will begin on September 24 and will feature the top two teams from each group.  The last two squads standing will faceoff in a best-of-three series on September 27, September 29, and October 1 (if necessary – and I sure hope so!).

Until then, I will be breaking down the eight teams leading up to the first matchup.  First up: Team Canada.

Oh, Canada!

Canada won the last World Cup of Hockey – in 2004.  That’s right.  The last World Cup took place twelve years ago, right before the lockout season.  Joe Thornton and Jay Bouwmeester are the only players named to this years’ 23-man roster that also played in 2004.

So that means the playing field is level, right?  Think again.  Eight members of the roster have won the Stanley Cup within the last six years, and a few more than once.  Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, and Sidney Crosby are members of the Triple Gold Club, having won gold at the Olympics, gold at an IIHF World Championship, and the Stanley Cup.  Head Coach Mike Babcock is the only coach in IIHF history to achieve this title as well.  The Canadian Men’s National Ice Hockey team has won gold at the last two IIHF World Championships.  So basically, it is no surprise that Canada has continually dominated international play.

The Great White North is stacked with offensive powerhouse talent – and that’s without Jamie Benn, a perennial Art Ross racer, who is recovering from off-season surgery to repair a core muscle injury.  Sidney Crosby will look to make 2016 the best year of his career, winning the Stanley Cup, the World Championship, and the World Cup in the same year.  He will likely center the top line.

Speaking of centers, just about every forward on the squad either plays center currently or has had experience at the pivot position in their NHL careers.  This will provide Canada with another major advantage – the draw and possession.  In a tournament laden with star-studded talent, winning faceoffs and gaining possession of the puck are major keys to victory.

On Monday, it was announced that Logan Couture would take Jamie Benn’s place.  I was a bit surprised to see the 27-year old originally snubbed from the roster, given his two-way game and incredible hands.  This past season, Couture was named alternate captain and put up 30 points in 24 playoff games despite falling to the Penguins for the Cup.  Look for Couture to be a “wild card”, so to speak, for Canada – so long as he isn’t a healthy scratch for the tournament.

Islanders’ captain John Tavares is also looking to be a game-changer.  Two years ago, he suffered a knee injury playing on the fourth line which caused him to miss the remainder of the Olympics and NHL season.  He went pointless in the four games he appeared in.  This time around, Tavares has a playoff series win under his belt with an Islanders squad on the rise and will look to bring his leadership and spectacular skill to the international stage.  I expect some key clutch moments from Tavares in September, just as he proved capable back in April and May.

Tavares isn’t the only clutch performer.  Everyone remembers Crosby’s “golden goal” in 2010.  In the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, Bergeron netted two goals in game seven in Vancouver, his second turning out to be the series clinching tally.

Barely missing the cut was Corey Perry.  He led Team Canada as captain to gold at the IIHF World Championships just a couple months ago.  He would have been dynamite playing next to Ryan Getzlaf, whom he is quite familiar with.  Then again, the rest of the NHL is familiar with the pair of Ducks playing together as well.

Canada’s defensive regimen is tactfully balanced with defenders who play both a shut-down game as well as those who pay homage to Bobby Orr.  All defenseman on the squad come from Western Conference teams, which is perhaps a testament to the type of game played in the West.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Jay Bouwmeester will replace Duncan Keith.  Keith had surgery on his right knee back in October, and although he returned to play the rest of the season in November, he requires some work done this summer to ensure he’s ready for the upcoming campaign.  Bouwmeester is an obvious choice given the need to replace left-handed Keith for another left-handed shot from the point.  Though he’s closing in on age 33, his 6’4”, 212-pound frame allows him to block passes with his long reach and, well, hit hard to shut down some of the faster finesse players in the tournament.

That being said, Shea Weber being chosen to represent Canada’s blueliners over P.K. Subban is a bit puzzling.  One might argue that Subban was snubbed because Canada already has too many right-handed defensemen.  I don’t buy it, because Subban should have been one of the first righties considered.  Another might argue that Canada’s General Manager, Doug Armstrong (St. Louis Blues’ GM), has seen enough of division-rival Shea Weber to know how fierce of a competitor he is.  Whatever the reason may be, Canada could have surely utilized Subban for both even-strength and special teams, as he is an elite player in all situations.  How does a guy who does it all NOT play the Canadian way?  It’s not too late to swap Subban and Weber for the second time this summer, Doug!  Then again, no matter who is chosen, there will always be snubs.  And one thing is for certain, opponents looking to penetrate Canada’s defense are going to find such a task as arduous as trekking the arctic tundra in the dead of winter.

Even if the Canadian blue line is breached, good luck scoring against the host squad.  Canada boasts perhaps the greatest three-man goalie tandem in the tournament.  Corey Crawford is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion, so he knows how to compete in the most important moments.  Add in Carey Price in the prime of his career – and now fully healthy to boot – and 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby, and Canada has built itself a proverbial brick wall at the goal line.  Though neither Holtby nor Price have won the Stanley Cup, they are without a doubt world-class goaltenders.  Regardless, whoever gets the nod will play a significant role in shutting down any and all opposition.  This is a good problem for Babcock to face.  My prediction is Holtby will start, Price will ride the pine, and “Crow” will hang out in the press box for insurance.

I would be remiss if I did not emphasize Canada being the host country.  Hockey is religion up north.  Canadian fans will be super amped to root for their country at home.  As if Canada didn’t need a slight edge over the rest of the competition, playing host will certainly give it to them anyway.

Every expert will tell you that Canada is the obvious favorite for the World Cup.  But assembling a roster with key players in key positions is only half the battle – the games must be played.  And I have seven more teams to discuss with you.  Stay tuned…

Team Canada’s 23-man roster (as of 8/24/16)


Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins); Jeff Carter (Los Angeles Kings); Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks); Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins); Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche); Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks); Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers); Brad Marchand (Boston Bruins); Tyler Seguin (Dallas Stars); Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning); John Tavares (New York Islanders); Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks); Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks).


Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis Blues); Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks); Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings); Jake Muzzin (Los Angeles Kings); Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues); Marc-Edouard Vlasic (San Jose Sharks); Shea Weber (Nashville Predators).


Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks); Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals); Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens).

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Evan is the Hockey Editor for He provides coverage of the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers, as well as some league-wide content.

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