Part of the reason those in hockey media are so excited for the return of the NHL involvement at the Winter Olympics is the opportunity to TALK about the NHL's involvement at the Winter Olympics. And so, because it seems that NHL players travelling to Beijing seems like a 50-50 proposition at best at the moment with new variants popping up left and right, I'm going to do that talking — all week long — with a series of versions of Team Canada. It's probably best not to take these too seriously.
All-Playoff Pedigree Team | All-Analytics Team | Recency Bias Team | My Team
Hockey Canada GM Doug Armstrong made some news last week, telling Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic that he is planning to assemble a Canadian Olympic team that can win an "NHL-style" game on NHL-sized ice — not an All-Star Game. In other words, there will be intangible and ancillary elements considered when piecing together the roster, rather than just blindly selecting the top scorers and biggest names. This makes a ton of sense, as long as Armstrong doesn't go full Rob Zamuner on us.
The term "NHL-style" can be interpreted in several ways, I suppose, but in my mind it means: "Which players am I selecting to win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final?"
Of course, Armstrong understands the plethora of things required to win important "NHL-style" one-off games. His St. Louis Blues clinched the Stanley Cup two-and-a-half years ago in the most difficult of "NHL-style" games, winning Game 7 on the road in Boston.
So, in the spirit of twisting words and hyperbolizing just a bit, the first unrealistic mock-up in a week of unrealistic Team Canada mock-ups (which will culminate in an actual projection) is an All-Playoff Pedigree Team, chosen based on success in the last several NHL playoffs.
Note: We will honour Armstrong's initial selections of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Alex Pietrangelo, which is of particular importance here to McDavid, of course.
Brad Marchand-Connor McDavid*-Nathan MacKinnon
Mark Stone-Sidney Crosby-Patrice Bergeron
Ryan O'Reilly-Brayden Point-Mat Barzal
Yanni Gourde-Anthony Cirelli-Steven Stamkos
Casey Cizikas, Jonathan Marchessault
Lots of winning here.
More than half of the forwards named to this roster are Stanley Cup champions and, if you choose to ignore McDavid for a moment, this group is averaging over 57 postseason games apiece over the last half decade.
Unsurprisingly given the conditions in which they were chosen, these forwards are collectively recognized for their two-way production. Most notably, Bergeron, Stone, and O'Reilly have combined to claim seven of the last nine nominations for the Selke Trophy, which honours the league's best two-way forward.
With the exception of the top unit — which still features an elite defensive winger — every line is a shutdown line.
Nevertheless, the group features loads of firepower, including the top four scorers in the NHL over the last five-plus regular seasons between McDavid, Marchand, MacKinnon, and Crosby. There's also a former 60-goal scorer and back-to-back Stanley Cup champion on the fourth line.
Though an obvious outlier as a 13th forward, Cizikas has been important enough to successful postseason teams in recent seasons to fill the energy/physicality/other intangibles bucket that Armstrong will likely acknowledge in some manner.
Shea Theodore-Alex Pietrangelo
Devon Toews-Cale Makar
Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock
Drew Doughty, Colton Parayko
The pedigree isn't quite the same with the defensive group. There are four Stanley Cups between the eight defenders selected, but half belong to Drew Doughty, who is chosen to this roster as an extra on the basis that he has appeared in only three postseason games in the last half decade.
Familiarity — a Hockey Canada staple — is key with these selections as each pairing arrive as teammates at the NHL level.
Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock have logged more postseason minutes together than any other pairing league-wide over the last three years. Theodore and Pietrangelo feature less overlap, as the current teammates are usually deployed on different units, but have combined to play 145 postseason games over the last five years.
Toews and Makar also have postseason experience together but have built their reputation as one of the best defensive pairings in the league in the regular season since linking up with the Colorado Avalanche. Still, Makar's postseason production has been nearly unmatched with 31 points in 35 career games since initially breaking in three playoffs ago, while Toews has chipped in with a half point per outing as well in recent seasons.
Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jordan Binnington
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the last several netminders not named Andrei Vasilevskiy to win the Stanley Cup as a starter (dating back to Doughty's last championship) have been Canadians. Unfortunately, only one — Binnington — is a realistic option for this team.
Despite his recent Cup victory, though, Binnington still cedes to Carey Price, if healthy and prepared to perform, given his brilliant performance for the Montreal Canadiens last season.
Marc-Andre Fleury is likely the netminder if Price is unavailable on the strength of the 62 appearances over the last half decade, which are second only to Vasilevskiy. Fleury's performed incredibly well in those opportunities, keeping a .921 save percentage and authoring eight shutouts.
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