Each and every Olympics there is a huge debate as to who will represent Canada on the hockey squad. Usually, once the rosters are finalized, there is one or two players that make you wonder about their merit. We can call these players darkhorses that weren’t quite on the radar throughout the orientation and evaluation process.
In 1998 Rob Zaumner made the squad and could very well be described as the longest of long shots to have made a Team Canada. Also in ’98, Trevor Linden and Shayne Corson made the cut when perhaps others should have. These two were having sub-par seasons even by their standards, and Linden’s 1997/98 season really was awful, sporting a -14 rating and getting traded to the Islanders.
The 2002 Olympic squad really didn’t have any darkhorse picks on the roster other than perhaps Eric Brewer and Mike Peca, but Peca was in the midst of a career season and won the Selke Trophy that season. Perhaps this is a reason Canada won the gold that year, not a lot of gamble picks.
2006 on the other hand had a few somewhat questionable selections in Kris Draper and Bryan McCabe. Draper was 35 at the time and was basically being rewarded for a career year the season before, McCabe had really had only one full good year prior to the Olympics and probably should not have been on the squad.
On that note, I will present a few players that I think may be darkhorse candidates for selection to the 2010 team with apologies to Marc Savard who simply has too many talented centremen in front of him on the depth chart.
1. Paul Kariya LW I truly believe Kariya has a legitimate shot to make the squad if he stays healthy. If his play on opening weekend with a much improved Blues team is any indication, then he is back to prime form. Remember he has missed almost two full seasons in his NHL career, so in actuality has the wear and tear of a 33 year old, not 35. There is a definite need for wingers and his experience would be an asset. The fact that he’s a hometown boy doesn’t hurt either.
2. Alex Burrows LW Yzerman did state last year that Burrows was “on their radar”, not enough to get an invite to orientation camp however. If he shows that last year was not a fluke, there may very well be a role for him on the squad.
3. Brian Campbell D Sure he didn’t have the greatest season last year, but if the likes of Mike Green, Dan Boyle or Drew Doughty have slow starts to this season there may be an opening for a puck moving defender.
4. Brooks Laich LW/C The versatile forward who brings size and talent. I’ve been waiting for his breakout for a few years now. Could this be the year? So far so good. He may be hard for Yzerman and company to ignore.
5. Chris Kunitz LW This may be the darkest of the horses but the guy is a winner. Why look any farther for Crosby’s Olympic winger than his Penguins winger? Kunitz has quietly put together a nice career and scored 7 points in 9 games representing Canada at the 2008 World Championships.
In reality the odds of even one of these guys making Team Canada 2010 is long at best, but I do think Kariya has at least a 50/50 shot if he stays healthy.