Friday, February 28, 2014

Greatest Team Canada Ever?

Monday morning after Canada's Gold Medal hockey victory I caught Liam Maguire on Vancouver's Team 1040 radio on my drive to work. He was entertaining and informative as always and I was quite interested in one point he made. Maguire called this 2014 version of Team Canada the best he had ever seen, specifically comparing them to the 1976 Canada Cup squad. To paraphrase from memory he said, "I've been watching international hockey for over forty years and this team did things the others couldn't on the defensive end."

I figured I'd have a look at the 2014 and 1976 teams as well as the 1987 Canada Cup and 2002 Olympic championship versions of Team Canada. Which one was the greatest? First let's look at the raw numbers;





Each of the first three teams had at least one minor setback in the way of a loss, the most recent edition's closest thing to a bump in the road was an overtime victory against Finland. Although this year's Team Canada averaged just under three goals scored per game, their total of three goals allowed over six games speaks to the utter defensive domination shown. To be fair, 1987's Team Canada was the epitome of 1980's firewagon hockey and honestly, a GAA of 3.50 back then was quite exceptional. In looking at the raw results only the 1976 squad can really give 2014 a run for best Team Canada ever.

What about the actual rosters? Below is each team with their individual NHL accomplishments they had collected to the point of each respective tournament. I counted how many Stanley Cups players had won to that point and any First or Second Team All-Star selections and Trophies won. I included Hart, Art Ross, Norris, Calder, Selke and Conn Smythe awards. No Lady Byngs here.

1976 Team Canada
29 Stanley Cups
87 Awards
12 Hall of Famers
Avg. Age 26.7

Among the awards are 25, 17 and 7 won by the three Bobby's; Orr, Hull and Clarke respectively, guys like Potvin, Robinson and Lafleur still had many awards to come after 1976.

1987 Team Canada
20 Stanley Cups
56 Awards
12 Hall of Famers
Avg. Age 25.2

The bulk of these awards come from Gretzky (24), Bourque (10) and Coffey (7). This was also the youngest of these four squads by a considerable margin.

2002 Team Canada
20 Stanley Cups
75 Awards
14 Hall of Famers
Avg. Age 30.6

I'm counting 14 total Hall of Famers or likely Hall members. Currently there are 8 players from the 2002 team in the Hall, likely eventual members are Rob Blake, Theoren Fleury, Jarome Iginla, Eric Lindros, Chris Pronger and Curtis Joseph. Even if only 4 of those 6 get in, the 12 Hall of Famers would equal the 1976 and 1987 rosters. The top three award collectors up to 2002 were Mario Lemieux (21), Martin Brodeur (12) and Al MacInnis (8). This was far and away the oldest team of these four at an average age of 30.6 years.

2014 Team Canada
19 Stanley Cups
30 Awards
8 Hall of Famers?
Avg. Age 27.1

It's difficult to project Hall of Fame careers for so many youngsters on the 2014 team. I think fairly honest expectations could see at least 8 Hall of Famers in Crosby, St.Louis, Luongo, Weber, Getzlaf, Perry, Keith and Toews. It's way too early to say if guys like Tavares, Doughty, Subban, Price or Duchene will ever reach those lofty heights.

Perhaps it's indicative that this group has won "only" 30 individual awards while winning only one less Stanley Cup collectively than the 2002 team. The strength of the 2014 was it's lack of individuality and it's strength of team play. Is that enough to call them the greatest Team Canada ever? In my opinion, yes.

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