Wednesday, September 14, 2016

World Cup Team North America, 1976 Version

The initial concept of a Team North America for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey was looked at as too gimmicky by many hockey observers and fans. As the tournament approaches however, and exhibition games are played, the idea of a team of under-23 year-olds seems fairly intriguing. In fact, I'm personally predicting that Team North America makes the tournament final against Team Canada.
Imagine if this concept was around for the very first Canada Cup, the pre-cursor of the World Cup. Below are the under-23 year-old players who would have likely been invited to camp for Team North America '76 with their 75/76 stats. In truth, the squad was barely North America and more simply Canada U-23, if not for Mark Howe, Gordie Roberts and Gary Sargent. 

CENTRE
  • Bryan Trottier, Calder Trophy, 95 pts
  • Pierre Larouche, 53g, 111pts
  • Tom Lysiak, 82 pts
  • Tim Young, 51pts  
  • Bernie Federko, WCJHL, 187 pts 
  • Doug Jarvis, 35 pts
  • Mel Bridgman, 50 pts
  • Dennis Maruk, 62 pts
RIGHT WING
  • Lanny McDonald, 37g, 93 pts
  • Danny Gare, 50g, 73 pts
  • Rick Middleton, 24 g
  • Wilf Paiement, 21g
  • Dennis Ververgaert, 37 g
  • Mario Tremblay, 27 pts
  • Real Cloutier, WHA, 60g, 114 pts
  • Mark Napier, WHA 93 pts
 LEFT WING
  • Clark Gillies, 34g
  • Mark Howe, 76 pts
  • Tiger Williams, 21g, 299 pim
  • Pat Hickey, 36 pts
  • Darcy Rota, 37 pts 
  • Eric Vail, 47 pts
  • Ron Sedlbauer, 19g
  • Bob Gainey, 28 pts
DEFENCE
  • Denis Potvin, 98 pts
  • Ian Turnbull, 56 pts
  • Ron Greschner, 27pts
  • Gordie Roberts, WHA, 22 pts
  • Bob Dailey, 39 pts
  • Gary Sargent, 24 pts
  • Dave Lewis, 19 pts
  • Mike McEwen OHL, 63 pts 
  • Harold Snepsts, 18 pts
GOALTENDER
  • John Davidson, 56gp, 3.97 gaa
  • Don Edwards, AHL, 3.41 gaa
  • Mike Palmateer, CHL 3.62 gaa
  • Michel Dion, WHA 2.74 gaa
  • Pete LoPresti, 34 gp, 4.13 gaa 
Three of these guys actually made the 1976 Canada Cup team; McDonald, Potvin and Gare, so they definitely get spots on this squad. Trottier, Larouche and Lysiak are a pretty solid top three down the middle, and Doug Jarvis makes a fine fourth liner on any team. On right wing, McDonald and Gare are automatics, and 60 goals in the WHA for Real Cloutier should warrant a spot on the U-23 team. Mario Tremblay compliments Montreal teammate on the fourth line nicely.
On the left side, Gillies and Howe would get the first two spots and Eric Vail likely a third spot, in hopes his down year after winning the Calder in 1975 was merely a sophomore jinx. The fourth line pretty much forms itself with Bob Gainey joining club mates Jarvis and Tremblay on a terrific shutdown line.
Now we get to the weakness of Team North America '76. On defence, they have one of the best in the world in Denis Potvin, who was one of the top players on actual Team Canada 1976. Turnbull, Greschner and Dailey should get spots as well. After that, it's a crapshoot of the two Americans; Roberts and Sargent, the junior player Mike McEwen and Snepsts and Lewis. Those top four D would have to be leaned on heavily. In the nets it gets even worse as John Davidson was the only established U-23 NHL goalie at this point. Michel Dion who had led the WHA in 75/76 in Goals Against Average would likely get a spot and one of minor-leaguers Don Edwards or Mike Palmateer who would both blossom as NHLers in the upcoming season.
All in all, not a bad team really. They would definitely be better than the US team and likely the Finns as well. Not saying they'd have much chance of making the final, but like today's Team North America, they'd be darn fun to watch.


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