Team Canada will announce their roster Tuesday morning and there could be some disappointment in Penguins circles. Despite being second in the NHL with 1.42 points per game and having 16 goals in 24 games, all indications are that James Neal has not jumped on Team Canada’s radar for one of their final forward spots.
Meanwhile Kris Letang has fallen out of contention for a spot after being looked at as an 8th or 9th defenseman going into the season and Marc Andre Fleury has never been in mix for the third goaltender spot.
Chris Kunitz has the best chance of joining Sidney Crosby in Sochi and he’s done just about everything possible to make the team but that might not be enough. Kunitz has been one of the most highly discussed players among Team Canada’s management team and the chatter in the past 48 hours of Kunitz being left off could be legit.
TSN led by hockey insiders Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie released their final roster projections today and the two don’t have Chris Kunitz making the team. These projections are based on who they believe will make the team not who they think should. Dreger and McKenzie are among the most connected people out there and these projections are based off information they’ve surely gathered from Team Canada officials and coaches.
Here’s what Dreger had to say about Kunitz: “It is going to be a real difficult decision,” Dreger said. “The next round of decisions will be made on Monday. Don’t be surprised if Kunitz is one of those players that becomes a final decision leading up to announcement as late as Tuesday morning. That’s what it’s going to come down too. Statistically he has made a strong case…Is he better than Patrick Sharp? Is he better than Matt Duchene or Jamie Benn? And what happens god forbid if Sidney Crosby goes down. Can Chris Kunitz be as effective without 87?”
If TSN’s information is accurate and that Kunitz is going to be a final decision, it appears the coaching staff doesn’t have him penciled in to the play with Sidney Crosby off the bat (if he makes the team) and he would go into the Olympics as an extra forward. That possibly hurts Kunitz chances and the rumor out there this week has been that Kunitz 20+ goals (23 Goals) are being downplayed as 11 of those goals have come on the power play and the Team Canada coaching staff doesn’t have Kunitz penciled in to play on the power play.
Going to be very interesting on how this plays out but it will be a mistake for Team Canada to leave Kunitz off the roster. You need those type of players to win and even if the coaching staff is intrigued about better talent playing with Crosby, which I understand, but boy could Kunitz be a great asset in a 4th line role with lets say Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
DEFENSEMEN | GOALTENDERS
FINAL PLAYERS FIGHTING FOR SPOTS