Team Canada announced Tuesday which 25 players will head to Russia next month to defend their country’s gold medal at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.
No national team can be compiled without leaving a few deserving names off the roster, but for a country with a talent pool as deep and competitive as Canada’s, the selection process is particularly rigorous.
Many players who would be top-line starters for most any other nation will be watching the games from home in February, including several who played key roles on the team that won gold four years ago.
Let’s take a look at some of Canada’s most notable snubs. (Click here to see the full roster.)
Milan Lucic, LW, Boston Bruins
Lucic attended Canada’s Olympic orientation camp with teammates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in August, and while Marchand’s play has dropped off from his stellar 2012-13 campaign, Lucic’s has not. The bruising winger’s assists and points totals — 18 and 30, respectively, through 42 games — are on pace to match his career highs, and while he will never been an elite scorer, his style of playing physical without sacrificing skill would be a nice complement to Canada’s bevy of snipers.
Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia Flyers
Leaving Giroux off the Olympic roster might be the most surprising snub of all. After a brutal start to the season — he didn’t score a goal until his 16th game — the 25-year-old has played like a man possessed. His total of 38 points might not be anything monumental, but 18 of those have come in his last 12 games, including seven goals. Giroux’s 179 points over the last three years are also tops among Canadian players.
Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks
Jumbo Joe has been a staple of the Canadian roster since 2006, and even in his 16th NHL season, he continues to be a nightly contributor on a high-scoring Sharks team. Thornton’s 43 assists this season lead the league, but Canada has a glut of elite talent up the middle (Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, John Tavares), and the big-bodied centerman’s slower feet can make him a liability on the larger Olympic ice sheet.
Logan Couture, C, San Jose Sharks
Thornton’s San Jose teammate is, at age 24, one of the NHL’s top young talents. Couture has been hampered by a hand injury this year, though, and will now be sidelined for the next three to four weeks. Without the injury, he’d probably be on the team.
Martin St. Louis, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning
St. Louis may be an elder statesman among roster candidates, but the 38-year-old continues to play at a level that merits national acclaim. He leads Tampa Bay in every offensive category this season (17 goals, 21 assists, plus-12) and has the luxury of playing in front of Team Canada general manager — and Lightning GM — Steve Yzerman every night. Couple that with the leadership and experience he brings, and his omission is a surprising one.
Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars
Seguin never really seemed to be in contention for a roster spot, but he certainly has the stats to make an argument for one. The 21-year-old is putting up monster numbers in his first year in Dallas and his first since moving from the wing back to his natural position at center. His 21 goals are already just eight short of his career high — and rank eighth in the NHL — and the duo of Seguin and Jamie Benn, who did earn an Olympic nod, has been absolutely dominant for the Stars.