DETROIT -- When Red Wings coach Mike Babcock sat down at home on Monday night, he turned on his television to watch the NHL’s early slate of three games.
But Babcock didn’t necessarily focus on the Flyers - his team’s next opponent - playing in Minnesota that night.
He flipped back and forth between the Flyers, Rangers and Canadiens’ games.
Babcock, as Canada’s Olympic head coach in Sochi in three months, is still trying to pick his team. He said he keyed in on Claude Giroux, P.K. Subban and Marc Staal, three players believed to be on the bubble, according to various reports.
How could Subban, Montreal’s leading scorer and last year’s Norris Trophy winner, be on the bubble? Babcock has repeatedly said that he needs to “trust” his players. Maybe, Babcock doesn’t like the risky nature of Subban’s gifted game.
Most experts saw Giroux as a ‘lock’ for Team Canada during the summer. Then a freak golfing injury, which required surgery to repair torn tendons in his hand, derailed Giroux’s summer. After being invited to Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp in Calgary in late August, Giroux chose to stay home and rehab his hand.
Staying home reportedly rankled some of the Hockey Canada staff. There were never any plans for players to skate in Calgary because of high insurance costs to cover their NHL contracts - and Giroux would have been able to participate in everything.
In hockey, the Olympic teams are picked purely on merit, largely based on production during the first 35-40 games of the season. So, if Giroux hurt his chances by not going to Calgary, he definitely damaged them by putting up just 7 assists in the first 15 games of the year.
With a loaded roster and inconsistent performance, Giroux may well be on the bubble - even though Steven Stamkos' broken leg may have opened another spot.
After Detroit’s practice yesterday at Joe Louis Arena, Babcock was asked how he would evaluate Giroux’s up-and-down season. Giroux has since rebounded with 11 points (4 goals) in the last 12 games.
“He’s a good player,” Babcock said vaguely. “Let’s watch him.”
Does that mean the next month, before the Jan. 7 Olympic roster deadline, will weigh a lot?
“Everything weighs a lot,” Babcock said. “You just watch and in the end, you’ve got to pick the right team. Whoever has earned those opportunities is going to get them.”
Giroux admitted last month in a Q&A session with the Daily News that he does think and dream about the Olympics, but he tries to put it out of his mind. It’s pretty clear that Giroux so desperately wants to be a part of Canada’s quest for back-to-back gold medals.
“I don’t want to think about it, I try to focus on the Flyers, they are always my first priority,” Giroux said on Nov. 14. “But it is the Olympics. It’s something I’ve dreamed about. I try not to think about it, but it’s in the back of your mind. It’s always there.”
Babcock will have an up-close and personal look at Giroux from the Red Wings bench tonight, in a nationally televised matchup. Giroux promises that he isn’t looking at this one game - even with a chance to seal his spot on the team with a dominating game - any differently than the rest.
“Not really, I think every game is important,” Giroux said. “That’s one thing I can’t do, is start thinking about that kind of stuff. I just need to go out there and play the game.”
BLUE LINE BONUSES: In today's newspaper story, we outlined why the Flyers need to get more production from their defensemen - particularly Mark Streit and Kimmo Timonen. Only the league's worst team, Buffalo (26 points), has gotten fewer points from defensemen this year than the Flyers (31).
How do the Flyers compared with the rest of the NHL? Here's a simple chart (with scoring through Mon. Dec. 3) to outline which teams most involve their defensemen in the action. Hint: the best teams in the NHL are the best teams at doing so.
SO YOU'RE SAYING WE HAVE A CHANCE: With their better play of late, the Flyers' odds in Las Vegas to win the Stanley Cup have increased dramatically.
On Nov. 5, the Flyers were a 66/1 shot to win the Cup, according to Bovada. Yesterday, they were installed as a 40/1 shot. One Flyers fan is holding a ticket from Vegas for 100/1 odds.
It's still a dream, but not all that far fetched.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers