Saturday, February 28, 2015

Is Giroux a lock for Canada in 2014 Olympics?

Claude Giroux is one of 47 players invited Monday to compete for a spot on Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

Is Giroux a lock for Canada in 2014 Olympics?

Flyers center Claude Giroux. (Michael Perez/AP)
Flyers center Claude Giroux. (Michael Perez/AP)

The list has been posted. The projections from pundits have been on-going for months, where the game is more religion than pastime.

Hockey Canada officially released its 47-player orientation roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Monday.

As expected, Flyers captain Claude Giroux was one of 25 forwards named to the elite list - and the only one of the Flyers’ 13 Canadian-born players to receive an invite. Former Flyers Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Patrick Sharp were also invited.

Richards and Chris Pronger helped Canada capture gold in Vancouver in 2010, on the back of Sidney Crosby’s golden goal.

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Speaking of Crosby, Peter Laviolette once called Giroux the “best player in the world.”

But is Giroux an absolute lock to make Canada’s final roster?

A favorite, for sure. Giroux indeed has a very high probability of making Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock’s final cut. But when you look at Canada’s deep list of centers, he may not be as much of an obvious shoo-in. 

Here’s the list of pure centers: Giroux, Crosby, Richards, Carter, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Thornton, Eric Staal, Patrice Bergeron. From that list, Bergeron, Crosby, Getzlaf, Richards, Staal, Thornton, and Toews were all on the team in Vancouver. Carter was a last minute alternate at the Winter Games.

In other words, some of Canada’s finest centers are going to have to get comfortable playing on the wing. No player in the NHL took more faceoffs than Giroux last season, but even he may need to move to the wing to fit in Canada’s plans.

TSN’s panel projected on Friday that Giroux will play on the second line. Giroux, 25, has not represented Canada previously in the Olympics. He netted 8 points (3 G, 5 A) in 8 games at the World Championships in Sweden in May.

"It was a good experience just watching. To be a part of it would be unbelievable," Giroux said of the Olympics last February. "It's the best hockey you can get. Hockey is Canada's sport, it's an important thing. It's every kid's dream to win a gold medal for your country."

Truth be told, a lot of what may determine Canada’s final roster will be the first three months of the season. Due to high insurance costs, Canada’s players may not even be able to take the ice in August. Insurance against player contracts could run as much as $1 million for the four-day window and Hockey Canada is still searching for a private donor.

Last time around, Bergeron wasn’t invited to Canada’s orientation camp and ultimately played his way onto the roster.

Unquestionably, Giroux is one of the most talented players in the game - as evidenced by the Flyers’ willingness to sign him to a max, 8-year, $66.2 million extension this month. They were willing to do it, too, after a slight drop in production from the previous season, when he was the first Flyer to break the 90-point plateau in more than a decade.

If Giroux bounces back the way he and the Flyers expect, Giroux will play big minutes in Canada’s quest for a second straight gold medal. If not, it could be a really interesting final list posted in January. Canada’s talent pool is that deep.

Slap shots

Team USA will announce their evaluation roster on Tuesday. Peter Laviolette could be named as one of Team USA’s assistant coaches under Penguins head man Dan Bylsma. Fourth liner Adam Hall is the Flyers’ only current American on the roster ... Former Flyer Ilya Bryzgalov was left off of Russia’s preliminary roster on Monday after competing for his country in the World Championships ... Kimmo Timonen was one of 16 defensemen invited to compete for Finland. Sochi would be Timonen’s fourth Olympic games, after Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver. Timonen, 38, owns a silver and two bronze medals.

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