In just a few short weeks, the National Hockey League will be going on a two-week hiatus to recognize the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Starting after the games on Feb. 8, the entire world will shift their attention to the hockey that will be played at the international level as opposed to the weekly (even nightly) games that are on display at the NHL level. The league will resume games on Feb. 26. We can put the Black and Gold away during those allotted dates and break out the Red, White, and Blue.
The Boston Bruins, as of right now, will be in pretty good shape heading into that break. At the same time, the Bruins will be well represented at the Olympics. Zdeno Chara (captain, Slovakia), Patrice Bergeron (Canada), David Krejci (Czech Republic), Tuukka Rask (Finland), and Loui Eriksson (Sweden) will be the five players from the Bruins roster that will represent their respective countries in Sochi. As a fan, one would like to see some of those players take that time off to rest up for the final stretch of the season. Several of those players are straight-up workhorses. However, representing your country is an honor and the pros will jump at the opportunity that was once held by the amateur athletes.
Speaking of representing one’s country, B’s forward Milan Lucic also had the opportunity to make the Canadian national team. He was invited to the tryout and orientation camp, but was not selected to the final roster. There have been rumors out there on social media that he was snubbed from the team.
Is that statement accurate? Let’s take a closer look.
Lucic has 13 goals and 19 assists in 47 games this season. However, this year’s stats are only part of the argument. Assuming that we are just comparing the wingers that made the team, he was competing against the likes of Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz, and Patrick Sharp, just to name a few. There were questions about whether or not Rick Nash deserved a spot on the team. He has recorded seven goals in his last eight games, so his spot has been justified recently with his play. Also, he provides the physical aspect that Lucic would replicate. Nash is the better option because he has been more consistent.
Then, there is Patrick Marleau. This selection was a bit of a “head scratcher” when the rosters were announced. After taking a step back and processing it, he was the right choice. He provides the perfect balance of skill, toughness, and great skating ability. Remember that this is a team that needs to be balanced and offsetting in certain ways, so when you compare the B’s power forward to this guy, Marleau belongs on the team.
Steven Stamkos could be the wild card. He was injured back in November, ironically in a game against the Bruins. He has been progressing in his rehab to repair his broken leg and he remains confident that he will be participating in the Olympics. That has not been finalized just yet.
Even if a player on the current roster were in need of a replacement, Martin St. Louis, Joe Thornton, and Claude Giroux would be front runners.
The problem is that there just was not a place on the roster where Lucic could be utilized to his full potential. He thrives in the NHL where the ice is more condensed and his size would create space that would lead to goals. When it comes to the international ice, the style of play is more open and spread out, leaving a player like Lucic searching for his identity.
If a player like Nash made the cut, then Lucic still has a shot in future years. His age and time is on his side.
One thing to point out is if he were to ever be selected to an Olympic team for Canada, would the fans in Vancouver be welcoming? Lucic was involved in an altercation last month where he was assaulted by some Canuck fans in downtown Vancouver. Would that resonate across the country? That is up for speculation, but that could be a demerit even though the incident was not his fault. The Canadian team might not welcome that type of publicity.
For those of you out there who have been singing the praises for “Looooch” and his quest to represent his country, the management committee for the team got this one right.