Reflecting On Canada’s Gold Medal Win: What Now?
Heading into the 2010 Olympic tournament Canada’s hockey team was the prohibitive favorite to win the gold medal. As fate would have it, Canada fulfilled the “experts” predictions, capturing the gold medal Sunday afternoon at the expense of the surprisingly strong American team.
It’s easy to say, “Canada won because they were expected to win,” but given their trials and tribulations throughout the Olympics, Canada earned the gold and were full value for their 3-2 win over Team USA.
At the other end, the American squad looked every bit as good as Canada for most of the game and, in some people’s eyes—namely USA head coach Ron Wilson’s—USA Hockey deserved a better result.
So, how is it a team/nation that was not supposed to even compete for a medal was playing Canada for gold on Sunday afternoon? Just how did team USA do it?
The obvious answer comes in the form of three very impressive players. Goaltender Ryan Miller; who led the tournament in wins with five, had the best save percentage at 94.56 percent and the second best goals against average at 1.34 per game—clearly, the tournaments most dominant performance.
The other player of great significance for team USA was defenseman Brian Rafalski, who led all defenseman with eight points and a plus seven rating to boot. Truth be told, Rafalski played the finest hockey of his career and, quite frankly, given Rafalski’s past accomplishments, that’s saying something.
The third player that was a massive difference maker for the American squad was forward Zach Parise who ended up tied for second in goals with four and tied for third in points with eight, scoring the goal that sent the gold medal game into overtime—talk about clutch!
To be fair, there are more than a few more players worth noting from the American squad.
Ryan Suter led the tournament in plus/minus at plus nine and Ryan Kesler was ranked second in face-off percentage at 68.63 percent.
Not to be outdone, Canada had it’s fair share of clutch players on it’s team. Most notably, defenseman Shea Weber, who established himself as Canada’s go-to defenseman throughout the games and tied for the most points amongst defensemen with six—he made a few goalies poop the bed when they saw his shot coming at them!
Without a doubt, forward Jonathan Toews was Canada’s most consistent forward, leading the tournament in assists with seven (tied with Slovakia’s Pavol Demitra), tying for third in points with eight, boasting the fifth best face-off percentage, and adding one goal (the opening goal in the gold medal game), along the way.
Toews Chicago Blackhawk teammate, defenseman Duncan Keith, also established himself as a go-to guy in the tournament, tying for fourth in plus/minus with a plus six rating, and tying for third in assists with six and second in points by a defenseman with six. He was clutch when it came to shutting down Canada’s fiercest opponents.
Much like the American’s, Canada had plenty of players that were essential to their gold medal victory. Most notably, Sidney Crosby, who, despite criticism from all his haters, scored when it mattered most—the gold medal winner.
Another player of note was forward Jarome Iginla, who was instrumental in Canada’s early success and, when everything was said and done, led the tournament with five goals.
All-in-all, Canada and the United States did well for themselves, earning a total of six of the seven roster spots on the All-Star Team and all three nominees coming from the United States (2) and Canada (1) formed the Tournament Directorate Best Player Awards.
Clearly, North American hockey dominated these Olympics in Vancouver, not only in hockey, but on the podiums as well…But I digress, this is, after all, a hockey article.
When Canada and the United States look to the future they will ultimately be looking for different things.
For Canada, they will look to continue on in their quest to remain the planets best hockey nation, with an emphasis on cultivating their youngsters and looking for a new set of veterans to lead them in at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Canada’s roster in 2014 will likely be very different from the one Canada iced in Vancouver.
Defensemen Scott Niedermayer, Dan Boyle, and Chris Pronger are not likely to be back. Same for forwards Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrow and, given the emergence of Roberto Luongo as Canada’s number one goalie, you can safely say Martin Brodeur will not be on the squad either.
Needless to say, there will be other changes, but the above mentioned six should be the most significant changes to Canada’s roster.
Canada has plenty of talented players waiting to take on the challenge of winning gold in 2014. John Tavares, Matt Duchesne, Steven Stamkos, a higly motivated Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Mayers, Marc Staal and many others will likely get a considerable amount of consideration for Canada’s Olympic Hockey Team In Sochi, Russia. Don’t worry Canada, we will be strong!
For Team USA there will be fewer changes as many players from the 2010 squad will be back in 2014, which was the plan from the beginning of the 2010 roster announcement.
Team USA general manager Brian Burke put an emphasis on speed and youth in Vancouver and, given the success his team had, I don’t think he will change this successful formula.
That said, there are bound to be changes for the United States.
Goaltender Tim Thomas will, in all likelihood, not be back. Brian Rafalski will be forty plus when 2014 rolls around, suffice to say, he won’t be back either.
Chris Drury, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Ryan Malone will also be on the bubble, especially when you consider the enormous amount of talent that is coming out of the United States these days.
The United States is loaded with up-and-coming talent; specifically the likes of forwards James van Riemsdyk, T.J. Oshie, Blake Wheeler, Tim Connolly (who is more of a veteran on this squad), Kyle Okposo, defensemen Zach Bogosian, and Matt Gilroy, and goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson—all of whom are young, extremely talented, and major threats to be on Team USA’s 2014 roster.
Clearly, the competition within Team USA will be intense. The good news is, as good as Team USA was in Vancouver, they may emerge as a bigger threat in 2014 and, quite possibly, as the gold medal favorites.
In the end, everybody wins.
Despite Russia’s disastrous finish against Canada in Vancouver—they will be ready in 2014.
Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia, Sweden and the Czech Republic proved that, while not in contention for medals, that they too can beat just about any nation on any given night.
What it all amounts to is an even more impressive group of players in 2014, a group that may eclipse that of the Vancouver games as, perhaps, the best ever assembled.
Rest assured, both Canada and the United States will be real threats to bring home the gold, something that should have North Americans tuning in en masse once again.
Until next time,