The announcement comes tomorrow, the one our neighbors to the north have been waiting to hear for some time now: who makes Team Canada for the 2014 Winter Olympics?
The Chicago Blackhawks will be interested in the final say, too, as several of their Canadian players could be in for a busy February. We’ll all find out tomorrow at 10 a.m. CT, when the team is announced. So who goes? There’s no doubt Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith are Sochi-bound. Will they have a few teammates joining them? Let’s look at the three other Blackhawks who maybe, or maybe not, headed to Russia.
OK, let’s take Mr. Sharp off that Team Canada bubble, shall we? He should be in, definitely in, after his sizzling start to the 2013-14 season. In his first 45 games Sharp has 25 goals, including two hat tricks in his last six contests. But let’s look beyond his current statistics, or even those of previous seasons that include 30-plus goal campaigns in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Sharp is a big-time player in big-time situations.
In the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup run Sharp had 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists). Last spring, coming off a shoulder injury that hampered him through most of the regular season, he had 16 more points en route to another Cup. Fans were probably holding their breath when Sharp took a hit to his shoulder late in the San Jose shootout loss – he’s fine, by the way. Sharp’s game has spoken volumes to Team Canada, and loudly: he belongs on the roster.
Yep, Keith’s longtime defensive partner, who also won gold with the 2010 Olympic team, is on the bubble to make the 2014 installment. He may not make it because he didn’t have great outings in the last Winter Olympics. Seabrook was originally pegged to be Keith’s partner then, too. But Seabrook didn’t play as big of a part as expected in Vancouver. That could count against him here in 2014.
But – and you knew a “but” was coming, didn’t you – many players are selected for Olympics for their body of work, and Seabrook has an impressive one. He’s dealt with adversity and struggling play in big situations. Look back to the 2013 postseason, when he was playing fewer minutes and separated from Keith. He responded, earning his time back and scoring huge goals (the Game 7/Western Conference semifinal series winner against the Detroit Red Wings and the Game 4 winner vs. the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final). With all that in mind, we think Seabrook makes it again in 2014.
Ah, now we’ve reached the biggest question of all regarding the Blackhawks’ Canadian players: has Crawford earned a trip to Sochi? Two seasons ago Crawford had nothing but critics. He still has them. He also has a Stanley Cup, and his 2013 postseason run got him mention for possibly making Team Canada now.
So does he go? A week ago we would’ve thought “no,” with Crawford coming off the groin injury that cost him 10 games. But hold everything: assumed lock Roberto Luongo may be ailing himself. Fresh off his own groin injury, Luongo suffered a knee/ankle injury on Saturday and is reportedly having an MRI on it today. If it’s serious, is he out? Could he recover in time for the Olympics? If not, Crawford could be back in the mix.
But if Luongo’s health situation isn’t serious, we think Crawford gets left off the list. Crawford’s been strong in his two games back – 31 stops against the New York Islanders and 40 last night against the San Jose Sharks – but it’s probably not enough. Carey Price and Mike Smith were in the discussion long before Crawford, and they’ll probably win out.