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The Chip ‘n’ Chase: Canada’s chances at Olympic gold, the big ice, no Giroux, and more!

Jan 8, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT

Steve Yzerman, Mike Babcock AP

Every Wednesday (except for the last two weeks), we publish a little back-and-forth we have via email. We call it the Chip ‘n’ Chase. Yes, it’s a terrible name. Enjoy.

Jason Brough: Hey buddy, so now that all 12 of the Olympic rosters have been announced, who do you like to win gold in Sochi? I’m going completely off the board and picking Canada. I just don’t think Norway has enough depth. (Sorry Norway, truth hurts.) I do, however, think there are two things that could keep Canada from defending its title. First is goaltending, i.e. either Roberto Luongo or Carey Price don’t get the job done, or another country’s goalie catches fires, a la Dominik Hasek in Nagano. Second is what I like to call hockey being hockey. A bounce here, a bounce there. These aren’t seven-game series where there’s time for luck to even out. Put it this way — let’s say Canada has an 80 percent to win each game once it gets to the quarterfinals. (And I think that’s overly high, by the way.) Now do the math — 80 percent times 80 percent times 80 percent equals a 51 percent chance of winning all three and taking gold. You’re lost, aren’t you.

Mike Halford: Not totally lost, just trying to figure out how I ended up with Canada’s gold-medal chances at 512,000 percent. Anyway, I do get what you’re saying — one crazy play and, BOOM, tournament over. Remember Belarus over Sweden in ’02? I don’t know the odds of a 70-foot shot caroming off the goalie’s head and going in for the game-winning goal, but I assume they’re pretty low. Speaking of Sweden, the Tre Kronor are the only team close to having Canada’s “depth of talent” on defense and down the middle. I may even pick them to win gold, with goaltending being the deciding factor. I love Henrik Lundqvist in this kind of one-and-done tourney. Certainly more than I love Luongo or Price.

JB: Um, have you watched Lundqvist play this year? Something’s not right there. Otherwise I agree the Swedes have a good chance at gold, if it’s not Canada. After those two countries, I like the Americans next, then I guess the Russians. Though I might actually put the Finns and their goaltending ahead of the Russians and their star forwards. We talked about this before; I still can’t get past all the non-NHLers on Russia’s roster. Maybe I’m under-estimating the quality of the KHL? Maybe Brandon Bochenski, currently fourth in scoring in that league, is actually really good? Maybe Kyle Wilson and Nigel Dawes are really good too? All I know is it’s going to be fascinating to see how the hosts do. I think their story will be by far the most compelling to follow, win or lose. This is THE tournament for Russian stars like Alex Ovechkin. And something tells me Vladimir Putin isn’t the type to accept an excuse along the lines of, “Well, we were a bit thin on the blue line.”

source:  MH: I kinda hope Putin plays a role in the tournament, somehow. International hockey has really missed the political angle since the Cold War ended. I mean, would it be too much to ask for the FSB (successor to the KGB) to bug the Canadian dressing room? Not sure what they’d find out — “Mr. Putin, we’ve learned the Canadians intend to work hard, support the puck, and play a solid 200-foot game” — but I’d appreciate the extra effort. Anyway, let’s change the subject (before we get in trouble), because I want to talk about the snubs. Specifically, Claude Giroux. Bad enough for Flyers fans that he got left off, but then Team Canada selects Chris Kunitz? As you so eloquently put it on Twitter, that was like the apocalypse for the PHT comments section. So, question: Do you blame Canada for snubbing Giroux? For as good as he was in December, he coasted through the first two months and, lest we forget, blew off the summer orientation camp. You don’t just blow off Hockey Canada and think it’s going to forget about it. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, CLAUDE GIROUX?

JB: OK, first of all, I despise the word “snub” when it comes to situations like this. It’s not a “snub” that Giroux was left off the team. It was a decision. Will Canada regret it? Maybe, if they have trouble scoring. But I don’t think they will; I think they’ve got more than enough firepower on their roster. And while I’m at it, unlike a lot of people, I actually think the big ice could help them. I get North Americans aren’t used to it and they’re going to have to make some adjustments, but how can it be a bad thing when wizards like Sidney Crosby and John Tavares have more time and space to make plays? Don’t they always say the key to shutting down dangerous players is to take away their time and space? Similarly, I can’t wait to see Duncan Keith skating with the puck out of his own end and creating opportunities through the neutral zone. Ditto for PK Subban, if Mike Babcock uses him. This Canadian team has a ton of speed. It’s different than the previous editions that tried and failed to play the bruising, in-your-face NHL game on the big ice. This isn’t Adam Foote’s Team Canada.

MH: You know what I despise? People complaining about the use of words like “snub.” Maybe it’s not super accurate, but it’s a good word. Short and effective. Sort of like Martin St. Louis. And yes I mention him for a reason, because it’s pretty clear these are uncomfortable times in Tampa Bay after Steve Yzerman omitted (happy? I didn’t say snub) him from Team Canada. Not to be outdone, Jack Johnson is apparently choked at Todd Richards for getting left off Team USA. Make no mistake, these things can fracture relationships. Just ask Pat Quinn, who essentially torched his with Curtis Joseph by benching him in Salt Lake. This might explain why Yzerman looked so rattled during the Canadian roster announcement — it was the second time he had to tell St. Louis he wasn’t going to the Olympics.

source: Getty ImagesJB: Yeah, Johnson’s quote was sure something. “Anything that’s said now is empty and meaningless. When I needed the belief and trust, I didn’t get it, and I didn’t get it when it counted from numerous people…The team’s picked. I sat there and watched it on TV along with everybody else. That’s how I heard. From TV.” I’ll concede that Johnson shouldn’t have learned the news from TV (though at least it was NBC), but that being said, Richards’ job with USA Hockey isn’t to pump Johnson’s tires. It’s to help the country win a gold medal. Frankly, I feel a lot more sorry for St. Louis, who’s 38 and nearing the end of his career. This was probably his last chance to participate in a best-on-best international tourney. He played in the 2006 Olympics, but that was a disaster for Canada. I don’t blame him for being devastated he won’t get a shot at redemption. Especially when he got beat out by a guy like Chris Kunitz. I mean, come on.

MH: That’s some nice trolling.

  1. rdk - Jan 8, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Canada’s two problems (at every level of international play):

    1) Canadian fans and players demand an exciting two-way game from their team and won’t accept a European trapping/defensive system. This requires more time to gel and to create chemistry between the highly skilled offensive players than can reasonably be allowed under the temporary nature of national team rosters.

    2) Canadian coaches demand a boring one-way game heavy on trapping and defensive play while stifling offense play and creativity… while refusing to call it trapping and lamenting their team’s confused and disorganized offensive play.

  2. csilojohnson - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    Love the chip and chase guys.
    Best writing at NBC.
    Keep keepin it real.

  3. bru308 - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Giroux left out haha

    • kastout11 - Jan 8, 2014 at 3:20 PM

      Laugh now, but when Canada does not win the gold, we’ll see who is laughing then. I really do not see Canada winning the gold medal.

      • bucrightoff - Jan 8, 2014 at 3:52 PM

        Yes, because leaving Claude Giroux at home will be without question the singular reason they didn’t win gold.

  4. montrealbbr - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    They should just hand Canada the gold medals now and let the rest of the scrub teams fight for silver!

    • hawksin5 - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      Haha you’re an idiot.

    • davebabychreturns - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:51 PM

      Single game elimination tournaments are never that simple.

  5. imleftcoast - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Good stuff here. I can’t believe I laughed at ‘512,000 percent,’ but I did.

    I hate the term ‘snub,’ but good point about St. Louis. It sucks. I don’t know why Yzerman pushed that decision off to his staff. I don’t think it’s a stunt, but I have a feeling St. Louis makes the final roster and we get to enjoy this story line through to the gold medal game, “what a wonderful day for Canada, and therefore, of course, the world.”

    • kastout11 - Jan 8, 2014 at 3:28 PM

      Maybe, just maybe Yzerman wants to keep the 36 year old fresh for the playoff run, knowing that he can use a younger star and not lose much as far as talent goes. I don’t think that was his strategy, but just a thought, probably not the case though. I do think Giroux should be there though, not necessarily as a centerman, he has played RW in his NHL career, and he plays both ends of the ice and he is the top forward of the Flyers #1 penalty killing unit.

    • imleftcoast - Jan 8, 2014 at 6:10 PM

      Yzerman sells out his friend in January to go further in the playoffs in June? I don’t see that, and St. Louis isn’t that old. He’ll make it to Russia.

      The quote is from South Park.

  6. ruthlessandtoothless - Jan 8, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    Can’t wait until Sweden wins gold and Canadians have one giant collective heart attack

    • imleftcoast - Jan 8, 2014 at 9:35 PM

      When King Henry is back to his old form, let us know.

  7. colby7 - Jan 8, 2014 at 9:55 PM

    I like Canada, USA, and Sweden for medals, not sure what order.

    St Louis played in the 2006 Olympics? Not working in his favor…
    Not sure who is going to be the starting goalie, I think Yzerman well give Luongo and Price 1 game each and then pick his guy from that. I hope Luongo, this is all hes really got these days.

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