Team-by-team breakdown (Canada)


Underlining the modern parity of international hockey, there has not been a repeat Olympic champion since NHL players made this tournament the greatest show on ice back in 1998.

The Czechs won the inaugural NHL Olympics, followed by Canada in 2002, Sweden in 2006 and again hockey's mother country, Canada, in 2010.

Actually, when you throw in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, Canada has won three of the past five "best-on-best" tournaments, which certainly counts for something.

A daunting challenge awaits Team Canada in Sochi, however. Not only will it be trying to be the first back-to-back Olympic champion in the NHL Games era, but it is going to try to break the overseas hex that has plagued both the U.S. and Canada, which have gone without a medal in Nagano and Turin.

Can Team Canada do it? You'd better believe it has a good chance.

Five things to watch

1. If you're among those who believe championship teams are built down the middle, we're not sure how you can possibly top having Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrice Bergeron as your five centers, with Matt Duchene another option but likely playing wing. Getzlaf is currently penciled in to begin the tournament as the fourth-line center, if there's such a thing, really, on this team. This is the area, for sure, in which Team Canada hopes to exploit matchups and dominate puck possession, right from the faceoff. There isn't a country in the tournament that matches up at center with Canada.

2. The loss of Steven Stamkos will still be felt, regardless of Canada's ridiculous forward depth. OK, so no other country would be able to choose between Martin St. Louis, Claude Giroux, Eric Staal, James Neal, Tyler Seguin et al as an injury replacement? All of them would have made the other countries' rosters. Canada chose the veteran St. Louis to replace Stamkos, and there's no denying the Tampa captain will brings lots to the table in Sochi. However, let's not completely dismiss the loss of Stamkos. He's the best pure goal scorer in the world with a Canadian passport, bar none. Nobody is on his level for goal scoring in Canada. Don't tell me his absence won't be felt on the Canadian power play or when Canada needs a goal in a medal-round game. It will be.

3. The story in camp last August was goaltending, and it will remain a storyline unless there's a gold medal hanging around each Canadian player's neck on Feb. 23. Head coach Mike Babcock says he'll give Carey Price and Roberto Luongo each a start to begin the tournament before deciding ahead of Game 3 who will be his man for the rest of the way. No matter how you look at it, this is where Canada stacks up the least confidently. Luongo was in goal for gold in Vancouver even though nobody gives him much credit for that. That's unfair, really. You can't win when you win? Price, meanwhile, has the upside according to NHL scouts to be the guy who steps up big time in this tournament -- if given a chance. But is he ready?

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