Tha Sports Junkies 101

World Cup is Canada’s to lose

Tha Sports Junkies 101-Sports News S. Yume/via

Host Nation is Defending World Cup, Olympic Champion


On September 17, for the first time in 12 years, the World Cup of Hockey will be played. The eight-team tournament will be held in Toronto and run through October 1. When it was last held in 2004, Team Canada won. This year, they are the odds-on favorite.

In fact, I would say it’s their tournament to lose.

Apart from winning the last World Cup, they have also won gold at the last two Winter Olypmics and IIHF World Championships. Their roster for this World Cup is a bit different from the one that won gold in the last Olympics, but don’t be fooled – this roster has the potential to dominate.

Canada boasts arguably the best player in the game right now, Sidney Crosby. Around him up front, though, are guys that any NHL team would love to have.

Steven Stamkos and Tyler Seguin are two of the league’s most dangerous scorers. With this being their first time representing Canada in a best-on-best tournament at the senior men’s level, don’t be surprised if they play some of the best hockey they ever have. Expect one of these two guys, if not both, to be with Crosby on the top line.

John Tavares and Jeff Carter can also light up the scoreboard with their great shooting. Brad Marchand is coming off a career year in goals during the 2015-16 NHL season so his goal scoring confidence should be high going into the tournament.

Not only does Canada have forwards that can score, they also have some of the best passers in the game.

Jamie Benn, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, and Joe Thornton can put a pass right on the tape from pretty much anywhere on the ice. All four guys finished in the top-20 in assists last season in the NHL.

Canada also boasts arguably the two best two-way centers in the game. Both Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews are just as comfortable playing the defensive side of the puck as they are the offensive side. Should they be paired on the same line, teams will have a hard time generating chances against them.

Matt Duchene rounds out Canada’s forward group for this year’s World Cup. While he may not be as established as his fellow forwards, Duchene still has plenty to offer.

One of the faster players in the NHL, Duchene’s speed will help Canada generate chances for his linemates. He can also produce offensively, coming off his first ever 30-goal campaign.

On the back end, the defending World Cup champions have an embarrassment of riches.

Led by Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, and Shea Weber, the Canadian defense is one that can play both sides of the puck extremely well.

All four previously mentioned blueliners have been nominated for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman at least once in their career, which is a testament to their play. Keith has won the award twice, while Doughty won it this past season.

As if opponents didn’t have enough to worry about with Canada’s forwards, all four of them are real good at jumping into the rush and getting their shots through from the point, creating even more offensive opportunities.

The other three defensemen on the roster are no slouches, either.

Alex Pietrangelo is expected join the elite group of blueliners that Burns, Doughty, Keith, and Weber are in during his career. Like the previous four, Pietrangelo has no problem playing either side of the puck.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jake Muzzin are extremely capable defensive defensemen that don’t mind hanging back while their partner joins in on the attack.

What helps Canada is that their defense is balanced – four right-handed shooting defensemen and three left-handed shooting blueliners. Coach Mike Babcock likes playing defensemen on their strong side, so expect to see that throughout the tournament.

In goal, the talent and depth is just as good as the other positions.

2015 NHL MVP Carey Price is 100% healthy heading into the tournament. He hasn’t played a game since straining an MCL ligament back in November, so don’t expect to see him in the first game. However, if he gets into the groove of things quickly, he will  more than likely be Babcock’s No. 1.

Two-time Stanley Cup winner Corey Crawford is coming off career highs in wins, saves, and shutouts. In the last three seasons, Crawford has been one of the best netminders in the NHL.

2016 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby tied an NHL record with 48 wins last season. Despite being the youngest of the three, Holtby has a poise that is not easily rattled.

When you look at their roster as a whole, Canada has all the makings of a team that can repeat as World Cup champions. However, it won’t be easy.

Team Sweden and Team Russia also have rosters that can match Canada’s depth. They are teams that won’t be afraid of the Canadians.

Russia may be Canada’s biggest rival and everyone knows there is no love lost between the two countries. Having been the last team to win the World Championships before the Canadians took the last two, the Russians will surely be focused on knocking off their rival from the top of the international hockey mountain.

Sweden also has a bone to pick with Canada as they will be looking to avenge their loss in the 2014 Winter Olympics Gold Medal game. Featuring a roster that has speed, can score, defend, and possibly the world’s best goalie, the Swedes should not be taken lightly.

Team Finland and Team USA could also be dangerous. Both nations tend to get overlooked at times in big tournaments, but have shown in the past that they can play a solid team game that gets them a medal.

Finland and the US have goaltending that could take them real far in the tournament and even cause an upset or two.

All of this, though, won’t phase Canada. They have more than enough talent to win this tournament. Being the host nation will also help as they will have a distinct home ice advantage when they play. We saw what that did for them in 2010.

So, until they get upset or somehow just flop, this is their tournament to lose.