It was only the opening game, but considering how the rest of the competition dominated, Team Canada looked far from intimidating in a 3-1 win over Norway.
The reason for the lack of intimidation was due to multiple questionable decisions made by the coaching staff and the management team heading into the Olympics that were only magnified once the puck dropped.
By far the biggest concern for Canadian hockey fans hoping their country would repeat as gold medal winners was who would be the wingers provided to the best player in the world. Sidney Crosby was reduced to playing on a line with Chris Kunitz and Jeff Carter despite the immense talent pool Canada has to choose from to surround their most important player.
Kunitz has no business being on the team, but because the overrated second-line winger is being made to look much better than he truly is as a result of playing with Crosby in the NHL, he’s found his way onto the roster for all the wrong reasons. The management team was so concerned over Crosby’s poor performance at the 2010 Olympics that they thought he needed a security blanket in Kunitz to follow him to Sochi, Russia. Fact is there are about 50 better players Canada could have chosen over Kunitz, and their argument that Kunitz belongs due to his chemistry with Crosby is completely invalid. If Crosby truly is the best player in the world as many claim he is, he should be able to play with anybody, not just his security blanket.
Carter, on the other hand, deserves to be on the team a lot more than Kunitz, but he certainly doesn’t deserve to be on the top-line. It’s extremely puzzling that John Tavares, who sits third in league scoring, was playing the wing in a fourth-line checking role as opposed to being given an opportunity to work magic with Crosby on the top-line. Carter plays in a defense-first system with the Los Angeles Kings, and he would be much better suited for fourth-line checking duties for Canada while the offensive force Tavares has become should be getting Carter’s top-line minutes.
Jamie Benn was also playing on the fourth-line with Tavares and Patrice Bergeron, and he was easily one of Canada’s best forwards in the game. Benn scored a goal and had multiple other scoring opportunities as he used his skating ability and big body to protect the puck while blowing by defenders. Considering how well Benn and Tavares played it’d be an easy switch to swap Crosby’s wingers with Bergeron’s wingers, and very few people would suggest a line of Benn, Crosby and Tavares wouldn’t be more intimidating than Canada’s current top-line.
Factor in that P.K. Subban, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, was a healthy scratch over a guy who scored on himself earlier in the year in Dan Hamhuis, and it only adds to the questionable decision making by the coaching staff. Also, it’s impossible to ignore that with all the focus Canada put on selecting elite skaters, it was another confusing move to leave potentially the fastest skater in the NHL, Matt Duchene, watching in the press box as well.
It might be the first game, but considering Team USA scored a touchdown in a 7-1 win over Slovakia, Finland scored a touchdown while converting the two-point conversion in an 8-4 win over Austria, Russia won 5-2 over Slovenia and Sweden looked impressive in a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic, the only team not to explode out of the gates was Canada. Considering all the elite talent the country possesses along with the lack of talent Norway has, the 3-1 result was unacceptable and appeared all too familiar with how Canada started the 2006 Olympics.