Who says Team USA needs to steal all the negative headlines for the 2014 Sochi Games? Just because Brian Burke and David Poile degraded players like Bobby Ryan and Dustin Byfuglien in front of members of the press doesn’t mean the American team is the only one laced with roster controversy.
This is apparently the thought process that Tampa Bay Lightning GM and executive director of the Canadian National team Steve Yzerman went through when making final roster cuts yesterday. To be fair, though, his issue isn’t nearly as big as the one the US team went through.
There are more than a few people confused by the addition of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Chris Kunitz. It isn’t so much about his lack of productivity (23 goals and 24 assists so far this season). Instead, this is more about the names passed over to make room for him. Those who won’t be heading to Russia this February include Martin St. Louis, Logan Couture and, perhaps most surprising, Claude Giroux.
Yzerman had a ton of talent to pick between, as noted by who’ll be watching the Olympics from home. That said, he was prepared to answer any questions as to why Kunitz got the call.
“Chris Kunitz has been an outstanding player throughout his career, is a Stanley Cup champion, played for me in the 2008 World Championships in Quebec and Halifax and was a very good player on that team,” Yzerman said. “He’s played extremely well. He’s a hard-nosed player. He’s a skilled player.”
Now, you may be thinking that Kunitz is only playing this well because, oh, he shares a line with Sidney Crosby, arguably the best player in the NHL. If you were, no worries. Yzerman was more than ready to respond those claims.
“The question that a lot of people have asked is, is Chris Kunitz being helped by Sidney Crosby? They help each other and he’s a tremendous player, and ultimately we asked ourselves the question, on his own does he belong on this team, and our answer was, yes, he belongs on this team.”
Say this for Yzerman; he certainly seemed more prepared for questions about his choices than the US team. Granted, he also didn’t have a press crew publish any demeaning claims about Giroux or Couture, either.
The amount of talent Yzerman had to pick from was so loaded that there were bound to be significant cuts. The bottom line is that Kunitz is indeed having a solid season, and all he has to do to prove himself worthy of a roster spot is carry that momentum to Sochi.