Canada’s Olympic goaltenders: ranking of candidates

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The portrait of Canada’s goalkeepers for the 2022 Beijing Olympics in men looked pretty hazy a year ago, then it was crystal clear in July, and now it’s turned opaque again. It all comes down to the status of Carey Price.

Ahead of the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Price had just completed his third below-par regular season in four years, and Marc-André Fleury had delivered what turned out to be a season for the Vezina Trophy. This left the door open to a competition for Canada’s No.1 position in 2022. By the time the Montreal Canadiens’ miraculous run to the 2021 final came to an end, however, Price had wiped out any doubt that the Olympic starter’s chair still belonged to him. But now, with the fact that Price has signed up for the NHL Player Assistance Program indefinitely, no one can guess if he will be back in the NHL this season, let alone ready for the Games. winter.

Pending news from Price, Canada secured an exemption and was allowed to submit six goalkeepers from their list of Olympic candidates by the Oct. 15 deadline while the other 11 nations submitted five.

Many other Olympic teams have choices locked in to start in goal. Olympic athletes from Russia, Slovakia and Germany, for example, have already selected goalkeepers from the three names they were due to submit earlier this month for the first roster deadline: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jaroslav Halak and Philipp Grubauer, respectively. With the situation for Canada’s goalkeepers evolving, let’s rank the six candidates they submitted for Beijing – an unpublished list but confirmed by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.

1. Marc-André Fleury

The Case For: He is the most experienced goaltender available, placing third on the NHL’s all-time winning list. He is the most recent winner of the Vézina Trophy. His athleticism should play well when playing the east-to-west play on the international-sized ice surface. Everyone loves the guy.

The arguments against: He hasn’t exactly, uh, juice so far this season. The Chicago Blackhawks’ horribly inept defensive play could make ‘Flower’ look bad all year long. If you believe in juju: his last international job as a starter didn’t end well. It was in 2004, when he conceded a home goal from defenseman Braydon Coburn to help clinch gold at the world junior championships for Team USA.

Outlook: No one should remember the Blackhawks’ bad play against Fleury. Just last season he showed how elite he can be with a good team ahead of him, and that’s exactly what he would have with Canada. He’s a virtual lock to make the team one of their top three goalies, and, if Price doesn’t make the trip to Beijing, Fleury probably gets the first glance as a starter based on his seniority. .

2. Carey Award

The case for: Let’s be clear: the job is his. He was untouchable in goal for Canada at the 2014 Olympics and the 2016 World Cup, posting save percentages of .972 and .957, respectively. He showed in the 2021 playoffs that he remains the image of calm and efficiency in high-stakes games.

The case against: It’s just not clear if he’ll be ready to return to hockey by the time Canada finalizes its squad in January. An unfamiliar situation regarding his sanity is not something you rush. Even if Price returns with the Canadiens this season, he may not be ready for the added burden of traveling to China for a do-or-die tournament on top of his responsibilities with the Habs.

Outlook: A healthy Price who declares himself available still gets the first job in Canada, period. But it is entirely possible that he will skip the tournament. Having already won gold in his career, it’s not like he’s going to miss an item from the bucket list. He might decide that it’s safer to stay close to home.

3. Jordan Binnington

The Case For: Ice-veined Binnington helped the St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2018-19. That team’s general manager, Doug Armstrong, had enough long-term confidence in Binnington to sign him for a six-year, $ 36 million extension last season, and Armstrong just happens to be Canada’s general manager for the Olympics. 2022. There is no rule against favorites when selecting teams for the Winter Games.

The case against: Binnington has been just good and not great since that legendary first year campaign. From the start of 2019-20 until the first two weeks of the 2021-22 season, among 69 goalkeepers who have recorded 1,000 minutes or more 5v5, he sits 26e goals recorded above average by 60 according to naturalstattrick.com. That makes him a clear NHL starter, but a rather unspectacular performer overall.

Outlook: Binnington has a pretty high floor at this point in his career, and given the talent of Canada’s skating squad, a goalie you can count on to be good, not great and rarely terrible might make sense. It is unlikely that he to lose Canadian Games. Given that he has the confidence of the team’s general manager, it would be slightly upset if Binnington were not one of the three goalkeepers appointed. The last time a Team Canada GM stood up against a player from his own NHL team who was in the roster bubble, it caused a rift that culminated in the exchange of that. player a few months after the Olympics. Read: St-Louis, Martin.

4. Darcy Kuemper

The Case For: The most recent goaltender to help the NHL Canadians win gold in a major international tournament is Kuemper. He did it at the 2021 World Championship. As an Arizona coyote he has repeatedly shown his ability to raise weak teams, and now in Colorado he will gain experience that will better simulate the playing the best for Canada on a stacked team that won’t require them to stop 40 pucks a night to win games.

The case against: Kuemper doesn’t have the accolades and (NHL) experience to match the names ranked above him on this list. He also hasn’t established himself as an enduring No.1 workhorse. He’s eclipsed 29 starts once in his career. Will his body be up to the task to record a full season as a Colorado starter and stop for grueling trips and pressure games at the Olympics?

Outlook: Kuemper’s work at the world championships sure puts him on the radar, and he could easily find his way into the squad in the weeks and months to come with the Avs, but he carries red flags on health. . So it’s a better bet to make the team as a substitute than a starter.

5. Carter Hart

The case for: Prior to last season, most tipsters would have assumed that Hart, a rising prodigy, was a contender for the Olympic list and maybe even a challenger for the starting position. With his poised and intelligent playing, he seemed like a perfect successor to Price. Hart has the talent and pedigree to be a star for years to come.

The case against: Last year’s implosion forced us all to recalibrate our expectations for Hart, who, at 23, is still just a baby as a goalie. It’s his fourth season in the NHL, but he’s two years younger than Binnington as a rookie. Hart is still looking to fix his game, so it’s hard to trust him as a starter for Canada at the moment.

Outlook: Hart arguably has the widest range of results among Canada’s Olympic goaltender contenders. He could work his way into the squad and is talented enough to challenge the job if Price isn’t around – or Hart could continue to struggle and disappear from Armstrong’s radar altogether by January.

6. Mackenzie Blackwood

The case for: He’s a tall, lanky goalie with impressive raw talent and a legendary mentor who believes in his star potential in Martin Brodeur. A major blow to Blackwood’s Olympic potential was the fact that he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, but he would have received his first injection now and should be fully vaccinated in time for Beijing.

The case against: Blackwood has shown flashes so far in his NHL career, but hasn’t delivered a long period of dominance as a true No.1. The Devils have called in veterans to share the workload – Corey Crawford last year before suddenly retiring, then Jonathan Bernier this season – implying they don’t think Blackwood is ready to be a true bellcow. So it’s hard to imagine Canada betting on him at the Olympics just yet.

Outlook: Blackwood is obviously the biggest underdog of the six, but there is still a scenario where he is a part of the squad. If Price declines his invitation, Kuemper gets injured, and Hart’s funk continues, Blackwood could become Canada’s No.3.

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