Monday, February 24, 2014

Nagano to Sochi: Canada's all-time Olympic numbers in the NHL era

Photo from
Salt Lake City, Vancouver and now Sochi. In the five Winter Olympics since NHL players were allowed to compete, Canada has won gold in three of them. And while more zealous fans will tell you that we should have had all five, the best team on paper never wins a hundred percent of the time.

It can take a very under-appreciated resiliency to be the best and live up to it. To stick to sound and systematic play -- especially when it only gets you a 2-1 win against an Arturs Irbe-less Latvian team. Or just two measly assists through five games from the best player in the world.

But here we are, just barely recovered from a deprived sleep schedule and with ultimate bragging rights for at least four more years. And thank Price, because we all know how much longer four years can feel after having left Gretzky on the bench in Nagano.

Since 1998, Team Canada has played a total of 31 games. That is nearly half a regular season's worth of the most scrutinized hockey known to man. Makes for a pretty decent sample size. Which makes you wonder where Sidney Crosby's pair of Olympic performances might stack up against, say...Joe Sakic's. Or Steve Yzerman's. Or where Shea Weber and Drew Doughty rank among the Scott Niedermayers and Chris Prongers of yesteryear.

One can only Google so hard until they take matters into their own hands. If there's already an all-time list out there, well, it's not in the first 10 pages of a standard Google search. So go, go gadget Excel spreadsheet. The career rankings of Team Canada players since 1998:

In an exhaustive poll of all of my friends, two out of two them predicted that Joe Sakic would be Canada's all-time leading scorer at the Olympics since 1998. Three if you include myself. And we weren't far off, but it's Jarome Iginla's 14 points that is currently the standard. His 10 goals dwarfs all others, which really tells you something about his place in his generation of scorers.

That takes you to a slew of 2014 players. With his second offensively-dominating Olympic year in a row, Shea Weber is Canada's leading defenceman in the NHL era. Five goals and 12 points in 13 games. Makes you wonder what he could do on a real, contending NHL team. At fourth and sixth overall are arguably Canada's top two players in the world right now in Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby. Naturally, between the two of them, they have four of Canada's six goals in the last two gold medal games. At 25 and 26 years old, the country's perpetual logjam at centre isn't clearing for at least another two tournaments (IIHF and NHL willing).

Among the more interesting stats is that with three tournaments under his belt now, Rick Nash is second only to Chris Pronger in Olympic experience for Canada. Meanwhile, Bryan McCabe, who apparently gooned his way through Turin in 2006, ranks second in penalty minutes with 18 in six games. Who else at first but Pronger again.

They seem to always make it interesting, but hopefully the IIHF, IOC and NHL can cooperate to bring more of the best-on-best that McCabe's 18 penalty minutes are made of. A little more of this wouldn't hurt either:

Go Canada, go.



My Team Canada, BTD style

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