FanPost

The Seventh Defenseman

I'm sure a lot of people have scratched their heads a few times after the first three Canadian Olympic games, second guessing Steve Yzerman's selections on defense. But there is one thing that I am very curious about: how many people out there knew that all thirteen forwards and seven defensemen chosen for the roster dressed for every game?

First, let's take a quick look at what the defense has been like so far. I'll ignore the forwards, because other than a lack of finish, they have been generating shots and chances, but a couple of unbelievable performances by Jonas Hiller and Ryan Miller have nullified a lot of their opportunities. It's been frustrating to see the so-called 'chemistry pairing' on defense of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith split up, with Keith notably playing with the more offensively gifted Drew Doughty in key situations, and racking up huge minutes in all other parts of the games. Meanwhile, Seabrook has rotted away at the end of the bench, obviously lacking any semblance of trust from Mike Babcock in defensive situations. This I can understand. Maybe the coaching staff made a mistake and realized that Seabrook is where he is due to the fact he is playing with the mega-talented Keith in Chicago, and is a shadow of what they believed he was without #2 by his side. Chris Pronger has been disappointing, as of Scott Niedermayer and Dan Boyle. The general consensus is that Shea Weber, Keith and Doughty have been the better defenders so far (albeit, Doughty may be benefiting from playing with Keith or other solid players, notwithstanding his great goal-saving block on the Phil Kessel shot versus the American team). 

Which brings me to my question had before regarding roster rules. I am not sure if I am in the minority here, but I had absolutely no idea that you could have an extra forward and extra defenseman on the bench during games. Every person I have either watched games with or talked to also had no idea that this was a rule in international hockey. Which leads me to ask myself: why was this not publicized by any of the major sports networks during the whirlwind prior to the team selection in late December? As Bob McKenzie and the rest of the TSN crew hyped the impending selection of Patrice Bergeron and his right handed faceoff abilities, nothing was mentioned of the fact that there were to be extra players to be available on the bench. I, along with many others, assumed that Bergeron would be scratched in games where offensive fireworks would be likely, but dressed when defensive battles were forthcoming. As well, players like Jonathan Towes and Doughty were selected to be 'along for the ride,' unlikely to see much playing time, but brought to Vancouver to sit in the press box and be part of the experience, since they are sure to be key components on future Canadian teams. But alas, after seeing the first game, I noticed R O say in a game thread that he believed all players dress in international games, and sure enough, the whole roster was there except for the third goalie.

So what gives? Why wasn't this a major issue before the Games? Am I completely in the dark here? I completely bought Steve Yzerman's reasons on why Mike Green wasn't chosen for Team Canada. Yzerman said "I just think the defence we put together can generate offence almost to the same level as Mike, and yet be stronger in other areas. We just thought the seven that we chose are a better fit for us. I don’t want to go on at length criticizing Mike Green, but there are parts of his game that we’d need to see improved upon before he’s ready to play in the Olympics." We all agreed that Green was likely to be a liability in defensive situations, despite the impressive 'puck moving' and scoring abilities he possesses. Why would you want a guy like that on the ice when he would probably bring down his defensive partner and bleed goals against?

Anyways, here we are. Germany on Tuesday in the elimination round, and if we win, the Russian quarterfinal game on Wednesday. Mike Babcock has seemed to have settled on his defensive roles: Weber, Keith, Doughty and Boyle (maybe) are the relatively stronger players, with Pronger and Niedermayer stopping hearts with their constant gaffes. Meanwhile, Brent Seabrook enjoys the best spectator seat in the house.

Would it be any different if TSN hyped up the importance of the seventh blueliner? Because it damn well seemed to me that TSN had an idea of what their ideal team was leading up to December 30th. Did Yzerman tell Dreger or McKenzie that he was 'leaning towards Seabrook and Doughty' days before he named the team, only to have it reported to the rest of the nation? Was Yzerman watching Sportscentre every evening and basing his decisions on what Darren Pang's thoughts were or something? Do I dare say that Yzerman and the rest of the selection committee had no idea that the seventh defenseman dressed every night? Because no matter on what their plan was, surely they didn't envision Seabrook's status to where he is right now. Would have Team Canada scored a goal on both of those power plays in the waning minutes of the game against the USA, or in the closing rush when Martin Brodeur was pulled if a seventh defenseman such as Mike Green was on the team?

Would we be worse off if Mike Green played 6 minutes on the power play every night, but didn't step on to the ice at even strength? We will never know. I just wish that I was aware of this roster rule before the team was selected, because it almost seemed to me that if TSN had made it more of an issue, the selection of a Mike Green wouldn't have seemed as bad as Yzerman insinuated. I'm just a hell of a lot more frustrated because I was in the dark regarding this Olympic rule, and I am pretty sure that I'm not alone.

What do you all think? In hindsight, are you pretty disappointed in the lack of attention regarding this situation? It would definetley be interesting to see if there are a lot of other people in the same boat as me. Just don't get me started on why Jay Bouwmeester isn't on this team.

*Sorry, I've never done a fan post this long before, so I didn't know how to do 'The Jump.' My apologies if it slows down your computer with the loading time.

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