Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - In the days leading up to the announcement of Team Canada, it seemed like a real possibility that Claude Giroux would be left off the country's roster for the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
That being said, it was still shocking when the Philadelphia Flyers captain's name was not called by Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman at the announcement ceremony on Tuesday.
Even more surprising, however, was that Yzerman, also the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, decided to snub one of his own by not selecting Boltsstar Martin St. Louis.
And since this is Team Canada we're talking about -- the talent-laden country that has claimed gold at two of the last three Winter Games -- the snubs did not end there. Facing an embarrassment of riches from which to choose, Yzermanalso opted to leave behind guys like Joe Thornton, James Neal, Eric Staal, Dan Boyle and Brent Seabrook, all players who could be integral parts of other nations' teams, but have the unfortunate distinction of being from the greatest hockey-playing country in the world.
There is also the case of San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture being left out, but his commission from Team Canada seems to be more about injury than him not doing enough to prove his worth. Couture is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair an unspecified upper-body injury on Wednesday and he could be out of action for the next month.
While Giroux being left off the squad is surprising, it's easy to see why it happened. The Flyers center man was considered a lock back in the summer, but he struggled mightily for the first few months of the 2013-14 season before kicking it into high gear in early December. And while Giroux was scuffling in October and November, it appears forwards like Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars and Chris Kunitz, a line mate of Sidney Crosby's in Pittsburgh, gained the advantage.
But, Giroux, who will turn 26 years old on Sunday, has time to make his first Team Canada down the line. St. Louis, on the other hand, will be 42 years old when the 2018 Pyeong chang Olympics roll around, so this was likely his last chance to represent Team Canada at a Winter Games. St. Louis did get a chance to win gold back at the 2006 Turin Games, but that wound up being a disastrous Olympic year for the Canadians, as they were bounced out by Russia in the quarterfinals.
Even though he's 38, St. Louis led the NHL in scoring last season and there's few guys who can say they're more consistent point-producers than the diminutive winger. Although St. Louis will have an excellent chance at making the Hockey Hall of Fame when he ultimately decides to hang up the skates, it seems likely he won't have an Olympic gold medal on his resume.
Yzerman was asked by James Duthie during TSN's broadcast of the Team Canada announcement about how difficult it was to leave off one of his own, and how St. Louis reacted.
"It's not easy, not a call I was looking forward to doing. (His reaction) was no different than any other of the 14 players," Yzerman said.
The fact of the matter is when the Canadians won the gold four years ago in Vancouver, they didn't need St. Louis do it. And that's the thing about Yzerman's job that makes it so difficult; Canada has such a deep pool of hockey talent to choose from that there are countless permutations of rosters that would be capable of winning gold.
It's often said Brazil could contend for a FIFA World Cup with a B-team, and that's kind of the situation Team Canada finds itself in at the men's Olympic hockey tournament every four years. Of course, that's no reason to feel sorry for Yzerman and the difficult decisions he and his staff have to make, but at some level you have to admit it's an unenviable task.
Oh yeah, and if Canada comes home with anything other than a gold medal it will be looked at by the hockey-crazed nation as a disappointment. And you better believe the lion's share of the blame will land at Yzerman's feet.