Checking in On The Snubs: Player Performance Post Olympic Announcements
As of January 7th all countries participating in the Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament at the Sochi Olympics have submitted their twenty-five man preliminary rosters for the games. Since that time, the talk has focused almost as much on players who were not selected to play for their countries, as those who were selected. While the games are still a few weeks away and injury concerns could see some of these players yet added to rosters and playing in the games, for now I thought it would be interesting to look at those who aren’t going to Sochi, and see if being left off their respective countries’ lists has led to some extra motivation (and production) for their NHL teams.
So without further ado… a look at the highest profile Olympic Snubs and what they have done since the selections were made. I’ve listed the players by team, and then in alphabetical order of last name.
Canada: Canada made their announcement on July 7th. With more players in the NHL than any other country, it is no surprise that Canada also has the biggest number of star players who could have been part of the team, but ultimately could not make the cut.
Dan Boyle: An important member of the Gold Medal winning squad for Team Canada in 2010, and still the number one offensive defenceman for the San Jose Sharks, Boyle could not make the cut for this year’s squad. Following the announcement he has one goal and three points in six games for the Sharks.
Logan Couture: Another San Jose player who many thought would make the team, Logan Couture suffered a wrist injury on the eve of the announcement. This injury was seen by many as the reason he was not taken to Sochi and short of a Custance/Allen style piece on the Team Canada selection process, we won’t really know. He hasn’t played since the announcement due to the wrist injury.
Corey Crawford: Last year’s Stanley Cup Champion, Crawford could not beat out Mike Smith for the third goalie spot on Team Canada. He is 2-1-2 since the announcement, with a .913 save percentage over that stretch.
Marc-Andre Fleury: While Fleury wasn’t invited to Canada’s summer camp, largely due to the playoff meltdowns he has suffered in recent years, he came into this season as a man on a mission. He has been one of the NHL’s top goalies this season, but that wasn’t enough to see him get a spot on Team Canada. He is a perfect 3-0-0 since the announcement; but has given up 8 goals in those 3 games, and has a .902 save percentage.
Claude Giroux: Giroux started the season slow, but a hot two-month stretch before the announcement had many thinking that he had played his way back onto the team. It was not the case, as the Flyers star remains one of the headliners in any “all-snub” squads. He remains hot with six points in his last seven games.
Taylor Hall: He was snubbed from being a season ending Second Team All-Star last season when many hockey writers didn’t know what position Alex Ovechkin played. Now he’s been left out of Team Canada despite being better than a Point-Per-Game player this season. He has two goals and five points in six games since the announcement.
Josh Harding: Arguably the best goaltender in the NHL this season, Harding has taken over as Minnesota’s number one goalie and put us some incredible numbers. However he’s been out of the lineup since December 31st as doctors work on adjusting his medication as he continues his battle with MS. The uncertainty around his health probably took him out of consideration for the position, but I felt he was worth a mention as his story is one that can inspire all.
Milan Lucic: The Boston Bruins power forward brings a very unique skill set with his ability to score goals, and play a strong physical game. If this tournament was played on North American sized ice as it was in 2010, I believe he would have made the team. However with less emphasis on the physical game on the bigger ice surface in Sochi, he just couldn’t make a very deep Team Canada squad. Lucic has one goal and one assist in five games since the announcement. Those both came in the Bruins January 16th game against Dallas.
James Neal: One of the highest goal scorers in the NHL over the previous two season, Neal couldn’t join teammates Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz on the Canadian squad. Clearly a large consideration here was Kunitz’s chemistry with Crosby, while Neal seems to spend more time on Evgeni Malkin’s wing. In three games since the announcement he has a goal and an assist.
Brent Seabrook: The two-time Stanley Cup Champion was part of the 2010 Olympic Team. However even his familiarity and chemistry with Duncan Keith wasn’t enough to get Seabrook onto this year’s version of Team Canada. He has one goal, one assist, and is a +3 in his last six games.
Tyler Seguin: Seguin wasn’t part of Canada’s summer orientation camp, but that didn’t stop his linemate Jamie Benn from making the team. Since joining the Stars, Seguin has made his mark amongst the best centres in the NHL. He has 45 point in 46 games this season, including four points in his last six games.
Martin St. Louis: St. Louis is el fuego since being snubbed by Team Canada. With Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also being the GM of Team Canada, most assumed that last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner was a lock to wear the Red Maple Leaf in Socchi. He’s really turned up his game since the announcement, and has an eight-game point streak since the snub. In that stretch he has scored eight goals and 12 points; including a four goal afternoon Saturday against the San Jose Sharks.
Eric Staal: Another member of the 2010 Olympic Team who won’t be part of this year’s squad, Eric Staal is having a disappointing year in Carolina. He has just come back from injury and has a goal and three assists in the three games he’s played since the announcement.
Joe Thornton: Yet another member of the 2010 Olympic Team who has been left out is the NHL’s assist leader, Joe Thornton. He has put up one goal and three assists in six games since the announcement.
Czech Republic: The Czech team was named on January 6th. The announcement that 42-year-old Petr Nedved would be on the squad ahead of the following two NHL forwards was a shocking one.
Jiri Hudler: Hudler has been having a tough go of things since joining the Calgary Flames as a free agent. He just doesn’t have the same talent around him in Calgary as what he had around him in Detroit. Still the dimunitive centre has 39 points in 49 games this season, and that includes one goal and six points in eight games since the Czech announcement.
Radim Vrbata: Vrbata always seems to fly under the radar, but the fact is that he has been a reliable scorer and one of the best forwards on the Phoenix Coyotes for several years now. Here is a player who scored 35 goals in the last full NHL season (2011-12, and has 35 points in 46 games this year. Leaving him off the Czech squad was something most analysts saw as unfathomable prior to the team being announced. He’s picked up his game, as Vrbata has six points in seven games since the announcement.
Finland: The Finns made their announcement on July 7th.
Sean Bergenheim: A key defensive forward for the Florida Panthers, Bergenheim has kept up his strong checking line play on a rebuilding club going +1 in the last five games. He has also picked up an assist in that time.
Saku Koivu: Koivu apparently withdrew his name from consideration just prior to the naming of the team. Unlike Swede Tobias Enstrom who announced his intention to skip the games early in the process, Koivu’s announcement was very much last minute. This has led to speculation that the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation allowed him to do so to save face when he would not be named to the team, as Koivu has had a long and distinguished international career. He has two points in the seven games since the announcement.
Russia The host Russians made their announcement on July 7th, waiting til the last possible day before naming the squad.
Sergei Gonchar: A big off-season acquisition for the Dallas Stars, the highest scoring Russian defenceman ever in the NHL, Sergei Gonchar was not part of Russia’s plans for the Olympics. He has just one goal in six games since the disappointing announcement he would not get to play in the games in his country.
Alex Semin: Semin has been great for Russia, playing with Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin at recent World Championships. While he is having a rough season after signing a big money deal with the Carolina Hurricanes last year, it was assumed he’d still be part of the Russian squad. After learning that is not the case, Semin has scored three goals in the five games since the announcement. All three goals came this weekend in games against Florida and Tampa Bay.
Sweden Like Canada, the Swedes waited until the very last possible day to make their announcement, naming their 25-man roster on January 7th.
Jonas Brodin: The young Minnesota Wild defender can’t seem to catch a break. Last year he was snubbed of a nomination for the Calder Trophy, and this year he is left on Sweden’s Olympic team. While he has just one point in the seven games since the announcement, he has continued his rock solid play for the Wild going +2 while averaging around 25 minutes per game in that span.
Victor Hedman: The former second overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft and the current number one man for the Tampa Bay Lightning was clearly the biggest name not picked for the Swedish Olympic Team, and one of the most shocking snubs on the list. He’s taken the decision in stride though and has put up an impressive two goals and four points in seven games since the announcement, while maintaining his big minutes on the Tampa blueline. He recently suffered an ankle injury during Saturday’s game against the Sharks, and his status is uncertain going forward.
Patrick Hornqvist: The Right Winger has previously shown the ability to get to the net, and has produced 30, 21, and 27 goals in the last three full NHL seasons, so his exclusion from the Swedish squad has come at a bit of a surprise. Still with only 1 goal and being a minus 3 in his last five games, it hasn’t exactly sparked his disappointing season.
Switzerland Switzerland made their announcement on January 6th.
Luca Sbisa: For a country like Switzerland, you don’t expect a lot of high profile NHL snubs. They don’t have 25 players playing in the best league in the world, so you would figure that a defenceman who is good enough to be a regular for one of the best teams in the NHL would make the team. While Sbisa is currently injured, he is expected back in the Ducks lineup before the Olympic break, and so its a little puzzling why he wasn’t named. The fact remains that even if he isn’t healthy for the actual games, the team will have until a few hours before their first game to replace him, so why not name him to the squad and see how he progresses from his injury before Sochi, given the fact he would be a top 4 defenceman for the Swiss if healthy.
USA: Team USA’s roster was announced during the Winter Classic on January 1st, 2014. We have looked at all games played since the announcement.
Ben Bishop: You could make the case that Ben Bishop has been the best American goalie in the NHL this season. However his stellar play for the Tampa Bay Lightning was not enough to beat out Jimmy Howard for the third goalie spot on Team USA. Since the January 1st roster announcement, Bishop is 4-1-1, with one shutout in 7 games. He has also put up a .934 save percentage in that time, a scintillating number. However, its simply status quo for Bishop this year, as he’s at .935 for the season.
Erik Johnson:The former first overall pick has been a staple for USA Hockey over the years, but couldn’t crack the squad. In the eight games since the announcement he has a goal and two assists. Known more for his solid all-around play than his pure offence though, Johnson is showing that off, as he is also +3 in that span.
Jack Johnson: According to insiders Kevin Allen of USA Today, and Scott Burnside of ESPN, Jack Johnson was once seen as a lock for Team USA but fell off the team in what seemed to be an agonizing decision for David Poile and the USA Hockey Management Group. Since the announcement Johnson has put up five points in eight games, and is a plus three. He certainly seems to have picked up his game from the early season blahs that see him not scheduled to go to Sochi.
Kyle Okposo: A big and rugged American winger playing for the New York Islanders. Okposo was beaten out for one of the final two spots by Max Pacioretty and Blake Wheeler. He has been lighting it up with the extra motivation of his Olympic snub with four goals, and seven points in eight games since the announcement.
Bobby Ryan: Perhaps the most talked about of all Olympic snubs due to the articles featured in USA Today and ESPN that detailed the Team USA Selection process. Motivated by his snub, Ryan has seen a slump since the announcement, and there are certainly questions if a player with his spelling of I-N-10-S-E was going to raise his game. Ryan has been limited to just one goal and two points in seven games since the announcement. He also hasn’t taken a single penalty.
Brandon Saad: Many were surprised that the second year Blackhawks winger was in consideration for the team so late in the process. However, you really shouldn’t be, as Saad has proven his worth for the Stanley Cup Champions, playing an important role for the team over the last two years. That said he hasn’t been at his best since the announcement with just four points in nine games.
Cory Schneider: Schneider is only 2-1-2 in the five games since the Olympic Announcement, but his win-loss record is not indicative of his play. He’s only given up six goals in those five games, and shutout the Dallas Stars on January 9th. He has an incredible .957 save percentage over that stretch.
Keith Yandle: Yandle has been the highest scoring American defenceman over the last four years, and continues rack up assists in the games post the announcement with five points in nine games. However, the biggest knock on Yandle was that he would be a defensive liability on Team USA and he’s a minus eight in those same nine games. This certainly hasn’t done anything to promote the worthiness of his defensive game.
Conclusion: With the exception of a few players; St. Louis, Bishop, and Schneider being the most notable amongst them, there is no appreciable uptick in production for the Olympic snubs. The theory that this would provide extra motivation and production doesn’t really seem to be playing out.
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