International Ice Hockey Federation

Time to shine again?

Time to shine again?

Canada vies to end drought since 2007

Published 09.05.2014 02:17 GMT+3 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Time to shine again?
Canada, which lost to eventual champion Sweden in last year's quarter-finals, could battle Tre Kronor for top spot in Group A this year. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
The last time the World Championship took place in a Russian-speaking country was also the last time Canada won gold: Moscow 2007.

Despite Canada’s impressive success at the last two Olympics, it has not been able to take advantage of its vaunted depth at the Worlds. The Canadians haven’t even won a medal at this tournament since 2009’s silver. They have exited in the quarter-finals four years in a row, versus Russia in 2010 and 2011, Slovakia in 2012, and Sweden in 2013.

Will this be a year for “Da da, Canada” again? If so, it’ll stem from the fact that this year’s roster has something to prove.

There are no Olympians. The only past World Championship winner is winger Jason Chimera of the Washington Capitals, who played for the 2007 team. At 35, he’s the senior member of this youth-laden squad.

If you’re looking for more of an international winning background, you have to go back to the 2009 World Junior team from Ottawa, represented here with defencemen Ryan Ellis (Nashville) and Tyler Myers (Buffalo) and forward Cody Hodgson (Buffalo). Kyle Turris (Ottawa) also claimed World Junior gold the year before in the Czech Republic.

So while coach Dave Tippett has said he’d like to emulate the commitment to team play that kept Canada unbeaten en route to gold in Sochi, he’ll need to do so with far fewer weapons in his arsenal than Mike Babcock had in February.


In a year where Canadian NHL teams collectively underachieved, about half this roster comes from Canadian clubs, and that’s reflected in the goaltending. James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ben Scrivens of the Edmonton Oilers will compete for the number one job. Tippett will keep an open mind on his go-to guy heading into the elimination games.

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It’s a reunion of sorts, as Scrivens briefly served as Reimer’s back-up in Toronto last year before being dealt to L.A. and subsequently to Edmonton this season.

Reimer has the edge in terms of IIHF experience. He won all four of his starts in Canada’s fifth-place run in 2011, his only previous stint wearing the red Maple Leaf. However, his star faded in Toronto this season, as he often struggled from late November onward, and there are question marks about whether he’ll be back with the (blue) Maple Leafs next year.

Scrivens, meanwhile, had his moments after coming to Edmonton in January: he set a new NHL regular-season record for most saves in a shutout (59) on January 29, beating San Jose 3-0. But the 27-year-old World Championship debutant also had some tough nights behind the porous Oilers defence.

Justin Peters of the Carolina Hurricanes, who had a 91.9 save percentage and 2.50 GAA in 21 NHL appearances this season, is the third goalie.


Canada’s biggest edge in IIHF competition nowadays is its blueline corps. While there’s no one on par with Shea Weber or Drew Doughty in this Minsk crew, it still brims with potential.

Two World Championship rookies from the Vancouver Canucks are worth noting. Kevin Bieksa, 32, will add some trademark Canadian physicality and experience in pressure situations from Vancouver’s 2011 run to the Stanley Cup final. Teammate Jason Garrison brings a bomb from the point, and Tippett would love to see him recapture the form that spawned nine points in Vancouver’s first 10 games this year.

Provided that Tyler Myers and Braydon Coburn (Philadelphia) don’t get caught out of position on the larger European ice surface, both these big men could come in handy containing fleet-footed Swedish and Czech forwards. And if Morgan Rielly (Toronto) is given free rein to carry the puck, he could provide some Brian Leetch-style thrills with extra room to skate. The 20-year-old produced 27 points in his rookie campaign.


Canada’s most-watched forward in Minsk will also be its youngest. Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche became the fastest 18-year-old ever to score 10 playoff points in just seven playoff games against the Minnesota Wild. The consensus favourite for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year (24-39-63) may not be able to match Sidney Crosby’s World Championship production at the same age (16 points in Latvia 2006), but in terms of raw offensive talent, MacKinnon has showed that the comparisons with his fellow Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native aren’t totally out of line.

This group of attackers abounds with 20-goal scorers under the age of 25, including Nazem Kadri (Toronto), Brayden Schenn (Philadelphia), Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg), and Cody Hodgson (Buffalo). Centre Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida), who won the Calder last year, will be looking for a bounceback performance in Minsk after recording 28 points in 69 games this year, off his pace of 31 points in 48 games in 2012-13.

The main concern has to be inexperience. Canada produces more young talent than any other country, but year after year, the difference-makers for gold medalists at this tournament have hardly been ingenues: the Sedins (2013), Yevgeni Malkin (2012), and so on.


Tippett is no stranger to the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, winning silver in 2009 in one of his two stints as an associate coach. The 52-year-old bench boss of the Phoenix Coyotes was a two-time Olympian as a player, captaining Team Canada in Sarajevo 1984 and earning silver in Albertville 1992.

Despite the uncertainty that dogged Phoenix’s ownership situation for years, Tippett has done a fine job of inculcating structure and discipline with that franchise. Most notably, in 2009-10, he recorded a 50-win season and won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s top coach after taking over from Wayne Gretzky. If Canada falls short here, it won’t be due to Tippett’s inattention to detail.

One of his assistants will be Peter DeBoer of the New Jersey Devils, whose international resume includes a gold medal as an assistant with the powerhouse 2005 World Junior championship team and a stint as an associate with the 2010 World Championship squad (fifth place).

The other will be Paul Maurice, a 2002 Stanley Cup finalist with Carolina who now helms the Winnipeg Jets. Maurice knows KHL ice after coaching Metallurg Magnitogorsk as Mike Keenan’s Canadian predecessor in 2012-13.

Projected Results

This group should be capable of contending for a medal. But based on recent history, there’s no compelling reason to believe they’ll make Canada the second nation ever to win both Olympic and World Championship gold in the same year, emulating Sweden’s history-making feat in 2006. If the 2012 team, which featured seven 2014 Olympians, couldn’t bring home the title, it will be a mighty challenge for Tippett’s team to do better.


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