By Sie Nicole
While widely known for producing offensive talent, there’s no shortage of defense in Canada. Notably, in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Team Canada changed strategies and leaned heavily on defense. Playing defensively has proved effective for the team, earning them a gold medal in Sochi.
The current roster boasts the 2015-16 Norris Memorial winner, Drew Doughty, as well as his fellow nominee, Brent Burns. Shea Weber will be an alternate captain to Team Canada, reprising his role from the 2014 Olympics. Alex Pietrangelo will be making his debut since being named captain of the St. Louis Blues last month. Due to a knee injury from last season, Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks had to withdraw from the tournament. The two-time Norris Trophy winner was replaced with Jay Boumeester of the Blues, a veteran of Team Canada.
The projected pairings for the World Cup are:
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Sharks) – Shea Weber (Canadiens)
Jake Muzzin (Kings) – Drew Doughty (Kings)
Alex Pietrangelo (Blues) – Brent Burns (Sharks)
Jay Boumeester (Blues)
While Vlasic and Doughty were a stellar combination in 2014, the addition of Doughty’s Kings teammate breaks the pair up, opting instead to leave Muzzin and Doughty’s chemistry undisturbed. This is a hardly a loss for Vlasic, though. He’s coming off a Stanley Cup Playoff run where he was a critical shutdown defenseman, tasked with keeping players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Anze Kopitar from scoring – and succeeding. He’s a quiet presence, but an effective one. It would be remiss of other teams to underestimate him.
The addition of Brent Burns brings a unique offensive angle to this defensive squad. He was among the playoff scoring leaders this year, accumulating 24 points. In the regular season, he finished with a career high 75 points. As a former forward, Burns has a skill set that will be an important component to Team Canada’s power play.
If Team Canada continues to play a defensively driven game, there should be no doubts about their ability to succeed with this lineup.
Watch Team Canada in their first pre-tournament game against Team USA at 7 pm EST on Friday September 9th at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.