COMMENTARY| Hockey Canada invited 47 players to its summer orientation camp on Monday, as Team Canada--and the other participating nations--begin to gear up for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. It was just last week that the NHL announced its players would be participating in the sport's premier international tournament.
The orientation camp is slated for late August, and although Hockey Canada doesn't have to submit its final roster--which must consist of 22 skaters and three goaltenders--until December 31st, they must select players from the preliminary group of 47.
The New York Rangers will be represented by two players--Rick Nash, who was a member of Canada's 2010 gold-medal winning squad, and defenseman Marc Staal. Staal's brothers, Eric and Jordan, will also attend the camp.
But, of course, some notables were left off the list of 47. In truth, Canada could probably field two contending squads, but, seeing as the rules preclude such a thing, tough decisions had to be made.
Top-end talent, like Jason Spezza, Jamie Benn, Evander Kane and Jarome Iginla were all left on the outside looking in. It's the nature of the business, and I'm sure Hockey Canada has its reasons for leaving such talented guys off the preliminary roster.
But it's another player's omission that has New Yorkers scratching their heads.
Dan Girardi, maybe the Rangers' best defenseman over the past two seasons, for some reason, was not selected. After his breakout 2011-12 season, which saw him selected to play in his first All-Star game and even finish sixth in Norris Trophy voting, Girardi was finally receiving the recognition he deserved. And although his 2012-13 campaign wasn't as outstanding, his strong play was still crucial to the Rangers' success.
But, apparently Girardi is already old news. I get it, he doesn't fit the marketable mold of the outrageously overrated Kris Letangs of the world, but that doesn't mean he's not one of the league's most defensively sound defensemen.
That being said, I know Girardi never had a realistic shot at making Team Canada. There are just too many quality all-around defensemen who hail from The True North. But how is he not even in the conversation? Have you had a chance to look at the preliminary group? Let's just rattle off a few defensemen who are still in consideration to represent the greatest hockey nation in the world instead of Girardi:
Really? Girardi is a perennial time-on-ice leader, playing on the top pairing of a team that's been in the top-five in terms of goals against the past three seasons. The fact that these four players are being considered for a spot on the Olympic team and Girardi isn't is a travesty.
No, Girardi cannot quarterback a power play, and he isn't going to put up sexy numbers, but he gets the job done. Every night. The four above are all very nice players. All solid in their own end, and they're even pretty young. But none of them have a body of work as impressive as Girardi's.
He's a veteran player who plays with his heart on his sleeve, and night in and night out he shuts down the league's top offensive threats. Half of the aforementioned players don't even get top-line minutes.
Girardi would easily make any other nation's squad; he's as professional and thorough as a defenseman could be. And, again, I know he's got no shot at a final roster spot, but Alzer, Hamonic, Methot and Vlassic's selections coming at Girardi's expense is an embarrassment to a very proud player.
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