As the calendar flips to 2014, we’ll know definitively which players will have made the cut for their respective countries in the Sochi Olympics. But in the closing weeks of this year, we’re getting a sense of which players still have that shot and which ones may have squandered it.
Here are 10 players that have seen their shot at Olympic glory tainted by their play this season. Some were injured. Some under-performed. Some simply saw others play better.
There’s still time to reverse some of these downward trends … but not much.
Justin Abdelkader, F, Detroit Red Wings
He was invited to the U.S. camp after a season that saw him earn top line minutes with the Red Wings. He looked like he could be a valuable role player for the U.S. His role has changed, his goals are down, and he’s not expected to be in the forward mix for the U.S.
Craig Anderson, G, Ottawa Senators
The Senators keeper was invited to Olympic orientation camp for the U.S. and was expected to compete for at least the No. 3 spot on the roster. But his sub-par numbers, sinking with those of the struggling Sens, had him out of the running as of late November.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Columbus Blue Jackets
Depending who you talk to, the reigning Vezina winner either had a legit shot as the Russian starter in Sochi or was always going to play second fiddle to Semyon Varlamov. Regardless, his middling start for the Jackets combined with Varlamov’s masterful run for Colorado placed him firmly in the passenger’s seat.
Ryan Callahan, F, New York Rangers
Callahan was on the bubble for the U.S. in Sochi, seen as a player that might have been perfect for the smaller ice in Vancouver but perhaps not so much in the 2014 Games. A series of injuries this season have slowed him, including the latest: an MCL sprain that has him out up to six weeks. The danger here is that T.J. Oshie and Kyle Okposo have made aggressive bids to be the right wings behind Patrick Kane and Bobby Ryan on the U.S. team. Callahan might still make the roster, but can’t be considered a lock.
Corey Crawford, G, Chicago Blackhawks
Crawford’s numbers (2.47 GAA, .907 save percentage) haven’t been great, and now he’s out three weeks, handing the spotlight to Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes in an attempt to earn the final goaltending spot behind Carey Price and Roberto Luongo. He seemingly had the gig last summer, but it slipped through his glove like so many Bruins pucks.
Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia Flyers
His 15-games-without-a-goal start knocked his status down a few notches, and with the competition for forward spots on Team Canada, that’s no good. His season has stabilized a bit since then, to a nearly point-per-game pace, but the impression left by that early season stumble might be irreversible.
Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals
‘Twas a time when Holtby was being viewed as a potential third goalie on the roster, the young keeper along for the ride, being prepped for the next Olympics (should the NHL participate). But he’s been wildly inconsistent for the Capitals, and a downright liability in some games.
Jimmy Howard, G, Detroit Red Wings
J-Ho’s down year for the Wings cost him a chance to overtake any of the other struggling American netminders this season. He still has a chance at being one of the big three, but goalies like Cory Schneider, Ben Bishop and even Tim Thomas have stated better cases.
Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
Perhaps the best skater among Canadian defensemen, not getting a sniff on an international ice surface? A knee injury has hindered him this season, but his underwhelming offensive start basically popped his Sochi bubble. Alas, Erik Karlsson will have to carry the Olympic torch for smooth skating defensemen with mad flow.
Marc Staal, D, New York Rangers
Staal was a Canadian orientation camp invite thanks to his prior international experience and his rock-solid defense when healthy – ah, yes, “when healthy.” Staal suffered another concussion last week, albeit a “mild” one. He’s also struggled this season for the Rangers, and is out of the picture for the Canadian blue line.
Tomorrow: 10 players whose stock has risen dramatically for Sochi spots.