Most of the names on Team Canada's Olympic orientation camp roster were expected. Sidney Crosby. Drew Doughty. Steven Stamkos.
Quality picks. They're all pretty good.
But there were a few surprise names as well. Travis Hamonic. Marcs Methot and Edouard-Vlasic. Good players, all, but not the sort of guys you tend to see on an inventory of elite Canadian defenders. They're defensive-minded blueliners that play reliable hockey, to be certain, but bring little in the way of flash or sizzle. None are All-Stars.
But there's a reason they're in contention.
"We're not putting together a team for an NHL all-star game," explained Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman Monday when quizzed about the stay-at-home blueliners.
"We're putting together the best possible team that we can to compete against the best players in the world and try and win a gold medal. Part of that comes with having players that can do specific things for us."
The specific thing, in this case, is guard the flag.
It seems like a truism -- the defencemen have to be able to defend -- but that doesn't always factor into our criteria for eliteness on the blueline. More often than not, it has to do with points accumulated, highlight-reel goals, general spiffiness.
That's all well and good at the All-Star Game, when the outcome doesn't really matter. You can have six guys that take the puck hither and thither. But it's another story when the opposition breaks out of their end with intent, when there are wins, games, and national pride on the line, and you'd like someone back there when the puck crosses the red line.
One major difference between an All-Star team and a regular team? Role players. Players are named to All-Star teams because of what they can do. But Team Canada's roster will be selected by what they can do for the team.
When that's the case, suddenly, Marc Methot, who makes up for his lack of dangles by smothering everybody else's, is more than just Marc Afterthot.
"Marc played in the world championships and we've watched him play in the National Hockey League and he went over last year [for the world championships] and... looked good on the big ice," Yzerman explained.
(This explanation also doubles as a reminder of why you accept your World Championship invitations. They're also Olympic tryouts.)
"Travis Hamonic is very mobile, a big guy that skates well," Yzerman continued, "and both guys we consider real solid defensive-minded types that potentially could be complementary to some of the higher-profile or big names or holdovers from our previous teams... we like their defensive abilities that would complement offensive-minded guys that we have."
Guys like Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban, or even Kris Letang -- although one wonders if the emphasis on defending puts Letang's roster spot in some trouble. With the offensive firepower Team Canada is bound to have anyway, will Yzerman look past a guy known for bringing that and only that? It could happen.
It could happen up front too.
“We expect players to be 200-footers — they have to play with and without the puck,” coach Mike Babcock said, so consider Selke winners Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron locks to make this club if you didn't already.
Yzerman backed up the assertion. "Not only do we expect the forwards to be strong offensively, but they have to be reliable defensively. Our offensive guys have to be counted on to play in their own zone. They're playing against the best players in the world and they have to be responsible defensively."