Well that was interesting wasn't it. Canada demolished the Czech Republic in their tournament opener. The official game sheet can be found here.
An 8-1 thrashing against a country that should be a threat to stand on the podium makes me scared for Kazakhstan on Sunday. While Canada looked out of sorts and nervous for the first half of the first period, a fantastic shift from Patrice Cormier, where he hit everything in sight, turned the tide in favor of the host country and they never looked back. John Tavares, Ryan Ellis and Jordan Eberle were Canada's 3 best offensive players in my opinion, as they were all buzzing, but even still, Canada could be better if NHL teams would have lent a few players to the squad. What's better, struggling on a bad team in the NHL or boosting confidence while winning against your peers? With that here my 5 players in no particular order that should be wearing the maple leaf in our nation's capital.
5. Josh Bailey-New York Islanders
Is it because Islanders G.M. Garth Snow is American and he didn't want to help team Canada? Conspiracy theorists can chew on that all day, but there's no chance Snow is that kind of person. But I do wonder why he decided to keep Bailey on the sinking Island. As of Friday, New York was dead last in the entire league. Sending Bailey to Ottawa might have given Snow a chance to see him play with the man he might get to draft first overall in June, John Tavares. Instead he's hanging out with aging vets and just tonight found his his first NHL goal in 22 games. He is playing more than 15 minutes a night, but is -5 and could probably return from the World Juniors with more confidence than he probably has right now.
4. Kyle Turris-Phoenix
Kyle Turris told me this week he hadn't heard any rumors of him being loaned to Team Canada. I find it a little hard to believe but they are in the desert where hockey barely has a pulse so you never know. Turris has just 6 points in his last 14 games, and is -4 over that stretch. On Tuesday he played was out for just 12 shifts and played less than 10 minutes. I know the ex-Jets are currently in a playoff position right now, but do those numbers make you think Turris is a big part of the club right now?
3. Brandon Sutter-Carolina
He would likely be the captain for team Canada, how could that be bad for his development. Yes the Canes like the Coyotes are in a playoff position right now, but Sutter is averaging 10 minutes a night, and 15 times in his last 20 games has played less than 10. Since returning from a concussion, Sutter has just 1 point in 20 games. Sure he's not going to be an 80 point guy, but one point, you're telling me lighting up a few international rivals with big hits, and big goals wouldn't make Sutter a different player in the second half of the season?
2. Colton Gillies-Minnesota
Unlike some of the guys on this list, Colton Gillies has a point in his last 5 games, unfortunately those 5 games have come in a span of 25 days meaning Gillies is spending a lot of time on pop corn duty as a healthy scratch in Minnesota. He can't play in the AHL because of his age, but he could play as a 19 year old for Canada and he should be, instead of watching the Wild and averaging 8:37 per game when he does see the ice.
1. Steven Stamkos-Tampa BayYes he was the first overall pick, and yes the Lightning promoted him like a presidential candidate with their "Seen Stamkos" campaign, but they only thing outsiders are seeing is a young kid in a bad situation with the bolts. From their early season struggles (2nd last in the league as of Friday) to Barry Melrose getting fired and publicly commenting that he isn't ready to play in the NHL. It's hard to argue with Melrose when you see Stamkos' numbers. 13 points in 34 games and a -11 rating. 2 games ago he played less than 8 minutes on only 10 shifts, the 2nd lowest of the season. What does Tampa need him for right now? Again like the Islanders it might give them a chance to see his chemistry with Tavares as they prepare for this June's draft in Montreal.
More and more in the NHL young players are being rushed because of the cap. I think in some cases it's okay, even with some of the players above, but what's wrong with giving them a 3 week vacation from depressionville and allow them to experience winning with their country. Some teams have done that as the Blue Jackets allowed Nikita Filatov to play for Russia and the Kings did the same with Oscar Moller for team Sweden, we'll see how these players respond when they return to the NHL. If it benefits them, then maybe some other clubs will take notice.