The Canucks won’t have quite as many countries represented at the 2014 Winter Olympics as they did in 2010. Back then, they sent seven players to the Olympics to play for six different countries. This time around, they’ll have representatives on just three countries: Canada, Sweden, and Team USA.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Ryan Kesler was invited to Team USA’s Olympic orientation camp on Monday and is a lock to make the team and head to Sochi in February.
Kesler may have only scored two points, both goals, during the 2010 Olympics, but he was still one of Team USA’s top players, averaging 17:21 in ice time per game, tied with Patrick Kane for second among USA forwards. He returned to a checking role, tasked with shutting down some of the best players in the world, and helped Team USA to the gold medal game, falling just short in overtime.
For what it’s worth, Kesler scored a goal in the final and wasn’t on the ice when Crosby scored the gold-medal winning goal.
Team USA has a strong contingent of two-way centres to go with Kesler, including Joe Pavelski, David Backes, Paul Stastny, Brandon Dubinsky, and Derek Stepan, but Kesler is arguably the strongest defensively of that group and has experience on his side. Considering how heavily Ron Wilson leaned on Kesler during the 2010 Olympics, it would be shocking if he didn’t make the team.
The one x-factor, of course, is his health. Kesler only played in 17 games during the 20
12-13 season as he recovered from a shoulder injury, then broke his foot upon his return. If those issues are resolved, however, and there’s every reason to believe they are, then Kesler will be on Team USA for the 2014 Olympics.
I, for one, am thrilled.
While I thoroughly enjoy having Kesler on the Canucks, it was immensely fun having him play for the opposition in 2010. During the Olympics, Canucks fans quickly realized why everyone hates playing against Kesler so much, as he was an aggravating presence on the ice and a hilarious agent provocateur off the ice, famously stating “I hate them” when asked about Team Canada.
For a few short weeks, Kesler will be the enemy and Canucks fans will levy all the accusations at him that they vehemently deny at all other times. They’ll call him an overrated diver, whiner, and jerk. Then, as soon as he’s back in a Canucks jersey, they’ll claim the exact opposite to be the case. It’s going to be hilarious and, also, completely understandable.
One omission from the camp roster: David Booth. While that’s not the least bit surprising, considering his offensive struggles and injury troubles from the last couple seasons, but he did attend the orientation camp for the 2010 team and would have been at the 2010 Olympics if not for a devastating concussion he suffered during the 2009-10 season. The season prior to the Olympics, Booth scored 31 goals and 60 points in 72 games for the Florida Panthers.
Now, unfortunately, Booth has a string of mediocre seasons and has been passed on the Team USA depth chart by the likes of Ryan Callahan, James Van Reimsdyk, and Max Pacioretty.
That said, if Booth goes off during the first half of the season, he could be a late addition to the team. That, however, is pretty dang unlikely.