Yannick Weber cries for joy upon hearing the news.
Congratulations are in order for Yannick Weber, who cashed in Monday on his childhood decision to be born in Switzerland. Never has there been a better time to be Swiss (save for the period in European history between 1914 and 1945).
Thanks in large part to a much shallower pool of high-end hockey talent, the Canucks’ depth defenceman has been invited to represent his country in the Sochi Olympics, rounding out a contingent of 8 NHLers on the national team.
Diaz and Weber are part of a half-NHL Swiss defence along with Mark Streit of the Philadelphia Flyers and Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators. Severin Blindenbacher, Philippe Furrer, Mathias Seger and Julien Vauclair, all of whom play in Switzerland, are the other four defencemen.
Up front, Nino Niederreiter of the Minnesota Wild and Damien Brunner of the New Jersey Devils were the only NHL forwards picked for the team. Missing was Sven Baertschi of the Flames, who was put on Switzerland’s “side list” and could be an injury replacement.
So why is Weber’s invitation so noteworthy: because he might be the lone Canuck defenceman in Sochi.
Healthy Alex Edler is a lock for the Swedish national team, but that guy was replaced by injured Alex Edler (a.k.a. The Hobbler) and there’s no word on when he’ll be coming back. Edler remains out indefinitely with a knee injury, and it’s possible that he won’t be ready to go come February. That, plus the fact that he still has a two-game international suspension to serve, and Edler is no longer a sure thing. Now he’s just a regular thing, his sureness replaced by soreness.
Andrew Alberts narrowly missed out on Team USA. You scoff, since Alberts isn’t a particularly good player, but USA Hockey didn’t invite Keith Yandle, so they weren’t looking for good players.
Then there’s Dan Hamhuis, who remains on the bubble for a Team Canada invite. He’s got two things going for him: he’s pretty good at the sport he plays, and more importantly, he’s left-handed. Being a Canadian left-handed defenceman is a little like being Swiss: it’s not quite as crowded there as elsewhere.
As for as left-handed blueliners that are locks, there’s Duncan Keith. That’s it.
Shea Weber, P.K. Subban, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, and Dan Boyle are all right-side guys, which poses something of a problem. No doubt all of these guys are still quite good playing their off-side, but Canada isn’t picking them for their “quite goodness” — they’re looking for eliteness. If the shift to the left diminishes their abilities at all, that’s a problem, and it’s one that has Canada looking around. While at least one guy is likely to be asked to move over, the club is looking for a few good left-handed men.
Jay Bouwmeester looks like he’ll be one of them, largely because he’s big, mobile, and already familiar with Alex Pietrangelo. But after that, it’s just guys in the mix: Mark Staal. Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Mark Giordano. Dan Hamhuis.
Can Hamhuis be the standout in that group? Yes, because he’s the only one whose name isn’t Mark. But will that be enough?
It’s possible. Team USA made some picks based on dreams, so Team Canada could up the ante by making theirs based on little more than given names.
But if Hamhuis isn’t invited, and Edler’s not ready, then all hail Yannick Weber, the Vancouver Canucks’ only Sochi-calibre defender.Tags: Olympics, Yannick Weber