Yannick Weber could be Canuck blueline’s only representative in Sochi

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.

From the Canadian Press:

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.

Reports are that he will still be named to the team, but, again, like the sword Excalibur, it’s not as set in stone as it used to be.

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.

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3 comments

  1. Brent
    January 6, 2014

    Hopefully Yzerman didn’t stay up to watch the last two games as Hamhuis, along with all the other Vancouver defenders, looked pretty much non-elite like, so thus not too much in the way of eliteness, which I didn’t even think was a real word.

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  2. akidd
    January 6, 2014

    am still scratching my head as to why the US didn’t pick yandle. that guy is really good. he plays against the best competition every night and shuts them down for the most part. those american guys are nuts. oh well, too bad for them.

    and i think hamhuis,while not being the apparent lock that yandle should have been, is a smart choice. he is smart and skates so well that you don’t even notice how good a skater he is. he is the total safe choice on the last pairing. smooth and reliable. what more could you ask for? the reigning norris trophy winner? not a bad choice either. if you gotta choose a lefty then hamhuis. a rightie? then subban.

    and if you don’t like complicated decisions just choose the guy from the western conference. even don cherry(“night and day”) has noticed that one conference is much softer than the other. last olympics it was something close to 70/30 the west/east split for canadian olympians. and it worked out pretty good. look for the same. oh and harrison, that guy lambert, who writes for puckdaddy and wrote that article about the east being the powerhouse this year, does he get paid?

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    • Neil B
      January 6, 2014

      That guy Lambert might be kinda-sorta right. With the depth of the West, and the weird way that the seeding works, it’s entirely possible that one of the 3 teams from the East that are actually worth watching might breeze through to the SCF, while the Western Conference dogfight might leave no one healthy enough to challenge.

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