Among Eight World Cup Of Hockey Teams, There Were Surprises And Snubs
It’s time for everyone’s favorite part of any hockey tournament or other event involving the selection of hockey teams: taking note of the snubs. All eight squads set to compete in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in September released their full rosters throughout the day Friday, and some of the decisions raised hell.
There wasn’t a lot of noise made after the preliminary rosters were announced a couple months ago since everyone knew more players were going to be added in the future. But with the rosters now finalized, we can wring our hands or jump for joy at the decisions made by those running each of these eight squads.
I’m going to take a look at one surprise and one snub on each roster: Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Europe, United States, North America and Canada. I’m going to be looking almost entirely at NHL players in this process, though, with one exception. For the most part, I don’t have any solid way to compare current NHLers to those playing in the KHL or other overseas leagues, so I’m just not going there.
Let’s get on with the snubbing.
Surprise: Esa Lindell, D, Dallas Stars
I actually really like the Finnish roster, especially the NHL components, so this is a tough pick. Lindell has the least NHL experience out of any current NHLer on the roster, having played in just four games and recording a minus-3 rating. His 46 points in 77 AHL games this season, though, should certainly turn heads. This tourney should be a good experience for him, and he sort of “wins” the surprise label by default.
Snub: No one
Maybe a cop-out, but go find me a Finnish NHL player not on the World Cup roster who deserves to be. This group is about as good as it can be, so far as NHLers go.
Surprise: Slava Voynov, D, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Here’s my one exception to the NHLers-only rule, but it’s a big one. Voynov is certainly a solid defenseman, and if there was nothing going on in his life except hockey, it’d be fine. But the guy has been mired in a domestic abuse case that got him suspended from the Los Angeles Kings and into immigration custody for some time. With Voynov’s inclusion on Russia’s World Cup roster, the NHL quickly announced Friday it would fight his inclusion in the tournament.
You can’t tell me this team couldn’t find another, less controversial defenseman to fill this role for an exhibition event in the NHL’s backyard of Toronto. It’s not like Voynov’s 9 points in 38 KHL games this season was something Team Russia couldn’t live without. It’s just a decision that reeks of future trouble.
Snub: Alexander Semin, F, Montreal Canadiens/Magnitogorsk Metallurg (KHL)
This is a weird one, because Semin has been in a hate-hate relationship with the NHL the last several seasons. It resulted in him returning to Russia in the middle of this season after just 15 games with Montreal. But there’s no denying the guy has skills, considering he’s posted 517 points in parts of 11 NHL seasons. Team Russia is fine with having a suspected domestic abuser on its roster, but a guy who couldn’t stick with an NHL team over the last few years is no-dice?
Team Czech Republic
Surprise: Roman Polak, D, San Jose Sharks
Polak is not good at hockey. Even the St. Louis Blues saw that. But the guy keeps getting work, and now he gets a little more work in the form of a World Cup roster spot. Couldn’t this spot have gone to some younger defenseman (Polak is 30) who has actual talent and potential in the league? Instead, the spot went to a guy who seems to be actively trying to derail his team’s surprising Stanley Cup Final run.
Snub: Jiri Hudler, F, Florida Panthers
Jaromir Jagr said well ahead of time he didn’t want to be chosen for this event. I have to believe Patrik Elias said something similar behind the scenes. That leaves us with Hudler, who goes against what I just said about offering a roster spot to a young guy but still qualifies as a snub here. Hudler isn’t the best player around, but he’s put in his time (676 NHL regular-season games) and produced nicely enough (417 points). Maybe he gets an Olympic call in two years, but his opportunities for things like this are sliding away quickly.
Surprise: Mattias Ekholm, D, Nashville Predators
The defensive group for Team Sweden is almost perfect. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Victor Hedman, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall and Anton Stralman make a really solid group. And then there’s Ekholm, a big blueliner who was solid this season in Nashville (42 points in 96 games), but who is just kind of “a guy” when placed next to the above list. His inclusion also bumped out …
Snub: John Klingberg, D, Dallas Stars
Klingberg’s omission is pretty bizarre, as he’s a young up-and-comer who had a really good sophomore season for a rising Stars club (62 points in 89 games). He’s exactly the kind of guy you want to showcase in this type of event. But Team Sweden either lost Klingberg’s contact information, or the 23-year-old turned down an offer to play. The latter scenario seems unlikely, so buy a damn rolodex, Team Sweden execs.