Team Canada has announced that Roberto Luongo, Braden Holtby, Carey Price, Corey Crawford and Mike Smith will all be invited to their Olympic tryout camp next month. From there, team brass will keep an eye on the five goalies and will choose three before the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia next winter.
It’s only July 22 and there’s a lot of hockey to be played, but if they were choosing the team today and wanted my picks, I’d go with Luongo #1, Crawford #2 and Price #3.
Let’s start with Roberto Luongo. A lot of people are going to call him washed up and overrated, etc. But he’s got one thing those people don’t: A gold medal from the last Olympic Games as Team Canada’s starting goalie.
When it comes to a playoff run or a tournament like the Olympics, it’s hard to bet against experience. That’s why Martin Brodeur was the #1 going into Vancouver in 2010 before Luongo eventually took over: Brodeur had been to three Games and had won the gold as the starter in 2002. Brodeur wasn’t great in Vancouver, so Luongo came in and got the job done. Whether you like him or not, the man helped Canada win. Period.
Going into Sochi, it’s hard to bet against that experience and that’s a big part of the reason I believe Luongo should get the nod as Canada’s #1 for the first round robin game. If he plays well, he keeps the job. If he struggles…
After watching the 2013 NHL playoffs, it’s legitimately hard for me to argue against Crawford as Canada’s top goalie. If you’ll recall, he was outstanding for three rounds, and struggled a bit in the Stanley Cup Finals before making a few corrections and helping the Chicago Blackhawks win the Cup.
Not only is Crawford a solid goalie with a championship under his belt, he proved after his glove side fell apart out of the blue in Game 3 that he knew how to deal with adversity. He focused in, got over the jitters, and was huge in Games 5 and 6.
If not for the fact that I give Luongo the round robin nod as the 2010 veteran and defending champ, it would be easy for me to choose Crawford as #1.
Price/Smith/Holtby? Price by a slim margin
Look, I’m a little bit of a homer, so as a Habs fan, it’s hard not to choose Carey Price. But it’s not just because he’s Montreal’s top goalie that Price is my #3. He’s always had this “I’m the next great goalie” vibe about him and he’s almost at the point of his career where it’s time to step up or step back. Either he’s going to be the Top 5 goalie he’s always been made out to be or he’s going to end up as a very good backup on a good team somewhere. This is an opportunity to show that he’s truly Top 5 in the world and I think, even if he never plays a game, being part of an Olympic Games would be good for his development. I also don’t see Smith or Holtby as better than Price by any stretch of the imagination.
Whatever happens, I think Canada has strong and deep goaltending. It’s not as strong as say, Patrick Roy, Brodeur and Curtis Joseph in 1998 or Brodeur, Ed Belfour, Joseph in 2002, but it’s strong no matter which three of these give guys end up in Russia next winter.