Canadian men's Olympic hockey management team offers no surprises
Announcement another indicator NHL’s best will not be in Pyeongchang
Let the player auditions begin for the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team.
With less than 200 days before Canada competes in its opener against Switzerland at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Hockey Canada got around to announcing its men's Olympic management and coaching staff on Tuesday.
There were no surprises. The management team consists of former Canadian Olympic goalies Sean Burke as general manager, with Martin Brodeur serving as a management member. Willie Desjardins is the head coach and will be assisted by his mentor Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.
If you were still holding out hope the NHL, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee would strike a last-minute deal for NHL players to compete in Pyeongchang, this was another indicator the game's best will not be in South Korea.
Burke, Desjardins and company have been in place for some time now. They have a list of Canadians competing in Europe they will take a good look at, and that process will begin next month.
A Canadian national team is slated to compete in Russia in two tournaments in Sochi and St. Petersburg as part of the Kontinental Hockey League's pre-season schedule.
There will be some scouting of Canadian players in Europe and AHLers before another round of tournaments: Karjala Cup in Helsinki in November, the Channel One Cup (formerly the Izvestia Tournament) in Moscow in mid-December and the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland over the Christmas holidays.
Canada plans to hold a 10-day training camp in South Korea in February in preparation for the Olympic Games.
Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney could have hit a home run with an announcement of say a Ralph Krueger or Dave Tippett as head coach, but instead settled for Desjardins.
The 60-year-old from Climax, Sask., is no slouch. He has the credentials of two WHL championships with the Medicine Hat Tigers, and Calder Cup title with the 2013-14 Texas Stars.
But he wasn't exactly a hot hockey property after his three-season stint with the Vancouver Canucks after missing out on the playoffs in the final two years. He was fired after the season.
Desjardins will reunite with King. The latter coached Desjardins at the University of Saskatchewan Huskies when they won the 1982-83 University Cup national title. Desjardins was the tournament MVP and King later helped his protégé further his playing career in the Netherlands.
King coached Canada at the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympics and returned to coach the national team at the Deutschland Cup last fall and as an assistant coach at the Spengler Cup last December.
In Woodcroft, the Canadian team has an outstanding international resource. The 47-year-old from Toronto – and older brother of Edmonton Oilers assistant Jay Woodcroft – coached in the KHL last year and was named the head coach of Geneve-Servette HC in the Swiss League this summer.
He also has been part of the Belarus national team coaching staff in recent years and was a Canadian national team forward under King in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
After a successful NHL career the 44-year-old Walker of Cambridge, Ont., coached the Guelph Storm to the 2013-14 Robertson Cup championship and spent the past two seasons as a development coach with the Canucks under Desjardins.
Burke and Brodeur are former Canadian Olympians. Brodeur won gold in 2002 and 2010. Burke has been a respected front-office voice in NHL for more than a decade and currently is a pro scout with the Montreal Canadiens.
It's a crime that Burke does not have Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Drew Doughty, Carey Price and others to choose from, but this will be an interesting process and we'll watch with interest if there is a Derek Mayer or Jean-Yves Roy who emerges, just like in 1994 when Canada lost the gold-medal final in a shootout to Sweden in the last Olympic tournament void of NHL players.