Duncan Keith is out of the World Cup in order to rehab a knee injury, and Jay Bouwmeester has been named his replacement. Canada’s insistence on having an experienced, left-handed shot to replace Keith could prove costly at the tournament, though.
Team Canada’s chance at standing atop the podium at the World Cup has taken two significant blows over the past week.
First, it was Jamie Benn being ruled out of the tournament following off-season surgery to repair a core muscle injury. But Canada’s braintrust found a suitable replacement, Logan Couture, who can provide much of the same two-way ability and is still a solid offensive producer, though not necessarily at Benn’s level.
But the bigger blow came Wednesday, as Hockey Canada announced that Duncan Keith would be out of the World Cup to rehab a knee injury. And while there are any number of players who could have replaced Keith’s production, defensive skill and big-minute ability, Canada instead went with Jay Bouwmeester with his handedness and international experience as the deciding factors.
“Our management team and coaching staff felt it was critical to ensure continuity between the number of left- and right-handed defencemen on our roster,” Canada GM Doug Armstrong said. “And Jay’s experience with what it takes to be successful in these short tournaments can’t be undervalued.”
Bouwmeester certainly does possess a strong international resume. That can’t be argued. Over the course of his career, he has played at three World Junior Championships, four World Championships, two Olympics and he suited up at the previous World Cup in 2004. He has four gold, two silver and two bronze medals to his name, and he’s been effective in each tournament. That doesn’t make his appointment to the club over some of the other potential replacements any less surprising.
It’s not a knock against Bouwmeester, who is still a solid defenseman for the St. Louis Blues, but it’s hard to believe that while he heads to the World Cup, talented rearguards such as Kris Letang and P.K. Subban will be watching from home.
On the offensive side of the puck, Letang and Subban are both immensely more gifted than Bouwmeester and could likely provide even more of a spark to Canada from the backend. That said, the likely reason neither were named Keith’s replacement is that the belief is held that both Letang and Subban have their defensive deficiencies. And while no one would confuse them for stay-at-home, shutdown defensemen, they’re more than capable of getting the job done in a middle-pairing role.
As for experience, that argument isn’t entirely without merit, but at some point both need to be given the chance to shine on the international stage. Canada needs to make more players with the short-tournament experience that Bouwmeester has, and the World Cup would have been the perfect opportunity.
But the fact remains that if Canada wanted to replace a left-handed shot with another left-handed shot, neither Letang or Subban fit the bill. However, both members of the Calgary Flames duo of Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie do.
Brodie, the younger of the two, has only one World Championship under his belt, but he’s a burgeoning star with the ability to log huge minutes and be effective in those minutes. He played similar minutes to Bouwmeester during the past season, even in terms of zone starts, and they both had roughly the same possession numbers. Per Puckalytics, Brodie’s 5-on-5 Corsi for was 49.61 percent, Bouwmeester’s was 49.92 percent. The difference is Brodie scored six goals and 45 points to Bouwmeester’s three goals and 19 points.
As for Giordano, he would have been the same veteran presence and he’s got some — not much, but some — experience suiting up for Team Canada at two World Championships. His production far outweighs that of Bouwmeester, and on an undeniably bad possession team in Calgary, Giordano has managed to tilt the ice in his favor consistently despite the fact he starts a larger chunk of his shifts in his own end. Defensively strong, offensively gifted and a leader, Giordano could have been Canada’s choice to replace Keith.
That Canada instead chose to go with Bouwmeester might be without consequence. His minutes could be limited as the seventh defenseman and his impact minimal. However, this selection could prove a costly one if Canada is missing some scoring punch from the backend with talented lefties as well as prime-aged righties watching the tournament.
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