They’ve got jumpers, they’ve got hitters, they’ve got shot-blockers and they’ve got minute-munchers.
Together, they form Team Canada’s defence corps for the International Ice Hockey Federation world championship starting tomorrow at the Metro Centre, and they’ve got a healthy mix of just about anything you could ask for.
“Everyone can skate, everyone can shoot, and everyone can pass the puck very well,” said Mike Green, who is expected to lead the team offensively from the back end.
“A lot of times on teams, the defence corps is limited, but on this team, all of these guys can do it all. It’s a good group.”
Jay Bouwmeester is the NHL’s leading minute-man; Green paced all defencemen in goal-scoring; Duncan Keith was No. 2 in plus-minus among blue-liners on a middle-of-the-pack Chicago Blackhawks squad; Dan Hamhuis is one of the league’s top hitters; and Steve Staios is a shot-blocking machine.
And that’s not even mentioning to four-time gold-medallist Ed Jovanovski (Olympics, World Cup, world championship and world junior) and emerging Minnesota Wild workhorse Brent Burns.
It’s all there, and the coaching staff is just trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together as it opens its title defence against Slovenia tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. at the Metro Centre.
“We’ve got a defender and a puck-mover on all three pairs right now,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said. “That’s what you need in this business. You can’t just have all defending defencemen. We’ve got guys on each defence pairing who can really transport the puck, and we’re going to need that.”
Jovanovski and Bouwmeester will be the go-to pairing, while Hamhuis and Burns will back them up. Keith and Green look like a probable third pairing, and Staois projects as a spare.
All the talk at the tournament surrounds the golden touch of Canada’s forwards, but forwards can’t do much if the defencemen can’t get them the puck smartly and safely.
The forwards are expecting their blue-liners to deliver pucks quickly and smartly to help push the pace.
“The transition game from the D-zone to the neutral zone is one of the most important things for us,” winger Chris Kunitz said. “It gets the other team off-key and pushes the play, and helps us get on them quicker than they are able to adjust.”
Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne has confirmed he will play for Finland, which won silver last year.