Part of the reason those in hockey media are so excited for the return of the NHL involvement at the Winter Olympics is the opportunity to TALK about the NHL's involvement at the Winter Olympics. And so, because it seems that NHL players travelling to Beijing seems like a 50-50 proposition at best at the moment with new variants popping up left and right, I'm going to do that talking — all week long — with a series of versions of Team Canada. It's probably best not to take these too seriously.
One complication with establishing a shortlist for the Canadian Olympic Team in conjunction with the NHL season for preparation reasons in this COVID-19 world is that it threatened to eliminate the possibility of breakthroughs. Now, with surprise performances from nation to nation, amendments have been made to the rules, allowing players who have surfaced on radars to be eligible.
So, in the spirit of embracing what's hot, and to follow the Playoff Pedigree and Spreadsheet teams released already this week, here's the All-Recency Bias team, with selections chosen on current form alone.
Now's your time, Andrew Mangiapane.
Jonathan Huberdeau-Connor McDavid*-Nathan MacKinnon
Brad Marchand-Sidney Crosby*-Steven Stamkos
Nazem Kadri-John Tavares-Mitch Marner
Jordan Kyrou-Matt Duchene-Andrew Mangiapane
Patrice Bergeron, Tom Wilson
There are four or five players on this list who wouldn't have been considered even long shots for the team before the outset of the season. Mangiapane is in some ways the poster child for the recency-bias piece, breaking out with 17 goals through the first 26 games of the season. Interestingly, though, Mangiapane has cooled in recent weeks, and the ever-polarizing Wilson is now starting to get some shine with 24 points in 26 games and some dominant on-ice results for the first-place Washington Capitals.
Wilson is the extra on this list over Drake Batherson, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Zach Hyman, who are also having tremendous individual seasons and were under consideration here.
Kadri and Duchene have had tremendous starts, threatening the top tier in points and goals, respectively. But these two make the team under these strict conditions only, and are presumably far less likely to make it than either Mangiapane or Wilson, who bring other intangibles.
Morgan Rielly-Drew Doughty
Devon Toews-Cale Makar
Aaron Ekblad-Alex Pietrangelo*
Mackenzie Weegar, Dougie Hamilton
Must say, this is a tremendous defensive core.
Neither Morgan Rielly or Drew Doughty are considered locks for the roster, but intuitively this has the look of a potentially dominant pairing. While Doughty has been limited to only eight games, he was brilliant before suffering his injury. Rielly has been among the best defenders in the NHL since signing his extension in Toronto.
Ekblad is having a Norris-calibre season after his ultra-impressive 2020-21 was interrupted by injury. His partner will be Pietrangelo by necessity, but his normal running mate in Florida, Weegar, makes the roster as the seventh defenceman just in case.
Hamilton is the extra after seeing his always-solid numbers slide a little since moving from Carolina to New Jersey.
Toews and Makar seem to make this roster under any condition, which probably means the Avalanche duo should be on the final lineup.
Tristan Jarry, Cam Talbot, James Reimer
With Carey Price absent, Marc-Andre Fleury fighting it in Chicago, and netminders like Jordan Binnington, Carter Hart and Mackenzie Blackwood posting only so-so numbers, the recency-bias selections in goal for Canada don't inspire much confidence.
That said, Jarry has been exceptional this season as the driving force behind the Penguins' early-season ability to tread water. Meanwhile Talbot has been rock-solid for the Wild all season, while Reimer has posted dazzling numbers for the Sharks, albeit in shared duty.
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