I realize “nobodies” is a fairly negative word, it implies irrelevancy and a sense that those categorized under this word are lesser than. Objectively though, that is the case when you look at Team Canada’s Olympic Men’s Hockey roster compared to the talent of the current NHL superstars. However even though it’s obvious that if NHL players were available then these players wouldn’t be considered, that doesn’t mean the team should be shrugged off.
Right now there are a lot of “Nobodies” on Team Canada, however, there’s no guarantee that it will stay that way. These guys despite not currently maintaining a career in Hockey’s biggest league, are still mainstay players on a professional level somewhere in the world. They’re making their mark, and devoting their adult life to Canada’s game, the game they love. Although putting aside the optimism for a moment, and before we give them the chance to prove themselves, we must ask, who the hell are they?
Oh yeah, that guy.
Now even though Canada’s Olympic team is filled with names that people either don’t recognize or have to think on for a few minutes, there are still a few that should be instantly recognizable to a good chunk of NHL hockey fans. Derek Roy for example, played a total of 738 games in his NHL career.
Roy spent most of his career with the Buffalo Sabers and their AHL affiliate team, from 2003-12. from 2012-15 Roy bounced around from 5 different NHL teams; Dallas, Vancouver, St. Louis, Nashville, and Edmonton. As of right now Roy is playing in the SweHL (SEL) and is currently sitting at 11 goals in 39 games played this season. In Roy’s last season with the Oilers, he chalked up 11 goals in 46 games. The Ottawa native was drafted 32nd overall in the 2001 Entry draft, and his most productive season was 2007-08, where he earned 81 points in 76 games played, 32 of which were goals, making that year one of his four 20 goal seasons.
Rene Bourque was another mainstay in the NHL for a time, he’s played most of his career in the big league, combining for less than 100 AHL games played during his 13 year uninterrupted period of North American play. like Roy, the 36-year-old Bourque is currently applying his trade in the SweHL and bounced around between many different teams during his NHL years, ending with the Avalanche last season.
However, someone still on this side of the pond, Chris Kelly, is currently playing for Ottawa’s AHL team, just as he was 15 years ago when he joined the NHL as an Ottawa Senator. He’s only played for 2 teams in his NHL career, Ottawa and Boston, playing over 5 seasons with both clubs. He played all 82 games with the Senators last year, which was his first year back after leaving the Bruins. Kelly, however, has played only 16 games so far with the Belleville Senators of the AHL this year. Regardless, his 833 NHL games played, dwarfs the experience of the rest of Team Canada’s Hockey roster, which may be why he was named the team’s captain.
- 37 years old
- ECHL (157)
- AHL (249)
- NHL (0)
- DEL (95)
- SEL (54)
- KHL (251)
Chris Lee is one of the two players on Team Canada’s roster that has never played a game in the NHL. He started out in the East Coast Hockey League and then worked his way into the AHL, where up until recently was where he spent most of his career. Even though his hockeydb page has a picture of him in a Penguins jersey, as he played for their farm team in the 09-10 season, Lee never set foot on the ice for a regular season NHL game as a Pittsburgh Penguin.
Lee is currently a Defencemen for the Magnitogorsk Metallurg of the KHL, the league he’s been in for the last 5 years. His last season was his best season in the KHL earning 65 points in 60 games, and at the end of every season in the KHL he has maintained a plus-minus above 10. Lee may not be making any waves in North American Hockey, but the 37-year-old isn’t showing many signs of slowing down in the KHL.
- 179th overall 2009 Entry Draft
- 27 years old
- AHL (319)
- NHL (20)
- KHL (169)
Kozun played all 20 games of his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2014-15 season. In this time Kozun earned 4 points split evenly between goals and assists and walked away with a -3 plus-minus. He spent the rest of the season with the Marlies, and that was his last year in the AHL, which he had been apart of since 2010. For the last 3 seasons Kozun, a right-winger, has been playing in the KHL, producing a similar number of points as he did during his time in the AHL, and he’s now doing so within the KHL’s shorter season of 60 games.
- 31 years old
- ECHL (65)
- AHL (5)
- NHL (0)
- SEL (110)
- KHL (241)
Mat Robinson is the second player to make this year’s Olympic roster while never playing an NHL game. His adult time in North American Hockey was short and sweet, after playing college Hockey, Robinson had a brief stint in the ECHL and AHL respectively. Totaling 70 games in 3 seasons between the two leagues, all but 5 of which were played in the ECHL. To start off the 2011-12 season Robinson joined the Timra IK of the Swedish Hockey League, he lasted two seasons on that team, racking up nearly more than double the PIM’s than he did points, and finishing both seasons with a -10 plus-minus.
Robinson then switched to KHL Hockey, the league he’s been playing in now for the last 5 years. Mat Robinson has never been a “points” defencemen throughout his career and not all D-men need to be. Even still, it seems that just as it was the case for Brandon Kozun, the KHL is allowing Robinson to be more productive is all his stats columns.
- 31 years old
- AHL (189)
- NHL (1)
- KHL (221)
Now, it’s one thing to never have played a game in the NHL, the world is full of amazing Hockey players, so you’re always gonna have those guys that are good, but just aren’t great. It’s also common to play 20 or so games in the NHL, generally, that means that you’ve been given a number of chances, maybe you’ve been called up for 1 or 2 games to fill in for a player who’s day-to-day. Perhaps then you’ve been traded and another team has given you a handful of games to show your stuff, but then that’s it, it’s decided that you just don’t have it. However, it’s very unusual to have only played a single game in the NHL, but such is the case for Chay Genoway who was lucky enough to be called up for the Minnesota Wild’s last game of the 2011-12 season.
The game in question was a 1-4 loss for the Wild and despite the lopsided score, Genoway maintained a plus-minus of 0 with 18:16 TOI, the third most of all Defencemen that game. He even earned himself an assist on the Wild’s only goal. However, despite a fair outing in his first NHL game, it would also seem to be his last, as he never got the call-up during his 3 remaining years in the AHL, and he’s been playing in the KHL for the last 4 seasons.
- 126th overall 2008 Entry Draft
- 27 years old
- AHL (185)
- NHL (50)
- LNAH (1)
- KHL (36)
Drafted in the 5th round by the New York Islanders in the 2008 Entry Draft, Kevin Poulin was a QMJHL goalie who was boasting better stats each year during his CHL play and seemed on trend for continued growth. in the 2010-11 season, Poulin got the call-up to the bigs and played 10 games with the Islanders that season, winning only 4 of his outings, but posting a respectable 0.924 save percentage.
Poulin spent his entire NHL career bouncing up and down with the Islanders. His most active NHL season in 2013-14 saw him play 28 games, but lose 16 with a GAA of 3.29. His final season in the NHL was technically the 2014-15 season, however, he only played 1 game with the Islanders that year, and it would be his last in the NHL. Poulin has then spent the following years playing in the KHL, performing at a level similar to his stronger AHL years, which seems to be the trend with all these guys.
Breakdown of Team Canada’s Pro Hockey Experience
This graph tells a number of stories, but the main take away above all else should be that these players are experienced! They haven’t been pulled off of local beer league teams like many (including myself) like to joke, they’re capable, professional Hockey players. Including all minor and major professional leagues these players have played in, the average number of games played is above 500, sitting at 566. That number of games alone is no small career, which isn’t surprising as it’s been noted by many sources that this team is considerably older than Canada’s team from years past. It doesn’t take much thought to figure out why that’s the case, simply put, if you can’t have the skill of modern-day NHL players, the best bet is to go with the experience of pasted NHL players.
Like many of you, my expectations have certainly been toned down in comparison to previous Olympic years. I think it’s unrealistic and unfair to hold that “gold, gold nothing but gold!” standard with this Hockey club. However the more I look into this team, the more I get an encroaching sense of optimism, that maybe we’ll do better than everyone thinks. If Hockey fans have learned anything in the last few months, it’s that you should never count your chickens before they hatch. Everyone and their mother wrote Vegas off as a dud before the start of the year, however, as we know now, that was a big mistake. So maybe, just maybe, there’s still some more Hockey magic left to go around in 2018.