St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is also tasked with the same duties for Team Canada’s entry at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, and he spent some time on Vancouver’s TSN 1040 Wednesday morning.
Unfortunately, his call dropped toward what would have been the end of the interview, when he was going to be asked about Kevin Shattenkirk’s trade situation.
A lot of Team Canada-related ground was covered though, including the recent decision to slot in Jay Bouwmeester for Duncan Keith on the team’s blueline.
Keith’s right knee needs more time to heal.
“He had had some procedures done after the season, like a lot of players,” said Armstrong. “I don’t want to get too deep into his medical record because he’s not a St. Louis player, so I don’t want to speak too much on it.
“But he made us aware that he was having some issues with his knee. He pushed it. He did some therapy. He saw some doctors. It just wasn’t responding the way he wanted to. He’s played in these elite-level events. He understands the level of competition. He just felt he wasn’t going to be ready for training camp or for the first pre-season game – or, for that matter, the first tournament game.
“It was a difficult decision for him. I talked to him. He asked for as much time as possible and we gave it to him. Obviously as an elite player, we gave him as much as he and Jamie Benn needed. But at the end of the day, their bodies just said no to it and they weren’t going to be ready.”
There were certainly not a shortage of replacement options for Keith from which to select.
“That’s the curse and the benefit of working for Team Canada. You have a plethora of quality people and players to choose from,” said Armstrong. “On the defensemen one, we got together with the coaching staff and management staff and went over all of the different options. I was very fortunate to have three guys on the management staff that have played over 1000 games at that position in Marc Bergevin, Bob Murray, and Rob Blake. Then Joel Quenneville (with) obviously over 800 games, and what he’s done as a coach.
“So we went over the idea of adding an additional right-handed defenseman. The problem is there’s not a lot of right-handed defensemen in the league in general, so you see a lot of left guys that can slide over and play the right. But you don’t see many guys on the right that can slide over and play the left.
“And we were just a little bit nervous going into the tournament that if we lost another left-handed defenseman – and we only started with two – we’d have two guys playing their off-side with no experience. We just felt the reward wasn’t worth the risk of doing that.
“So we went with the more traditional three left Ds and four righties, and there’s some really good players on the left side. We narrowed it down to Bouwmeester. I think partly Mike is very comfortable working with Jay. Working with him at the last Olympics. I know him very well. And he does have some synergy with Pietrangelo; if that’s the way the coach wants to go.
“But certainly Bouw made it on his own merits. What he’s done in international events. He’s a great skater. He can kill plays. We think he’ll be a really good benefit to our group of seven.”
Team Canada will have Carey Price, Braden Holtby, and Corey Crawford as its three goaltenders.
“I would say that Carey, before he got injured he had cleared himself in my mind – and I would say in the hockey community’s mind – as the No. 1 player in his position in the world,” said Armstrong. “He’s been training now. He’s been on the ice. He’s been facing shots. I think he’ll go in there and have an opportunity to wrestle that crease right from the get-go. But the other guys are going to be there to push, and that’s why we have three exhibition games.
“But you sort of can’t close your eyes to what Carey did in Sochi and how well he was playing,” laughed Armstrong. “Obviously you saw the Canadiens’ record with him in the net and without him in the net. It just solidifies, I think, what everyone knows is his importance to a team. We saw him play some great hockey.
“But you’re right; Mike and his staff have some great options not only in goal, but on different lineup combinations. The three exhibition games are going to be needed, because when you get into the tournament, there are no sort of do-over games. You play three round robin games, and two of the teams are going home.
“We don’t want to be one of those teams.”
Source: TSN 1040/ Transcript: Nichols