The case for Chris Kunitz or James Neal
We have no idea what kind of makeup Team Canada will have and why they want that specific makeup, so it’s really hard to make a case when you’re blind like that. Sidney Crosby is a lock to make that team because he is extremely talented and can play any way the coaching staff would want him to play.
If you’re going down the page and just picking the top statistical performers, Neal and Kunitz are both locks to make Team Canada:
Goals over the past 3 seasons among Canadian players
James Neal: 77
Corey Perry: 75
Chris Kunitz: 71
Chris Kunitz brings penalty-killing experience to the team, as well.
The Case against
1. Bob McKenzie tweeted out his picks a few days ago:
Jesus. Hard to replace any of those forwards.
2. The downside for Neal and Kunitz is their lack of international experience. For example, Rick Nash is like Mr. International Hockey. People in Canada see him as a big fat security blanket. Kunitz has never played on the international stage. James Neal has played for Canada four times, most recently in the 2011 World Championships.
Then again, if lack of international experience is a stone-cold reason to exclude players from the team, then Team Canada itself would just be using WJC flameouts in the Olympics instead of established NHLers.
We don't think Neal will make it. Seems like people hate James Neal for some reason. Of the two, Kunitz has the best chance because he is Crosby's main henchman, but it's a long shot, unless there is an injury or if Crosby requested him. Put it this way: If Bylsma and Shero had a hand in forming Team Canada's roster, Neal, Kunitz, or both would be locks. But they're not. And as we said, look at those names McKenzie tweeted and ask yourself who you would replace.
And, oh, if we were in charge, we'd take Crosby's chemistry with Kunitz/Neal over him playing with Rick Nash, but let's not improve Canada's already large advantage over Team USA.