*Note: None of this happened. Mike fell asleep in the sun and dreamt the whole thing up.
After years of threatening separation and narrowly decided referendums, Quebec has finally done the unthinkable and seceded from Canada. The formation of the sovereign nation of Quebec will undoubtedly shake up the national economy, abruptly alter our demography, and forever change our cultural landscape.
The reverberations of this
seismic shift will be felt far and wide and even the hockey world will not be
insulated from its impact. With the World Cup of Hockey less than a month away, Quebec has already filed
and won an emergency injunction with the National Hockey League that will allow
it to field a team in the tournament. Wasting no time, Équipe Quebec unveiled
its twenty-three man roster earlier this week as it prepares to make up for
lost time in the lead up to September.
No less than two days
removed from the secession, it’s clear that Quebec has already set the wheels
in motion to start charting its own course in the hockey world. How this will
impact the game over the long-term is unclear, but for now, we can take a
closer look at Quebec’s World Cup team and how it can expect to fare
in the tournament.
Quebec à la coupe mondiale de hockey 2016
G Roberto Luongo, Florida
G Marc-Andre Fleury,
G Jonathan Bernier, Anaheim
D Kris Letang, Pittsburgh
D Francois Beauchemin,
D Jason Demers, Florida
D David Savard, Columbus
D Marco Scandella, Minnesota
D Simon Despres, Anaheim
D Nicolas Deslauriers, Buffalo
F Alex Tanguay, UFA*
F Mike Ribeiro, Nashville
F Jason Pominville, Minnesota Wild
F Paul Stastny, St. Louis
F Antoine Vermette, UFA*
F Alexandre Burrows,
F Derick Brassard, Ottawa
F David Perron, St. Louis
F P.A. Parenteau, New York
F David Desharnais, Montreal
F Mathieu Perreault,
F Alex Chiasson, Calgary
F Gabriel Bourque, UFA*
*As of August 13, 2016
Scanning the roster, Quebec’s
strength is undeniably on the backend. Capitalizing on one Canada’s omissions, Quebec has secured Kris Letang, who will undoubtedly be the
defence corps’ engine. The Montreal native finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting this past season and is fresh off a second
Stanley Cup victory. Count on Letang’s experience as an invaluable asset to drive
this largely green group of rearguards.
Of course, the inclusion of
veteran Francois Beauchemin will also help stabilize the defence. While the 36
year old is getting long in the tooth, he can still put up some points. This
past year, as a member of the Avalanche’s thin
blue line, he potted eight goals and racked up twenty-six helpers.
Nevertheless, Quebec will be heavily outgunned against teams like Canada that
boast the likes of Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, and Duncan Keith. Quebec certainly would have liked to have Marc-Edouard Vlasic slot in on the left side, but he will be representing Team Canada in September.
Although there may be some
cracks in Quebec’s defensive system, it has the luxury of being buttressed by a
talented pair of netminders. With Robert Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury, Quebec’s
gets two seasoned goaltenders who both finished in the top ten among all
goalies in save percentage this past season. While there may be some questions
as to how much longer Luongo can put up these numbers, he’s coming off a
sterling .934 SV% in the playoffs. Although he and the Panthers didn’t achieve
the result they hoped for, all signs indicate that he is up for the challenge
of being the first goalie to don the national fleur-de-lis.
And if he falters, Marc-Andre
Fleury is there to take his place. The Sorel native had his best season, save
percentage wise, since 2007-08 and after losing his starting job to Matt Murray, you
can bet he’ll be motivated to step in and show the Penguins that he’s ready to
reclaim his net.
The one selection that fans
may grapple with is the selection of Jonathan Bernier over Louis Domingue. The
former is coming off his worst season ever, but Quebec expects that Bernier’s
relocation to Anaheim could have a rejuvenating effect. Meanwhile, Domingue
showed flashes of brilliance in Arizona, particularly in December and March
where he posted .925 SV% and .938 SV% respectively. He’s young and is part of
Quebec’s long-term plans, especially as Luongo approaches his twilight years.
Don’t be surprised to see Domingue in the 2017 World Cup tournament or possibly representing Quebec in the 2018 Winter Olympics. This trio of goaltenders is nothing to scoff at and had Quebec been able to recruit Montreal native Corey Crawford this would have fortified the net even further.
But Quebec’s biggest holes are up
front. Although their thirteen forwards have a combined 1927 goals and 5172
points, their average age is north of thirty.
That’s going to be a big problem in a tournament that will have some incredibly
fleet of foot squads such as Team North America. Where Quebec could have made
up in this area was with Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Anthony Duclair. While the
Lightning left winger has already been claimed by the Under 23 team, Huberdeau and Duclair are both unable to play for Quebec because they are only eligible to
suit up for Team North America until they turn 24. Huberdeau and Duclair would both have to wait until the 2020 tournament before they could realize their aspirations to play for Quebec at the World Cup.
Although Quebec will miss out
on these speedy wingers, it has a reasonably strong group down the middle, and that doesn’t include Patrice Bergeron, who is a mainstay on Canada’s national team. With
well-rounded pivots that include Derick Brassard, Paul Stastny, and Mike
Riberio, the greatest concern will determining who will flank those centres. Mathieu
Perreault has made the most of his time in Winnipeg, but there should be
concerns if he is slotting in as your top left winger. He’s put up back-to-back
40+ point seasons as a Jet, but he’s the type of player you want as a viable
threat on your third line, not your first. While the numbers may not be on
Quebec’s side, there are some emotional storylines to this team that will be
worth watching for. Take for example, Paul Stastny. He represented the United
States at the 2010 Winter Olympics, but was actually born in Quebec City when
his father, Peter, was a member of the Nordiques. Snubbed by America for the
World Cup, Stastny will be looking to tap into his roots and channel some of
the magic his father found playing in la belle province.
The NHL has not yet returned to Quebec City, but expect many of Nordiques fans to dust off their jerseys to rally behind Equipe Quebec at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
While there certainly may be
some bright spots for Quebec, the best it can hope for is keeping its games
competitive. Going up against the world’s hockey superpowers, this will be, in
many ways, a story of David and Goliath. Looking at the rosters of the other
North American entries reveals just how much Quebec will be overpowered. Even
without drilling down into the sheer level of talent inequality, the state of the
payrolls provides us with all the insights we need.
Team Canada’s budget, based
on individual salary cap hits for the 2016-17 NHL season, is nearly two times
more than Quebec’s and includes some of the best players in the world in every definable category. Even the United States, a team that has left a number
of talented players off its roster, still has a war chest that dwarfs the
upstart Quebec team.
No matter how Quebec plays,
the tournament will be a significant moment that ushers in a new era of hockey in our nation.
As it continues on its divergent path, it will alter the way we approach and
view the game in Canada.
With more time to prepare for next year’s World Cup, Quebec can make overtures to elite players like Patrice Bergeron and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. While both have been stalwarts for Canada on the international stage, the opportunity to take on even greater roles and play for their birth country may be too enticing. Moreover, for someone like Corey Crawford, who is third on the depth chart behind Carey Price and Braden Holtby, playing for the fleur-de-lis could give him the chance to shine in international competition. Quebec will also be in an advantageous position next year to scoop up skilled youngsters like Jonathan Huberdeau. He will be too old to play for Team North America in 2017 and will not yet be ready to make the leap to Team Canada.
Équipe Quebec à la coupe mondiale de hockey 2017
G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
G Jonathan Bernier, Anaheim Ducks
D Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
D Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks
D Jason Demers, Florida Panthers
D David Savard, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Marco Scandella, Minnesota Wild
D Simon Despres, Anaheim Ducks
D Nick Deslauriers, Buffalo Sabres
F Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
F Jason Pominville, Minnesota Wild
F Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues
F Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver Canucks
F Derick Brassard, Ottawa Senators
F David Perron, St. Louis Blues
F P.A. Parenteau, New York Islanders
F David Desharnais, Montreal Canadiens
F Mathieu Perreault, Winnipeg Jets
F Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
F Alex Chiasson, Calgary Flames
F Gabriel Bourque, UFA*
F Cedric Paquette, Tampa Bay Lightning
While these changes may not be significant enough to derail the Canadian leviathan in future tournaments, it will weaken their position down the middle and on the left side of the blueline. More importantly, if Quebec can land the likes of Bergeron, Vlasic, and Crawford, it could serve as a beacon for the next wave of players. Although many born before the separation may remain loyal to Canada, there are others who will seize the opportunity to raise their profile and take part in international competition. Only time will tell how this
will all play out and who will be on the winning side of history.