With the injury to star player John Tavares, is Canada’s World Championship dreams over before the tournament has even begun?
Less than 24 hours before he was to take part in Canada’s first game against Finland, the World Championships are over for John Tavares. An oblique injury has forced him back to Toronto, leaving Canada scrambling for a replacement. The question is, can he can be replaced, and how does it effect Canada’s quest for gold in the long and short term?
The short-term consequence:
First off, Canada will have to make due with what they have against Finland. No replacement will be ready in time and it will probably be a few games before any replacement is ready to play. Tavares had played with the team and gotten some time to familiarize himself with the European ice and get over the jetlag. Obviously the replacement will have to be available quickly to minimize the loss. And even in that case they will probably play a few games before that happens.
For Canada’s initial few games the solution will have to come internally. The obvious solution would be to simply add Tyler Bertuzzi into Tavares spot with Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone on the first line. Not a bad line at all, but the center depth doesn’t look as imposing with Tavares absent. This isn’t a knock on Bertuzzi. He is a solid National Hockey League player, but he just isn’t a superstar like Tavares. The more complex solution is to shuffle the lines. Playing a veteran like Kyle Turris on the first line and then having Bertuzzi play with Anthony Mantha and Dylan Strome on the third line would seem more realistic.
The long-term consequence:
Luckily for Canada the first real test is their last game of the preliminaries against the United States on the May 21. You could argue that the game against Finland tomorrow could be a challenge, but given the lackluster Finnish roster I doubt Canada will drop points. The softer start will allow the Tavares replacement time to settle in to the tournament and potentially the first line center spot before any major damage has happened.
However, taking away the first line center on any team will hurt them. Canada is no different, especially with a lacking of depth down the middle. Another point to remember is that the team was built around Tavares.
Players like Stone, Marchessault, Sam Reinhart and Sean Couturier are going to have to lift the offense. Can they do it? Absolutely!
But if the replacement isn’t a first line center, then we might see a major weakness for Canada. Especially when up against a team like Sweden or Russia, considering how unsteady they have looked defensively in the leadup to the Worlds.
Who can replace him?
So far, we have heard very little from Canada’s camp about a potential replacement for Tavares. Team Canada general manager Jason Botterill has his work cut out for him and I’m willing to bet he is working the phones to the best of his abilities, to persuade a superstar to join up as fast as possible. But as of the time of writing this, we have been left in silence. Therefore, the next part will be purely speculations, so take it with a pinch of salt.
Who can replace Tavares? Very few is the short answer, but Canada must find one and they’ve got a few options.
One of them being Matt Duchene, who has been a part of many Championships and tournaments for Canada. A loyal servant to the cause and having recently been knocked out of the NHL playoffs, he would be a great fit for Canada. Red hot from the playoffs, Duchene notched 10 points in 10 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and enjoyed a resurgence of sorts this season. He is also the most likely if I’m to guess on the replacement.
Another replacement could be Tyler Seguin from the Dallas Stars. He won a Stanley cup with Boston in 2011 and a potential “second part” to the triple-gold club could be very tempting for Seguin, who has never represented Canada at a major international event. And yes, I know he played in the World Cup of Hockey but that was a preseason event. This could be the time for Seguin to join, and if he does Canada’s offense is back to looking fantastic. Especially if it’s with Duchene.
Some other names to throw in could be Derick Brassard, Tyson Jost, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Jason Spezza.
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Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals