Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Tragic Case of Marc Savard

Team Canada is now well into its preseason selection camp for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Without a doubt they have as good a collection of talent as anyone, save perhaps the Russians, who will be sending one of their strongest teams ever. For all the scoring power on the Russian team, though (including three of last season's top four scorers in Ovechkin, Malkin and Datsyuk) Canada has incredible scoring depth up front, taking ten of the top 20 spots in last year's NHL scoring race, while Russia only has five (Kovalchuk and Semin being the other two).

Such is team Canada's depth that they felt it unnecessary to invite a player who finished ninth in league scoring last season. He was 22nd the year before, but also finished ninth in scoring in both 05/06 and 06/07. He's become the league's unknown superstar. And while it's fair to say Canada isn't lacking for offensive centremen, it's a little galling that he doesn't even merit an invite to training camp.

You could make the argument that Savard is a product of good linemates, but I don't buy that. While he has been blessed with some strong supporting casts, he outscored his next-best Boston teammate, Phil Kessel, by 15 points last season. Last year, he led the team by a margin of 22 points. He is in many ways a second coming of Adam Oates - an unglamourous passer who racks up points by dishing the puck to scoring wingers. In that sense, he's perfectly suited to playing for Canada, where he'd have no shortage of quality scoring wingers.

You could make the argument that he's a product of the new NHL and will struggle in clutch-and-grab international hockey, but that position fails too. In two pre-lockout seasons he was a point-a-game player, while he has been no disappointment in high-pressure playoff games, scoring 19 points in 18 games.

The only possible explanation is that Canada's management don't see another place for a scoring centre. At this point Crosby, Getzlaf, Thornton and Richards are all strong options, not to mention Staal, Lecavalier and Carter (among others). Simply put, Savard lacks the defensive chops to put him ahead of that group, and isn't suited to moving to the wing the way Carter or Marleau might be.

Why not invite him over Andy MacDonald or Jordan Staal, though? Over Derek Roy, who managed just 70 points last year? Savard is getting a raw deal because he's played nearly his entire career as the quiet star of American teams. There is one last problem - he hasn't played for Canada since an appearance at the world u-18 tournament years ago. He missed the playoffs again and again after starring with the Thrashers but never threw his hat in the ring for a spot with Canada's World Championships teams, a move that has earned dedicated but perhaps less talented players like Shane Doan and Ryan Smyth automatic invites to training camp this year. Savard can only wonder if that might have made a difference as, at age 32, he will watch these Olympics from the sidelines knowing he will never get a chance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Savard is crap...just a one-dimensional player and Canada doesn't need more offensive guys.