Roberto Luongo

Burning questions as Canada decides Olympic men’s hockey team

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It turns out Steven Stamkos might not be the biggest injury concern for Canada’s Olympic hockey prospects.

The reigning Olympic champions could be down their starting goalie from 2010. Canada is scheduled to announce its roster on Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET, the final day for nations to submit Olympic hockey rosters.

An injured player on the initial Olympic roster can be replaced up to Feb. 12. This is key for Canada, as outlined in the three burning questions going into the team announcement below.

Olympic hockey rosters: U.S. | Slovenia | Switzerland | Czech Republic

1. How serious is Roberto Luongo’s injury?

The starting goalie on the nation’s gold-medal run in 2010 suffered an undisclosed injury in a collision in a game Saturday and was held out of Sunday’s game. This came after Luongo missed three straight games with a groin injury.

He was listed as day to day, but it might be worse than that. He was scheduled to be re-evaluated Monday.

Luongo or Carey Price is expected to be Canada’s starter in Sochi. As skilled as Canada’s skaters are, goalie is a position where it is merely comparable to several other nations.

Luongo was strong for Canada after taking over for Martin Brodeur in Vancouver, posting a 1.76 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. His recent NHL seasons have been less stellar, but his 2013-14 campaign has been his best in three years.

Price, of the Montreal Canadiens, has been better statistically than Luongo this season but has zero minutes of Olympic experience.

Barring a significant injury announcement Monday, expect Luongo to be named to the team with Price. The likely No. 3 is the Phoenix Coyotes’ Mike Smith.

If Luongo has to be replaced, Canada has options in 2010 Olympian Marc-Andre Fleury and Josh Harding, who has been the best Canadian goalie in the NHL this season.

2. What are Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis’ chances?

Before Luongo’s injury, the focus was on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s two biggest stars — forwards Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.

There was significant doubt in Stamkos’ Olympic availability when he suffered a broken tibia Nov. 11.

The NHL’s leading scorer in 2010 and 2012 embarked on aggressive rehab with his first Winter Games in mind and skated in full equipment last week. He appears set to be named to the team. Again, that Feb. 12 injury replacement deadline helps.

St. Louis, the Lightning captain at age 38, is more of a question to hear his name Tuesday. He made the team in 2006 and missed it in 2010 but should be optimistic given Canada’s GM that left him off four years ago, Steve Yzerman, is now the GM of the Lightning.

St. Louis’ 38 points this season are tied for 13th among Canadian players and behind younger fringe Olympic hopefuls Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.

“I think Marty deserves a spot on that team regardless of any other player, whether they’re injured or not,” Stamkos said last week. “Marty, especially the last 10 games, has really carried us. He’s a leader, he’s the captain for a reason, and he probably should have been on the last [Olympic] team — he’s using that as motivation, and I’ll be very surprised if he’s not on the team.”

3. Who else is on the roster bubble?

Aside from the Lightning pair, several star forwards seem locked in — Sidney CrosbyJonathan ToewsRyan GetzlafJohn TavaresCorey PerryMatt DucheneLogan Couture and Patrice Bergeron.

Claude Giroux and Patrick Sharp also appear likely, but it gets murky after that.

Two-time Olympian Joe Thornton leads the NHL in assists, but is there any more room at center with Crosby, Toews and Getzlaf and Tavares?

Jamie Benn, Chris KunitzRick Nash and Hall and Seguin have a shot, too.

Five of eight defensemen look locked in — Jay Bouwmeester, Drew DoughtyDuncan KeithAlex Pietrangelo and Shea WeberP.K. Subban and Brent Seabrook also make pretty strong cases.

There are also San Jose Sharks Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, making nine guys for eight spots.

Another tough call for Yzerman and Co., who have the enviable embarrassment of riches and the unenviable task of cutting players any other country would love to have in Sochi.

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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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