SAN JOSE – Perhaps we can describe the Olympic aspirations of a pair of San Jose Sharks stars with long Ottawa connections as the old man and the “C”.
The way 37-year-old defenceman Dan Boyle looks at it, the upcoming Sochi Games represent his last legitimate shot to represent Canada at the five-ring circus. Yet for 24-year-old centre Logan Couture, playing in Russia wearing the red and white colours of his country would represent his first shot at playing hockey on the biggest stage.
“I would imagine it would be (my last chance), but I don’t lose sleep over it or think about it every night,” said Boyle, who was born and raised in Ottawa and went into Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators with 133 goals and 393 assists in 883 regular season games. “What you do in the first half is going to play into (the selections), but at the same time, a lot of us have been around long enough that you know what you’re going to get from us.
“You can’t lose sleep over the fact you might not be putting the puck in the net as much as you would like.”
While Boyle will be in tough to crack a spot on Canada’s defence, Couture is among a class of Canadian centres which is seemingly endless: Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Steven Stamkos, Patrice Bergeron, Joe Thornton, John Tavares, Claude Giroux, Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, to name a few.
It would stand to reason that Couture, the former Ottawa 67′s star, might have to move to the wing to have a shot at the Olympics. He’s more than content to do that.
“I’ve played wing before,” said Couture, 24, who should hit the 100-goal and 200-point marks at some point in the first half of the season. “Anybody who follows this (Sharks) team knows that our lines are interchangeable. We change so much during the year and there are stretches where I’ve played on the wing.”
Couture has given some thought to playing in Russia in February, but he understands that it won’t happen unless he continues to showcase an all-around game while playing for the Sharks.
“We have a lot of guys on this team that have been at the Olympics,” he said. “They talk about it being the best couple of weeks of their lives, so it would be pretty cool.”
Boyle says Couture deserves to be there. So, too, does Sharks coach Todd McLellan.
“I think it’s a real motivator for him,” said McLellan. “He wants to play there. He wants to prove to himself first of all and he wants to show everyone else, as well. Do I think he belongs there? Absolutely. I don’t think there’s a doubt in my mind, one bit. He’s a very good two-way guy, a guy we trust in every situation. I think he would excel in that environment.”
If Couture ends up on the wing, McLellan says he’ll have no issues adapting.
“He can play the left side, right side, centre, our team is kind of built that way,” he said. “We’ve got guys playing all over the place. (Patrick) Marleau, (Tomas) Hertl is a natural centreman that we’ve put on the wing, so I don’t think Logan would have any problem adjusting to a different position on the big ice surface and I don’t think he would have any problem adapting to an offensive or defensive role, penalty kill, power play, whatever.”
As for Canada’s overall depth in the middle, the Sharks coach simply shook his head.
“I wish we all had those problems, but there are a lot of talented centres in the league and a lot of them are Canadians. It’s a great problem for Mike (Babcock) and Steve (Yzerman) and their staff to have.”