Four years ago, Mike Green missed the cut for the Canadian Olympic team that went on to win the gold medal in Vancouver. He understood how strong a team Canada had in 2010 and says it wasn’t discouraging to not make the roster, but rather a source of motivation.
“They had a great team. I wasn’t disappointed at all because I knew how talented the players were that were there and that they were going to win,” Green said in a phone interview last week. “It’s about Canada winning the gold, and that’s it.”
Green, 27, is in attendance at Canada’s orientation camp this week in his hometown of Calgary. He wants to get a feel for what the coaches and management staff are looking for and hopes to garner consideration for a place in the lineup for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
When he vied to be part of the squad for Vancouver, Green was in the midst of his most productive offensive seasons (73 and 76 points in 2008-09 and 2009-10, respectively) and back-to-back nods as a Norris Trophy finalist.
This time around, Green believes he has more to offer as a well-rounded player.
“I think I’ve developed a lot as a player. After I wasn’t invited I worked hard to develop my game so that I would be looked at for the next Olympics. That’s where I’m at,” Green said. “I think that I was a little one dimensional before being just an offensive defenseman and I’ve really been concentrating on keeping my plus-minus up and playing strong defense.”
Injuries have taken their toll on Green over the past three years, causing him to miss 93 of the Capitals’ last 212 regular season games, including 13 contests in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Once he returned to Washington’s lineup in March, though, Green showed his ability to help fuel the offense as well as single-handedly improve the team’s transition game. He finished the regular season with 12 goals, league best among defensemen, and 26 points in 35 games. Green, who was able to spend the summer focused on adding muscle rather than rehabilitation, wants to pick up where he left off and continue working to become a better all-around defenseman.
The challenge for Green when it comes to making the Canadian Olympic squad will be numbers. Canada is loaded with top-tier defensemen, specifically right-handed shots like Green.
There could be as many as five blueliners – Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Dan Boyle, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith – that return from the 2010 gold medal winning group and four of them are right-handed. There are several other right-handed options without Olympic experience hoping to land a spot this time around, including defending Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban, Kris Letang and Alex Pietrangelo.
Back when Canada announced its camp invitees, General Manager Steve Yzerman and Coach Mike Babcock both said they would like to have balance on the blueline with righty and lefty shots. That won’t help Green’s cause.
“The best eight will be in the squad and then we’ll decide who plays with who,” Babcock said on a conference call. “But when I look at the group, the veterans of last time and the young players coming in, it looks like there’s a chance to have a balance.”