It’s always an exciting moment whenever any national team announces their country’s Olympic hockey roster. On top of that, there will also always be debate as to who should have made the team and who shouldn’t have. As is customary with these kinds of announcements – at least in the case of Canada – there will sometimes be more attention paid to who didn’t make the team than to who did.
On this top 10 list, we count down the highest-paid players currently in the NHL who were unfortunate enough to be snubbed from their respective country’s Olympic team in Sochi. Barring serious injury to anyone who actually is currently on the roster, these 10 players won’t get a chance to wear a medal – potentially a gold one – around their neck in February. And that’s a shame, because many of these gentlemen are still among the most skilled players the game has right now – just look at their paychecks.
Several of these players are proven NHL superstars with Stanley Cup rings to their name, and know what it takes to go all the way, which would be greatly beneficial for countries that are hoping to win gold in Sochi this February. Many of the players on this list are also Canadian, which is largely a testament to how deep Canada’s pool of players is compared to the rest of the hockey world.
It’s an embarrassment of riches for one country to have such a deep group of talented players to choose from. However, only 25 men (including three goalies) can make the final cut for the Olympic Winter Games and represent their nation in the hopes of topping the podium. Let’s take a look at the 10 men who were egregiously snubbed from the final roster of their respective countries.
10 Sergei Gonchar - Russia ($5 million)
He may be pushing 40, but this experienced Russian defensemen has seen the promised land and can certainly perform well enough to help take a team there. But Sergei Gonchar will sadly be missing out on Russia’s campaign at the 2014 winter games, snubbed in favour of defensemen from the Kontinental Hockey League as well as more unheralded Russian NHL defensemen such as Anton Belov and Nikita Nikitin. The Dallas Stars d-man won’t be able to compete for Russia in the games his country is hosting this year, and his season for the Stars has been decent despite recent problems with concussions. His salary in 2013-14 amounts to about $5 million.
9 Claude Giroux - Canada ($5 million)
Once thought of (not that long ago, actually) as being among the top players in the NHL today, Claude Giroux had a disastrous start offensively to this year’s campaign for the Flyers. While his numbers have greatly improved since then, he was probably a bit too slow off the mark to be considered a lock for Canada in Sochi, and that’s likely why Steve Yzerman left him off his 25-man roster. But the Flyers right winger and captain with a paycheck of $5 million this season is still scoring almost a point per game, and is ultimately too talented to miss out on arguably hockey’s biggest national team stage.
8 Keith Yandle - United States ($5.25 million)
The Coyotes defenseman has had another very solid season in Phoenix offensively, but somehow Keith Yandle’s play in 2013-14 wasn’t enough for USA Hockey’s Olympic team this year, falling short of players like Justin Faulk, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik for their roster. The native of Boston was considered a favourite at one point to make the team in Sochi and it’s not hard to see why: Yandle – who makes $5.25 million this season – is an alternate captain for the Coyotes, has been to the All-Star Game twice, and has competed for the United States previously at the IIHF World Championships in 2010.
7 Bobby Ryan - United States ($5.56 million)
Considered by many to be the most glaring omission from this year’s United States Olympic hockey team, Bobby Ryan’s offensive numbers for Ottawa this season show why it makes little sense to leave him off the squad in favour of the struggling Dustin Brown or the less offensively gifted Derek Stepan, Blake Wheeler or Ryan Callahan. The native of Cherry Hill, NJ is projected thus far to end this season with 66 points after a full 82 games, and the Senators forward with a $5.56 million paycheck is still one of their more important attackers despite Brian Burke recently accusing Ryan of not being able to spell the word “intense”.
6 Taylor Hall - Canada ($6 million)
The Oilers forward is one of the best young guns in the league, and the first overall pick in 2010 has continued to prove that by scoring over a point per game so far for the second straight season. With that in mind, Taylor Hall is rather unlucky to not be able to bag himself a spot on Canada’s roster in Sochi. Despite the young Oilers still putting out abysmal performances on the ice this season, there is no doubt that the $6 million dollar right winger is on his way to becoming an elite player. Sochi may have come early for him in the eyes of Steve Yzerman and co, but look out for him to be with Team Canada in Pyeongchang in 2018.
5 Joe Thornton - Canada ($6 million)
Despite being in his mid-30s and without a Stanley Cup ring to show for his extremely solid NHL career, Joe Thornton is still among the most top-quality forwards in the league. When you add on the fact that he was a fairly noticeable part of the Canadian team that won gold at home in Vancouver in 2010, the fact that he won’t be competing in a third-straight Olympics must be a tough pill for Thornton to swallow. With a paycheck of $6 million this year, the Sharks captain is still over a point per game with a projected final point tally of 89 points in 82 games by the end of the season.
4 Martin St. Louis - Canada ($6.5 million)
What’s most shocking about Marty St. Louis’ exclusion from Team Canada’s roster isn’t necessarily the fact that he was excluded, but who the individual was that cut him. As Tampa Bay’s GM, Steve Yzerman knows St. Louis better than almost anyone who was competing for a roster spot for Sochi, and it must have been gut-wrenching for both sides when the decision was made. To rub salt in St. Louis’ wounds even further, the $6.5 million Lightning forward and last year’s league-leading point scorer is almost at a point per game so far this season despite being at the age of 38 – fairly old by NHL standards.
3 Dan Boyle - Canada ($6.67 million)
Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle is also not getting any younger at the age of 37, but his contributions on defense to this year’s San Jose team are invaluable. More importantly, he knows what it takes to win: he got himself a Stanley Cup ring with Tampa Bay in 2004, and won gold in Vancouver four years ago. With a salary of almost $6.7 million this year, Boyle is still a very coveted guy in terms of leadership and quarterbacking a power play. Since he will have likely retired by the time Pyeongchang 2018 comes around, Boyle may have missed his chance to compete for his country one last time unless he’s picked following a serious pre-tournament injury.
2 Mike Richards - Canada ($7.6 million)
This native of Kenora, Ontario competed in Canada’s gold-winning campaign at home in Vancouver in 2010, but will be missing out on the games in Sochi this year. Perhaps it’s not the biggest surprise ever: despite having a gold medal and a Stanley Cup under his belt, Richards has not played at a point-per-game pace since his 2008-09 season with the Flyers. But the Kings centre currently making $7.6 million this year – who saw longtime teammate Jeff Carter make the cut for Canada – is a seasoned winner at this point in his career, and knows how to get a team to the top.
1 Eric Staal - Canada ($9.25 million)
It was perhaps a bit of a shock to see none of the famous Staal brothers make Canada’s team this year, but Eric’s omission was arguably the most shocking of them all. Granted, the eldest Staal hasn’t had a season quite like the one he did in 2012-13 – his point totals are still less than a point per game – but he’s also won a Stanley Cup with Carolina and has appeared in the All-Star Game four times so far in his career. Oh, and he won gold in 2010 in Vancouver. In other words, the $9.25 million-making Hurricanes captain knows how to win, but he won't be doing it at this year's Olympics.