Surprisingly the NHL trade deadline brought with it a perfect reason to change how countries select their Olympics teams. I believe the Olympics are the main reason the Lightning were forced to trade their long-time superstar Martin St. Louis.
Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman had his hand forced when he chose country over team. Personally, I feel he screwed up his priorities. The Stanley Cup is far more important to win than an Olympic gold medal. I have as much pride for my country as the next person, but as a fan and someone who has been inside the sport, a league championship means a lot more.
Clearly when Yzerman did not place St. Louis on the original Team Canada roster, the player took it personally. Though he made the final roster, the damage had already been done. St. Louis did take it too far by forcing Yzerman to deal him to only one team, but it should have never come to that.
The situation was completely avoidable. Federations need to stop making sitting NHL GMs the leaders of their Olympic brain trust. Current NHL GMs as well as NHL players are paid by their employers to win Stanley Cups. Yzerman’ s choice to pick country over team may cost him a chance to bring Tampa Bay a championship. He got a solid young player back, but may have given up future great players in the draft. Plus, there is no guarantee Ryan Callahan will stay past this season in West Florida, while St. Louis has at least one more year helping the Rangers.
How much time can a current employed GM truly scout talent for his country’s team? Finding someone who has previous NHL front office experience, but is not tied down by the daily job could actually produce better teams.
That individual would have time to scout any number of NHL games leading up to the Olympic season. He could choose how many games and what games he chooses to attend. This year Yzerman and his Team USA counterpart David Poile could not do that. If Poile showed up in person for a game not involving the Nashville Predators, what would the perception be?
The whole process could even start sooner. A two years before the Olympics you could have a summer camp with a huge invite list. Have your coaches in place and start to mold well ahead of time. After that you have a full season to visit games and watch your prospects in action. All this time not having to worry about the NHL team that you run, because your only job is for your country’s hockey federation.
The rest of the brain trust could then be made up of current GMs in the league. Let them advise you on what they see with their own team as well as their take around the league.
In the end the only person that makes the final decision has one boss, their country’s hockey organization. Never again will a player ask to be traded due to an Olympic snub. No more will someone be forced to choose country over team and mix up their priorities.
Follow Adam on Twitter @Adam_PHN and you can always reach him at email@example.com