If Quebec Played at the World Cup of Hockey

Mike Commito
August 14 2016 10:00AM


Quebec

*Note: None of this happened. Mike fell asleep in the sun and dreamt the whole thing up.

After years of threatening separation and narrowly decided referendums, Quebec has finally done the unthinkable and seceded from Canada. The formation of the sovereign nation of Quebec will undoubtedly shake up the national economy, abruptly alter our demography, and forever change our cultural landscape.

The reverberations of this seismic shift will be felt far and wide and even the hockey world will not be insulated from its impact. With the World Cup of Hockey less than a month away, Quebec has already filed and won an emergency injunction with the National Hockey League that will allow it to field a team in the tournament. Wasting no time, Équipe Quebec unveiled its twenty-three man roster earlier this week as it prepares to make up for lost time in the lead up to September.

No less than two days removed from the secession, it’s clear that Quebec has already set the wheels in motion to start charting its own course in the hockey world. How this will impact the game over the long-term is unclear, but for now, we can take a closer look at Quebec’s World Cup team and how it can expect to fare in the tournament.  

Équipe Quebec à la coupe mondiale de hockey 2016

G Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

Jonathan Bernier, Anaheim Ducks


Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

Francois Beauchemin, Colorado Avalanche

Jason Demers, Florida Panthers

David Savard, Columbus Blue Jackets

Marco Scandella, Minnesota Wild

Simon Despres, Anaheim Ducks

Nicolas Deslauriers, Buffalo Sabres


Alex Tanguay, UFA*

Mike Ribeiro, Nashville Predators

Jason Pominville, Minnesota Wild

Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues

Antoine Vermette, UFA*

Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver Canucks

Derick Brassard, Ottawa Senators

David Perron, St. Louis Blues

P.A. Parenteau, New York Islanders

David Desharnais, Montreal Canadiens

Mathieu Perreault, Winnipeg Jets

Alex Chiasson, Calgary Flames

Gabriel Bourque, UFA*

*As of August 13, 2016

Scanning the roster, Quebec’s strength is undeniably on the backend. Capitalizing on one Canada’s omissions, Quebec has secured Kris Letang, who will undoubtedly be the defence corps’ engine. The Montreal native finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting this past season and is fresh off a second Stanley Cup victory. Count on Letang’s experience as an invaluable asset to drive this largely green group of rearguards.

Of course, the inclusion of veteran Francois Beauchemin will also help stabilize the defence. While the 36 year old is getting long in the tooth, he can still put up some points. This past year, as a member of the Avalanche’s thin blue line, he potted eight goals and racked up twenty-six helpers. Nevertheless, Quebec will be heavily outgunned against teams like Canada that boast the likes of Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, and Duncan Keith. Quebec certainly would have liked to have Marc-Edouard Vlasic slot in on the left side, but he will be representing Team Canada in September.

Although there may be some cracks in Quebec’s defensive system, it has the luxury of being buttressed by a talented pair of netminders. With Robert Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury, Quebec’s gets two seasoned goaltenders who both finished in the top ten among all goalies in save percentage this past season. While there may be some questions as to how much longer Luongo can put up these numbers, he’s coming off a sterling .934 SV% in the playoffs. Although he and the Panthers didn’t achieve the result they hoped for, all signs indicate that he is up for the challenge of being the first goalie to don the national fleur-de-lis.  

And if he falters, Marc-Andre Fleury is there to take his place. The Sorel native had his best season, save percentage wise, since 2007-08 and after losing his starting job to Matt Murray, you can bet he’ll be motivated to step in and show the Penguins that he’s ready to reclaim his net.

The one selection that fans may grapple with is the selection of Jonathan Bernier over Louis Domingue. The former is coming off his worst season ever, but Quebec expects that Bernier’s relocation to Anaheim could have a rejuvenating effect. Meanwhile, Domingue showed flashes of brilliance in Arizona, particularly in December and March where he posted .925 SV% and .938 SV% respectively. He’s young and is part of Quebec’s long-term plans, especially as Luongo approaches his twilight years. Don’t be surprised to see Domingue in the 2017 World Cup tournament or possibly representing Quebec in the 2018 Winter Olympics. This trio of goaltenders is nothing to scoff at and had Quebec been able to recruit Montreal native Corey Crawford this would have fortified the net even further.  

But Quebec’s biggest holes are up front. Although their thirteen forwards have a combined 1927 goals and 5172 points, their average age is north of thirty. That’s going to be a big problem in a tournament that will have some incredibly fleet of foot squads such as Team North America. Where Quebec could have made up in this area was with Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Anthony Duclair. While the Lightning left winger has already been claimed by the Under 23 team, Huberdeau and Duclair are both unable to play for Quebec because they are only eligible to suit up for Team North America until they turn 24. Huberdeau and Duclair would both have to wait until the 2020 tournament before they could realize their aspirations to play for Quebec at the World Cup. 

Although Quebec will miss out on these speedy wingers, it has a reasonably strong group down the middle, and that doesn't include Patrice Bergeron, who is a mainstay on Canada's national team. With well-rounded pivots that include Derick Brassard, Paul Stastny, and Mike Riberio, the greatest concern will determining who will flank those centres. Mathieu Perreault has made the most of his time in Winnipeg, but there should be concerns if he is slotting in as your top left winger. He’s put up back-to-back 40+ point seasons as a Jet, but he’s the type of player you want as a viable threat on your third line, not your first. While the numbers may not be on Quebec’s side, there are some emotional storylines to this team that will be worth watching for. Take for example, Paul Stastny. He represented the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics, but was actually born in Quebec City when his father, Peter, was a member of the Nordiques. Snubbed by America for the World Cup, Stastny will be looking to tap into his roots and channel some of the magic his father found playing in la belle province.

The NHL has not yet returned to Quebec City, but expect many of Nordiques fans to dust off their jerseys to rally behind Equipe Quebec at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

While there certainly may be some bright spots for Quebec, the best it can hope for is keeping its games competitive. Going up against the world’s hockey superpowers, this will be, in many ways, a story of David and Goliath. Looking at the rosters of the other North American entries reveals just how much Quebec will be overpowered. Even without drilling down into the sheer level of talent inequality, the state of the payrolls provides us with all the insights we need.

NHL Salaries


Team Canada’s budget, based on individual salary cap hits for the 2016-17 NHL season, is nearly two times more than Quebec’s and includes some of the best players in the world in every definable category. Even the United States, a team that has left a number of talented players off its roster, still has a war chest that dwarfs the upstart Quebec team.

No matter how Quebec plays, the tournament will be a significant moment that ushers in a new era of hockey in our nation. As it continues on its divergent path, it will alter the way we approach and view the game in Canada. 

With more time to prepare for next year's World Cup, Quebec can make overtures to elite players like Patrice Bergeron and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. While both have been stalwarts for Canada on the international stage, the opportunity to take on even greater roles and play for their birth country may be too enticing. Moreover, for someone like Corey Crawford, who is third on the depth chart behind Carey Price and Braden Holtby, playing for the fleur-de-lis could give him the chance to shine in international competition. Quebec will also be in an advantageous position next year to scoop up skilled youngsters like Jonathan Huberdeau. He will be too old to play for Team North America in 2017 and will not yet be ready to make the leap to Team Canada. 

Équipe Quebec à la coupe mondiale de hockey 2017

Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

Jonathan Bernier, Anaheim Ducks

 

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks 

Jason Demers, Florida Panthers

David Savard, Columbus Blue Jackets

Marco Scandella, Minnesota Wild

Simon Despres, Anaheim Ducks

Nick Deslauriers, Buffalo Sabres

 

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Jason Pominville, Minnesota Wild

Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues

Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver Canucks

Derick Brassard, Ottawa Senators

David Perron, St. Louis Blues

P.A. Parenteau, New York Islanders

David Desharnais, Montreal Canadiens

Mathieu Perreault, Winnipeg Jets

Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

Alex Chiasson, Calgary Flames

Gabriel Bourque, UFA*

Cedric Paquette, Tampa Bay Lightning 

While these changes may not be significant enough to derail the Canadian leviathan in future tournaments, it will weaken their position down the middle and on the left side of the blueline. More importantly, if Quebec can land the likes of Bergeron, Vlasic, and Crawford, it could serve as a beacon for the next wave of players. Although many born before the separation may remain loyal to Canada, there are others who will seize the opportunity to raise their profile and take part in international competition. Only time will tell how this will all play out and who will be on the winning side of history.

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Mike Commito is a hockey historian and writer from Sudbury, Ontario. He has a PhD, so after Mark Recchi, that makes him one of the smartest hockey doctors. You can follow him on Twitter @mikecommito.