Last week, it was announced the 2022 Canadian men's Olympic hockey team would be led by Doug Armstrong, as the Blues GM will be tasked with building out the roster and hiring the coaches to organize it all.
What's especially interesting heading into the 2022 tournament is that this is an opportunity to start with a fresh look. After the NHL chose to skip the 2018 Olympics, it'll have been eight years since NHLers were playing for Olympic gold and a lot of new and great players have thrived in the NHL since then.
“Youth will be served on this team, for sure,” Armstrong said last Wednesday after being named GM.
It's also a chance for the team to change over its head coaching situation. Mike Babcock, who's been out of the NHL over a year now, was recently asked about possibly returning to Team Canada, but he closed the door on that idea.
"It’s someone else’s turn," Babcock said of the national team job. "Someone is going to get a chance and it’s going to be the thrill of their lifetime. What a responsibility at the same time, but what an opportunity."
So the players will be different, the style will be different, but the expectations (gold or bust) remain the same.
Who is the best candidate to take over Canada's Olympic team as head coach? Here are the top five candidates.
Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
Whoever coaches Team Canada at the Olympics will be managing a roster that is deeper in talent than any other. While the team won't be built out as an "all-star roster" and will take specific needs into consideration, the fact is the lineup will still be a collection of all-star players.
The NHL coach who probably best deals with that level of depth of skill on a nightly basis is Jon Cooper, whose Tampa Bay Lightning are the envy of the league. There is skill everywhere here, from Art Ross candidates up front, to Norris and Vezina candidates on the blue line and in the crease. He's had to move one superstar centre, Steven Stamkos, to the wing. Cooper has dealt with the dynamics of balancing all this and it's worked.
For all their weapons, Tampa Bay is able to play more than one type of game and, sometimes, allows the opponent to set a tone and then beats them at their own game. Because of their depth and how they're coached, the Lightning can win any which way.
At the World Cup of Hockey in 2016, Cooper was an assistant coach for Team North America, a collection of 23-and-unders from the continent, a few of whom will now be on Canada's Olympic roster. His familiarity with this next wave of Canadian Olympians should be a factor.
Cooper's Lightning are the defending Stanley Cup champions and he's won as a coach at every level he's worked. The 53-year-old should at least be on the bench for Canada's Olympic team and he may just be the guy who leads them.
Barry Trotz, New York Islanders
The third-winningest coach in NHL history and two-time Jack Adams winner deserves consideration, but he's certainly found success in the NHL differently than some other candidates.