The Snubbing of Mike Green

In the past few days/weeks/months there have been countless diatribes about whether Mike Green should or shouldn’t be on Team Canada this February – and in the coming days/weeks/months, there will no doubt be plenty of others on why he should have or shouldn’t have made the cut.

So apologies for throwing yet another drop into the increasingly overflowing bucket.

Mike Green is, without a doubt, the best offensive defenseman in the game right now. That’s a point that’s rarely debated, even by those who seek to break him down…mostly because the numbers just won’t let them.

The problem is, some people – usually those who don’t actually watch Caps games – equate this with being bad at playing defense. And while Green is prone to the occasional defensive mental lapse (as any young blueliner would be…not to mention a few old ones) they’ve been fewer and farther between seemingly each game. He has really started to find a balance between offensive explosiveness and defensive responsibility.

Green’s had rough nights this season for sure, but even on a bad night he finds a way to rebound; the game-winner against the Hurricanes a few weeks ago stands out in particular, a great comeback after being the cause of at least one goal against. And more often than not he’s putting together quietly effective defensive performances – it’s clear that this is a part of his game he’s worked on, no doubt with an eye partly on making the Olympic squad.

The fact that he’s one of the more consistent Caps’ defensemen this season – on a team hovering around the top 1/3 of the league in goals against average – is hard to ignore. The fact that his +/- is an enviable +15 is also telling, regardless of how suspect the stat may be at times, especially when you consider that 18 of his 38 points this year have come on the power play. He also had, at the time of the selections, a better 5-on-5 GAON/60 than Dan Boyle, Scott Niedermayer and Shea Weber (and both Niedermayer and Boyle have a greater percentage of their points with the extra man). Green’s +/-ON/60 at 5-on-5 is second-best in the NHL, behind only teammate Jeff Schultz.

If those are bad defensive numbers, Bryan McCabe must be crying in his sleep.

But we’re preaching to the choir here. This is a (mostly) pro-Green zone, as one would expect from a group of Caps fans. That we wanted him to join his teammates in Vancouver, if only because he seemed to want it so much, is natural.

More after the jump...

The job that Steve Yzerman and friends had in front of them was not an enviable one. It’s a tough task they were given, with at least 10 worthy candidates in the mix, and a task that was probably made even tougher considering they are the host country and under tremendous pressure to win Gold. And there are some choices with which there can be no issue, for sure. To say that guys like Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, Boyle and Weber are not deserving of a spot is to downplay their accomplishments, abilities and what each of them brings to the table in terms of experience and leadership.

And really, few would suggest that Green could displace at least three of the four (sorry, Dan) regardless of how the numbers shake out this year. Even Brent Seabrook is understandable if chemistry is a goal, as it should be, because his teammate and D partner Duncan Keith was also a shoo-in.

No, the headscratching comes into play when you start debating the value of Green vs. guys like Drew Doughty and Jay Bouwmeester. All three were tossed around as "bubble" picks, and as the picks were revealed, Doughty was somehow in, with Bouwmeester apparently the runner-up.

And Mike Green was left even further out on the fringe than one would have thought.

Somehow the omission of Green from Team Canada would seem less ridiculous if Bouwmeester is the one getting the nod, with Green coming in just behind him and the youngster – as he should – cooling his heels in third. Bouwmeester’s a fine defenseman and one with plenty of international experience, including the Olympics. The argument could be made for either him or Green, depending on what the team was looking for.

But Doughty getting picked over either one is simply puzzling. He’s full of potential and a very good defenseman in his own right – he’s also all of 20 years old, with all the potential mistakes of youth and less of the offensive upside to balance it out. His international experience is limited; his professional experience extremely so. Is he a better defensive defenseman than Green? Possibly. Is he a better defenseman period?

Team Canada says yes...I think a lot of people would disagree.

At the end of the day, we as Caps fans know that this snub will likely work to our advantage. Of all the potential Olympians, Green was probably the one with whom the most concerns lay about fitness and readiness for the playoffs. Getting denied – again – from a spot that should have been his will probably only fuel his determination to prove himself on a bigger stage. The first priority for Caps fans has to be the quest for the Cup, and we’ve got one of our best players fully on board for that quest now.

And yet, we know how much he wanted this. We wanted it for him, and it’s hard not to think how much better Team Canada would be with him on it. There are few players who skate like that, who shoot like that, who bring that much speed and skill from the blueline like that – and Team Canada is a poorer team without him because of it.

As someone who only considered rooting for them at all because of #52’s possible inclusion, all I can say…is good.

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