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Rebuild Team Canada in the 1981 Canada Cup

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02-06-2014, 01:10 PM
  #1
Big Phil
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Rebuild Team Canada in the 1981 Canada Cup

Not that this wasn't a team capable of winning it all because they were, but this was one of those teams that had some suspect choices. For whatever reason the NHL was in a bit of a transition at this time. This was a time for goalies that was in between the Dryden years and the Roy years. There was some talent, but not like other eras.

Here is how the team looked:
Goal - Liut, Edwards, Smith
Defense - Potvin, Robinson, Bourque, Beck, Engblom, Hartsburg, Reinhart
Forwards - Gretzky, Bossy, Perreault, Lafleur, Trottier, Dionne, Gainey, Duguay, Middleton, Linseman, Gillies, Goring, Gare

Cut from the roster were:
Goal - Lessard
Defense - Carlyle, Ramage, Schoenfeld
Forwards - Barber, Sittler, Shutt, Taylor, Payne, Smith


Alright, now here is the issue I have with this team. The guys they were cutting were still pretty good. Barber was a 2nd team all-star in 1981. Sittler had scored 96 points. Shutt and Taylor I can understand. However where was Lanny McDonald? I am not sure if there were some injuries or not with him as I know Charlie Simmer had a broken leg, but McDonald was a bona fide sniper at this time and still hadn't even put up his most prolific season. I realize Billy Smith was hurt during this tournament which explains the Edwards/Liut combo. I have always thought we'd have fared better with Battlin' Billy in net. But here goes.



This is how I would have picked the team:

Goal - Liut, Edwards, Smith (not much you can change here)
Defense - Potvin, Robinson, Bourque, Beck, Park, Carlyle, Coffey
Forward -
Perreault-Gretzky-Lafleur
Gillies-Trottier-Bossy
Sittler-Dionne-Middleton
Gainey-Clarke-Gartner
Barber


Alright, so why is Coffey there? Well, if you are going to go with young defensemen why not go with the one who can skate with the Soviets? I realize Coffey was a rookie in 1980-'81 but this was a transition for Canada. There was no Orr, Savard, Lapointe, etc. Coffey had his big breakout in the playoffs in 1981. The following year he cracked 89 points, but we didn't know this at the time of course. However, I'd have given him a long, long look because we know the skill of the Soviets by now. Park was still very good at this time. Was there an injury of sorts? I can't remember. But he's on my team. Carlyle won the Norris. Somehow you have to fit him in there. This team is still physical enough to compete with anyone else also.

The forwards are shaken up a bit. Gartner had 94 points that year. But the main factor is his blinding speed. This would prove to be vital in later tournaments Gartner played in but throw him on a checking line with Clarke and Gainey. Gartner's speed would get in the way of things.

Sittler and Barber were still very good at this point. Barber is a great big game player and Sittler still has enough left in the tank. Barber could fill in anywhere, on the power play, on a checking line and even on a scoring line. You know despite all of my talk about McDonald I still don't have him on this team. Oh well. We've got enough snipers on the right side and I can't find room for him and I'd rather have Barber as the 13th forward than McDonald.

Anyway, that's my Team Canada 1981. Do they do better?

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02-06-2014, 01:13 PM
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Peter25
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Bobby Clarke was terrible in 1982 World Championships. Someone like Bobby Smith was better than Clarke in 1981-1982.

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02-06-2014, 01:28 PM
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Big Phil
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Originally Posted by Peter25 View Post
Bobby Clarke was terrible in 1982 World Championships. Someone like Bobby Smith was better than Clarke in 1981-1982.
I'm looking at Clarke's compete level, his familiarity with the Soviets and the fact that he won a Selke two years after this in 1983. He was still capable of being on this team. But put him as a checker and not a guy you are relying on for offense.

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02-06-2014, 11:02 PM
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If I may throw my 2 cents worth in, I did a bit of research on the '81 Canada Cup a few years ago and discovered the following:

Barber was hurt in tryouts and was knocked out of the tournament otherwise he more than likely would have made the team.

Per Park's book, he would have liked to play but was basically told not to by Sinden due to his chronic knee problems and basically wanted Park to save himself for the upcoming NHL season. I guess Sinden was no longer so concerned about Canada as he was with the Bruins.

McDonald was still a sniper but struggled against the top competition from the best players in the '76 Canada Cup and '79 Challenge Cup. Just seemed a bit overmatched physically at this level.

Meanwhile, Sittler didn't seem to impress Bowman in camp for whatever reason and didn't make the cut, but showed he could do the job as a left winger in both '76 and '79. LW Shutt was now on the downside and Bowman must have seen it as he had already sat him in Gm 3 of the Challenge Cup and cut him here.

Thing is left winger Steve Payne DID play extremely well per getting mention in news articles and scoring a few goals (even though his linemate Smith was underwhelming and deserved to be cut) and given his huge '81 playoffs was an inexplicable omission. Deciding not to keep any of these three left the team dangerously thin on left wing and keeping Linseman and Duguay over any of them was not a wise decision either.

Regarding Clarke, he had slowed down and was now noticeably overmatched at this level. Outside of setting up Lafleur for Canada's 1st goal in Gm 1 of the '79 TC, he did very little the remaining 59 minutes and other 2 games and was clearly outplayed by Trottier, Perreault and Dionne. His defense was no longer enough to make up for his other deficiencies and he was terrible in the '82 WHC's, so much so that his regular linemate Barber was moved and played superbly with the Great One.

On defense, Coffey showed a LOT in camp but was unfortunately paired with Robinson in a few games who was not in shape and shuttling back and forth between his own summer hockey camp and Team Canada, thus they were scored on a bit too much, but it was Coffey who paid the price. In fact, I think Bowman made mention that cutting him might be a mistake. Carlyle apparently showed up to camp overweight by some 20 pounds and was out-of-shape which was a very disappointing showing from the Norris trophy winner.

Gartner might have made an interesting choice, as would have Real Cloutier if he hadn't broken his ankle the summer before playing baseball... he was never quite the same after that.

On paper Team Canada '81 should have been different, but due to some things beyond their control such as Carlyle showing up fat, Barber and Billy Smith getting hurt that didn't help the team at all. Then, add in Bowman dropping Coffey, Payne and Sittler and the team was unfortunately not nearly as strong as it might have been.

They still did great of course until the final game, but maybe with all 6 of those guys in the lineup for that crucial contest they could have helped change that 8-1 debacle by the USSR into a win for Canada.

Richard

Author; 1972: The Summit Series, Canada vs. USSR - Stats, Lies & Videotape: The UNTOLD Story of Hockey's Series of the Century

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02-06-2014, 11:20 PM
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Richard F Schiller
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Quote:
Originally Posted by space1999 View Post
If I may throw my 2 cents worth in, I did a bit of research on the '81 Canada Cup a few years ago and discovered the following:

Barber was hurt in tryouts and was knocked out of the tournament otherwise he more than likely would have made the team.

Per Park's book, he would have liked to play but was basically told not to by Sinden due to his chronic knee problems and basically wanted Park to save himself for the upcoming NHL season. I guess Sinden was no longer so concerned about Canada as he was with the Bruins.

McDonald was still a sniper but struggled against the top competition from the best players in the '76 Canada Cup and '79 Challenge Cup. Just seemed a bit overmatched physically at this level.

Meanwhile, Sittler didn't seem to impress Bowman in camp for whatever reason and didn't make the cut, but showed he could do the job as a left winger in both '76 and '79. LW Shutt was now on the downside and Bowman must have seen it as he had already sat him in Gm 3 of the Challenge Cup and cut him here.

Thing is left winger Steve Payne DID play extremely well per getting mention in news articles and scoring a few goals (even though his linemate Smith was underwhelming and deserved to be cut) and given his huge '81 playoffs was an inexplicable omission. Deciding not to keep any of these three left the team dangerously thin on left wing and keeping Linseman and Duguay over any of them was not a wise decision either.

Regarding Clarke, he had slowed down and was now noticeably overmatched at this level. Outside of setting up Lafleur for Canada's 1st goal in Gm 1 of the '79 TC, he did very little the remaining 59 minutes and other 2 games and was clearly outplayed by Trottier, Perreault and Dionne. His defense was no longer enough to make up for his other deficiencies and he was terrible in the '82 WHC's, so much so that his regular linemate Barber was moved and played superbly with the Great One.

On defense, Coffey showed a LOT in camp but was unfortunately paired with Robinson in a few games who was not in shape and shuttling back and forth between his own summer hockey camp and Team Canada, thus they were scored on a bit too much, but it was Coffey who paid the price. In fact, I think Bowman made mention that cutting him might be a mistake. Carlyle apparently showed up to camp overweight by some 20 pounds and was out-of-shape which was a very disappointing showing from the Norris trophy winner.

Gartner might have made an interesting choice, as would have Real Cloutier if he hadn't broken his ankle the summer before playing baseball... he was never quite the same after that.

On paper Team Canada '81 should have been different, but due to some things beyond their control such as Carlyle showing up fat, Barber and Billy Smith getting hurt that didn't help the team at all. Then, add in Bowman dropping Coffey, Payne and Sittler and the team was unfortunately not nearly as strong as it might have been.

They still did great of course until the final game, but maybe with all 6 of those guys in the lineup for that crucial contest they could have helped change that 8-1 debacle by the USSR into a win for Canada.

Richard

Author; 1972: The Summit Series, Canada vs. USSR - Stats, Lies & Videotape: The UNTOLD Story of Hockey's Series of the Century

thesummitseries1972@yahoo.com | Facebook: www.facebook.com/72series | Twitter: www.twitter.com/72seriesbendell
Greatest first post of all-time.

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02-06-2014, 11:35 PM
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LeBlondeDemon10
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Yeah, this is a tough one. The injuries to key players in camp (and Perreault who likely would have been the best player in the tourny if healthy) combined with some questionable selections by Bowman's staff leaves this team wanting, but other than the last game I believe that this is still a good enough team to beat the Soviets. I really believe the Soviets pulled a psyche job and TC fell for it. They just weren't sharp from the drop of the puck in that last game.

As for my changes, I would drop Duguay as well. Never understood his appeal. I would add Clarke for his leadership and experience. He doesn't have to play 20 minutes a night. I was never a fan of Sittler, but McDonald could have added something. As for defense, how about Rod Langway? He had already won a cup in 79 with the Canadiens playing a prominent role with the Lapointe injury and was just coming into his own. Coffey is appealing, but I think its too easy to look back and say what we missed out on. His defensive play must have left a lot to be desired. Shutt was still a sniper at this stage of his career, but injured an awful lot. Bowman really went sour on him anyway. Since Bowman was GM in Buffalo, why not add in Craig Ramsey?

Anyway, I really think the missing pieces were in the injuries to Perreault and Smith. I suggested in another thread that Bowman could have gone with Edwards after he defeated the Soviets in the RR. Why not pull Liut after the first two goals and put Edwards in?

Edit: Totally forgot Langway was not Canadian.


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02-06-2014, 11:39 PM
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Oh, totally forgot to mention that I don't understand why center Bernie Federko wasn't invited to TC'81's camp as well as D-man Larry Murphy who had a monster rookie year, even better than Bourque who had a much stronger team around him - as well as Doug Wilson.

Heck, they also could have asked Tony Esposito to camp who instead played really well in a few games (and all but the last 8 minutes or so against Canada) for a so-so US team and arguably would have been better than an inconsistent Liut who posted a terrible save % for being on such a strong team. You also had Gilles Meloche who showed that with a good team in front of him he could take a team somewhere good and farther than they'd been before.

And, good point LeblondeDemon10 about Ramsay. He was a very solid 2-way player at that time and his omission is yet another Bowman oddity.

Richard

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02-06-2014, 11:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard F Schiller View Post
Greatest first post of all-time.
My most sincere thanks for the compliment Richard F Schiller!!... finally found time to post, seems like things have been a whirlwind and my '72 book was literally a 10-year undertaking so its nice to finally to rejoin the land of the living as it were!

Richard

Author; 1972: The Summit Series, Canada vs. USSR - Stats, Lies & Videotape: The UNTOLD Story of Hockey's Series of the Century

thesummitseries1972@yahoo.com | Facebook: www.facebook.com/72series | Twitter: www.twitter.com/72seriesbendell

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02-07-2014, 01:38 AM
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Ah, now the Barber omission makes sense. I never really understood that. He still was near the top of his game at this time. Would have been slotted in any situation and thrived, that was Barber.

As I said before, I can actually understand the McDonald exclusion now. Contrary to popular belief, McDonald wasn't a great playoff performer either. The clip of him scoring in the 1989 Cup final gets played over and over and he is associated with that Cup, yet that was his only goal the entire playoff run. He wasn't overly impressive in the 1976 Canada Cup either, even in victory. Although it would be hard to stand out in that crowd. I still like Gartner in there though. That speed was always troublesome for the Soviets later on in Canada Cups. Gartner was always very good his whole career, so it isn't as if he was hitting his peak. He was pretty much already there in 1981.

I didn't know that about Carlyle though. I guess being out of shape was too much to handle. I can't imagine Bowman liking that at all. Someone mentioned Larry Murphy. He had a nice rookie year, but he wasn't seasoned enough at that time and his foot speed would have been an issue. I know he ended up doing well later in his career for Team Canada, but in 1981 I would have liked Coffey's speed out there against the Soviets.

I can understand Steve Shutt. I didn't have him on there either. No one knew this, but he dropped a lot after 1981, maybe even after 1980. Even in the weak left wing slot I wouldn't have put him in there. I still would have prefered sliding Sittler over there. I wonder what Bowman didn't like about him in camp? Sittler was never one to choke. He would have been competitive.

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02-07-2014, 01:38 AM
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Originally Posted by space1999 View Post

Regarding Clarke, he had slowed down and was now noticeably overmatched at this level. Outside of setting up Lafleur for Canada's 1st goal in Gm 1 of the '79 TC, he did very little the remaining 59 minutes and other 2 games and was clearly outplayed by Trottier, Perreault and Dionne. His defense was no longer enough to make up for his other deficiencies and he was terrible in the '82 WHC's, so much so that his regular linemate Barber was moved and played superbly with the Great One.
In that case, why didn't Dionne play in game 3 and Clarke did?

I agree that the Clarke of 1981 wouldn't have made the 1981 CC team any stronger.

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02-07-2014, 07:48 AM
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As for defense, how about Rod Langway? He had already won a cup in 79 with the Canadiens playing a prominent role with the Lapointe injury and was just coming into his own.
Langway did play in the 1981 Canada Cup

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02-07-2014, 07:51 AM
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If I may throw my 2 cents worth in, I did a bit of research on the '81 Canada Cup a few years ago and discovered the following:
Thanks for sharing this information here. I had either forgotten about some of it or never known in the first place.


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02-07-2014, 08:10 AM
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This thread need more 1980/81 55 goal scorer Rick Kehoe.

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02-07-2014, 11:41 AM
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In that case, why didn't Dionne play in game 3 and Clarke did?

I agree that the Clarke of 1981 wouldn't have made the 1981 CC team any stronger.
Probably because Clarke still had that reputation as a top-end player. Can't say I felt the same. I was never a big fan of his stickwork, lack of respect towards others, willingness to hurt guys or how he seemed to stir up trouble then skate away while the bullies rushed in to take care of business. Great playmaker and passer, but a very dirty player.

He looked a step behind all 3 games against the Soviets, yet, funny though if Clarke had sat and Dionne had played and the team had lost 6-0 then many would have pointed to that as part of the reason.


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02-07-2014, 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Yoda View Post
This thread need more 1980/81 55 goal scorer Rick Kehoe.
Good point, but his assists of only 33 are worrisome. Team Canada had an unbelievable number of high-scoring players to choose from that year including Babych, Jacques Richard, Maruk and more but Bowman seemed pretty particular as to whom he wanted or didn't want on the team.

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02-07-2014, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by BraveCanadian View Post
Thanks for sharing this information here. I had either forgotten about some of it or never known in the first place.

Thanks BraveCanadian! Very glad to know that I was able to add something helpful to the discussion.

I still wonder how things might have turned out if Gilbert Perreault hadn't gotten hurt - imho opinion, this was HIS tournament, the one where he finally got to be a leader for Team Canada. And, he deserved a much better fate.

In some ways he reminds me a bit of the Lemieux of his time before Super Mario came onto the scene... not nearly as dominant of course, but capable of some beautiful goals and was something to see in full flight.

Richard

Author; 1972: The Summit Series, Canada vs. USSR - Stats, Lies & Videotape: The UNTOLD Story of Hockey's Series of the Century

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02-07-2014, 04:15 PM
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You guys Canada lost 1 game yes they stunk-but they dominated every team including the soviets in 1st game.Perrault got hurt but they still won their games but yea that was a key.2.Lafleur hate to admit it was poor.3.Liut did not play very well.Your key players need to show up-when you lose 8-1 they did not.

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02-08-2014, 03:22 AM
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Probably because Clarke still had that reputation as a top-end player. Can't say I felt the same. I was never a big fan of his stickwork, lack of respect towards others, willingness to hurt guys or how he seemed to stir up trouble then skate away while the bullies rushed in to take care of business. Great playmaker and passer, but a very dirty player.

He looked a step behind all 3 games against the Soviets, yet, funny though if Clarke had sat and Dionne had played and the team had lost 6-0 then many would have pointed to that as part of the reason.
Of course, Clarke was also the team captain, which I had forgotten; I guess it would've been very difficult to 'sack' him. I certainly wasn't impressed by his play, although I don't remember it being awful either. Perreault, Trottier, Bossy, Gillies, Lafleur and Robinson were probably the players that IMO were the best Team NHL players in the series - Mikhailov, Vasiliev, Makarov, V. Golikov, Bilyaletdinov and Kapustin for the Soviets. The Skvortsov-Kovin-Varnakov line also played very well throughout the series, but they were rarely seen together in the Soviet national team after that.

Anyway, I don't remember Dionne doing anything great in the first two games either, and apparently neither did Bowman, since Dionne didn't play in the 3rd game. And maybe it's just me, but I've never been overly impressed by Dionne in these kinds of series/tournaments - with the exception of the 1981 CC round-robin game vs. USSR.

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