Robitaille on Team Canada

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by GMR, Aug 16, 2017.

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  1. GMR

    GMR Registered User

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    I apologize if this has been brought up before, but why didn't he play for team Canada in 1996, 1998 and 2002? Was he injured at the time or was there some dispute with the coaching staff/management?

    Although his best offensive years were behind him, he was better than most of the wingers Canada chose for those tournaments. Shanahan was arguably the only left winger at that time that you could place ahead of Robitaille.
     
  2. arrbez

    arrbez bad chi

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    Paul Kariya as well, in terms of natural LWers.

    It's probably a combination of Robitaille slowing down, Canada always carrying extra centres on the wing, and him being a fairly one-dimensional player with weak skating.
     
  3. BraveCanadian

    BraveCanadian Registered User

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    This. Particularly the weak skating for tournaments that were on the big ice.
     
  4. JackSlater

    JackSlater Registered User

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    Bad timing for Robitaille. Also, keep in mind that Canada generally liked its depth wingers to either have great speed or a lot of grit, with neither being Robitaille's strength. Among Canadian LWs at the time, Kariya was definitely ahead (though injured in 1996 and 1998) as was Shanahan. Brind'Amour generally played LW for Canada (took some shifts at centre as well) and he was better than Robitaille over this span. Damphousse took a LW spot in 1996, but he was a better player than Robitaille by that point. The depth wingers in 1996 were gritty guys like Verbeek, Primeau, Linden, Fleury. Even Daze was an alternate ahead of Robitaille, though that was probably in prat due to potential. As mentioned Canada liked (and still likes) converted centres, so that hurt Robitaille too. Add in the Robitaille had disappointing seasons from 1996-1998 and that the 2002 team made a concerted effort to include quality skaters (leading to Stevens' not being selected as well) and it makes sense that he was cut.

    There would have been ridiculous competition, but had NHLers participated in the 1994 Olympics I do think that Robitaille makes it, probably on the fourth line. Hockey Canada likes its head scratchers though so it's no lock at all.
     
  5. 86Habs

    86Habs Registered User

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    Robitaille was also on the 1991 Canada Cup team and was unimpressive despite playing a fairly prominent role on the Messier line (3 points in 8 games). I watched the Canadian games from the tournament fairly recently and thought he looked completely out of place on that team, though of course it was coached by Keenan so Robitaille's skillset may not have been leveraged to its fullest capability in that context (similarly, I didn't think Goulet was particularly good in 1987). I know the 1996 and 1998 teams had vastly different coaching staffs (and philosophies), but his 1991 performance may have soured the establishment on him a bit. Who knows.

    What I do know is that: 1) it was essentially top 6 or bust for Robitaille with the way Canadian forward lines were constructed during that era; 2) Robitaille didn't have particularly impressive seasons circa '95 to '98; 3) he was beaten fair and square by better players (Shanahan, Damphousse) in 1996 for a top 6 role; and 4) was in the middle of probably the worst season of his career in 1998. Put it this way - while there were a few players on the 1998 who clearly had no business being there (Corson, Zamuner, Primeau), Robitaille wasn't the worst omission.
     
  6. JackSlater

    JackSlater Registered User

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    I have little recollection of the 1991 Canada Cup other than that it was a grinder's paradise. Those games never get replayed and haven't been released on DVD. Just not attractive hockey, both in terms of style and competition level, somewhat akin to the 2014 Olympics.

    I agree that Robitaille wasn't a bad omission in 1998. He shouldn't have made the team, and he wouldn't have been a good fit for what Clarke was going for. 1996 with Sather at the helm would have been the best stylistic fit for Robitaille, but as said he wasn't playing particularly well and shouldn't have made the team on merit. Looking at it again though, it is kind of funny that Graves made it at LW over Robitaille. I have little doubt that Robitaille could have at least matched Graves' performance. Considering that the fourth line was Brind'Amour - Yzerman - Fleury (I think) it is really hard to figure Graves out, other than that he was Messier's linemate at times and they had been successful.
     
  7. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Slow down there, son! The '91 Canada Cup was in fact great hockey, fast-paced and enjoyable. It wasn't the most "edge-of-yer-seat" hockey in that Team Canada was sort of always in the driver's seat and the Soviet Union was gone, etc., but it was really good hockey.

    It'll always be a special for me, personally, because it's the last time to see Gretzky as his best (or nearly his best), and also a lot of my favorite players (Courtnall, Robitaille, Larmer, Steve Smith) were on that team and were not on other such clubs.
    I didn't think Robitaille was too bad in '91, but I did think Graves was pretty awful in '96. He just did not have the speed + skill to play there. (At least Robitaille had the skill.)
     
  8. FerrisRox

    FerrisRox Registered User

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    Big ice and poor skating.
     
  9. GMR

    GMR Registered User

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    I'm not sure that was really the issue. The big ice and speed is something the Canadian team emphasizes more now.

    As someone said, grit and size was what the teams back then seemed to care about. Guys like Graves, Nolan, Smyth, Verbeek, Shanahan were coveted not for their skating and stick handling abilities in open ice. I don't know why Zamuner was on the team, but that deserves its own thread.
     
  10. vadim sharifijanov

    vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    messier's son vs a frenemy of gretzky? gee i wonder who makes the team...
     
  11. ehhedler

    ehhedler Registered User

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    Both Robitaille and Recchi were passed on for those teams, rightfully or not I don't know.

    Both were at stages at their careers at that time, around 95–99, where they didn't shine the brightest. Recchi in Montreal where he was kinda overshadowed or at least neutralized by Damphousse and Robitaille in Pittsburgh and New York where he didn't set the league on fire.

    Then Recchi went back to Philly and led the league in assists. Robitaille had two productive seasons with the Kings in 99–01.

    Big ice probably didn't help them though, to find pleasant roles. Fleury and Shanahan always felt a tier more relevant internationally.

    Linden at this time, around 96, was highly thought of and had come off an 80 point season.
     
  12. 86Habs

    86Habs Registered User

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    My dad had the foresight to tape all of the Canadian games from 1991 on VHS and I had them converted to DVD a few years. Like The Panther said, the hockey was relatively uncompetitive but it's interesting watching guys like Graham, Courtnall, and Larmer suit up for Team Canada. And Lindros. And of course you had a ton of young stars on the other teams. Maybe it's just nostalgia, as I was 11 years old when the tournament occurred during my peak hockey-watching and card-collecting days, but I've always had vivid and mostly fond memories of the 1991 Canada Cup.

    And yeah, regarding 1996 it's a little odd seeing Graves there (Verbeek too). My recollection is that Messier centered a line with Graves and Claude Lemieux. I assume that's how they sketched out the lineup during training camp - with some composition of those three or four players in an in-your-face, energy-type role. If that's the case, Graves was a better selection than someone like Robitaille obviously, and you get the benefit of a little chemistry between Graves and Messier.

    Shanahan - Sakic - Lindros
    Damphousse - Gretzky - Linden
    Graves - Messier - Lemieux
    Brind'Amour - Yzerman - Fleury
    Primeau, Verbeek

    There was really little room for someone like Robitaille in that lineup, though it would have been interesting to see which of the LWers would have been bumped for Kariya had he been healthy.
     
  13. JackSlater

    JackSlater Registered User

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    Yeah, we can all imagine how it went down given the former Edmonton players and Sather as the head of the management team. It seemed obvious at the time anyway.

    It definitely seems like Robitaille wasn't all that close to making the team. Originally the team had Mario Lemieux, Francis and Kariya before all three pulled out. Graves was added (presumably to replace LW Kariya) and Damphousse was added, but they didn't even bother adding a third replacement forward. It could well have been Robitaille, but it just as well could have been Recchi/Oates/Turgeon.

    Your memories of the 1991 tournament are stronger and more detailed than mine. I was glad for the win, but it was almost a cumbersome tournament in my eyes. Canada took a needlessly grinder based team, made its biggest snub ever on Yzerman (my favourite player then and now) and still walked all over everyone. The timing of the tournament wasn't particularly good either given the situation in Russia and how USA/Sweden hadn't seen their new generations fully develop yet.

    It seems like Graves was the replacement for Kariya.

    https://www.hockeycanada.ca/en-ca/news/1996-nr-038-en

    To me this indicates that they didn't want to replace what Kariya brought but instead just went in a different direction. Robitaille was by far the best available scoring LW. I would guess that if Kariya had been there, he goes with Grezky, then Brind'Amour goes with Messier and Damphousse goes with Yzerman. Those are good lines.
     
  14. 86Habs

    86Habs Registered User

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    The Yzerman fiasco in 1991 has been beaten to death on these boards, and is as inexplicable now as it was in 1991. Sometimes I think to myself that Keenan put that team together almost out of spite, and to show the hockey world that he could win an international tournament with Gretzky and a bunch of his "type" of players.

    While Yzerman made the final team in 1996, I seem to recall him being a healthy scratch for the first two games. I do remember his line (with Brind'Amour and Fleury) being our most consistent line later in the tournament, particularly in the Sweden game.

    Huh, nice find. Certainly Graves was the replacement, then. No to take anything away from Graves, but that team would have gotten a massive uplift with a healthy Kariya there instead of him.
     

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