The NHL and the NHLPA got creative when they devised teams for the World Cup of Hockey, which kicks off in Toronto on Sept. 17. Sure, star-studded rosters representing Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia and the Czech Republic were no-brainers.
But organizers then added a European team made up of players from countries not competing in the tournament as well as a North American team made up of that continent's best players aged 23 and under. But even with all those creative ways of adding teams, some prominent and talented players will be missing from the tournament.
Which raises a question: How would a team made up entirely of snubs contend at the World Cup?
It's not an outlandish concept, especially considering Canada could probably ice a second World Cup team with enough talent to at least compete.
The first step in finding out for sure was to compile a full 23-man roster made up entirely of players not named to any of the tournament's eight teams. Which is exactly what we did:
This group was diluted recently by late roster additions. Kyle Palmieri was added to the American roster to replace the injured Ryan Callahan while Logan Couture was recently named to a Canadian team that lost Jamie Benn, who is recovering from abdominal surgery. Even with those two players removed from the talent pool, the all-snubs team features an awfully impressive group up front.
It starts with a top line made up of three All-Stars in Canadians Hall and Perry, and American Johnson. All three could have -- some might say should have -- earned greater consideration for a roster spot on their respective national teams. Especially Perry, who is a Hart Trophy winner, Stanley Cup champion, three-time All-Star and all-world agitator.
After them comes a bruising second line centered by American Bjugstad that would have been arguably the tournament's most terrifying trio. The group, featuring Bjugstad flanked by Canada's Lucic and Simmonds, boasts an average height of 6-foot-4 and average weight of 211 pounds. The third line should have instant chemistry with Johansen skating alongside his Nashville Predators linemate and fellow Canadian Neal.
"Johansen is a little young but they sure work well together. James Neal is a great player who works hard. The two of then would be very good together," said longtime Predators assistant coach and current broadcaster Brent Peterson, who loved the idea of the speedy Kessel playing the other wing on their line. "That would be an awesome line. You've got speed, you've got tenacity, two guys who can score with a guy who likes to set them up. Johansen can score, but he's looking for Neal all the time."
Add a fourth unit centered by All-Star Ryan O'Reilly and this is a formidable group.
On practically any other team in this tournament, either Canadians Giordano or Subban would have been considered a shoe-in for the top pair. That Team Canada called on Jay Bouwmeester to replace the ailing Duncan Keith over either of them was something of a controversial move.
"Subban and Giordano would be amazing, and T.J. Brodie would be another guy that I would throw in there," said longtime NHL goaltender and current broadcaster Jamie McLennan. "T.J. Brodie's really good. He's one of those guys who distributes the puck really well and makes everyone around him better."
Hampus Lindholm would have earned consideration for this group had he not been called on to sub in for Niklas Kronwall on the Swedish team. Instead, his Anaheim Ducks teammate Cam Fowler of Canada skates alongside one of the world's top young defensemen in John Klingberg. That Klingberg won't be skating for Sweden speaks to that team's all-world depth along the blue line. American All-Stars Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Faulk shore up a defensive group that any nation would be happy to have.
The truly elite goalkeepers will be stacking their pads at the World Cup, and they'll mostly be suiting up for Canada, Finland and the United States. Some of the game's top goaltenders will likely be relegated to tournament third-string duty, including two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford of Canada. Just three months after leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup win, Matt Murray finds himself battling John Gibson to be the No. 1 for Team North America.
Taking all that into consideration, this team of also-rans would likely turn to some of the NHL's more experienced backstops, with one notable exception.
Considering his consistent play and unflappable demeanor through the 2016 playoffs, Jones might have shown enough to shine in this international tournament. A backup before emerging with the San Jose Sharks last season, Jones already has some international experience, having won silver at the 2010 World Junior Championships and gold at the 2015 World Championships for Canada.
"People just waited for Martin Jones to show he could be a starter, and he did last year. He proved any doubters wrong," said McLennan, who wouldn't mind seeing one other big-name goaltender added to this group. "What about Roberto Luongo? I know he's coming off hip surgery. If he wasn't injured, maybe that's a guy I'd have on this list."
Overall, this would likely be the thinnest position on an otherwise stacked roster. But the unit still includes a pair of All-Stars in Canadians Dubnyk and Elliott and wouldn't be considered a team flaw by any measure.