The World Cup of Hockey just lost one of its marque attractions.
Hockey Canada announced on Tuesday that Jamie Benn, who underwent core muscle surgery earlier this summer, has not healed sufficiently and won't be available for the eight-team tournament that begins in Toronto on Sept. 17. San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture has been added to the 23-man roster in his place.
Although Couture is an outstanding player—he led the NHL in assists (20) and points (30) during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs—the loss of Benn leaves a massive hole in Canada's lineup. The 27-year-old left wing has emerged as one of the game's few truly elite players during the past two seasons. The Dallas Stars captain has been a First Team All-Star in two of the past three years and was a finalist for the Hart Trophy in 2015-16. Over the past three seasons, only Sidney Crosby (273) has scored more points than Benn's 255.
But Canada wasn't simply counting on his scoring. Benn is a premier power forward whose physical presence was critical to Canada's Olympic gold medal win in Sochi two years ago and his reliable defensive zone play also made him a favorite of coach Mike Babcock. Given his unique skill set, he's arguably the one player, outside of goaltender Carey Price, that this team couldn't afford to lose.
Does this diminish Canada's standing as the clear tournament favorites? Not necessarily, but as one of just two natural left wings on the roster (Brad Marchand is the other), it creates a challenge for Babcock and his staff. And without Benn's big body working the corners and the slot, the game against a physical Team USA on Sept. 20 just became a whole lot more interesting.