Posted - 11/26/2009 : 21:58:23
As the Olympic torch departs the great province of Newfoundland, hockey fans across Canada begin to catch the fever that will spread across the great country of Canada in mere months. The first official puck drop to the 2010 Olympic Men's Hockey is approximately three months away. With many Canadian hopefuls trying to play their way on to a roster spot, the final few weeks of the NHL schedule could determine the final selections. Mike Babcock will lead team Canada along side assistants Jacques Lemaire, Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock. Canada will begin their quest for gold on February 16 against Norway.
With so many great hockey players calling Canada home, the final roster announcement could unveil one of many possible outcomes. If Team Canada was announced today and Mr. Yzerman came calling for my assistance, here would be my selections.
Special K's Canadian Roster:
Rick Nash - Sidney Crosby - Jerome Iginla
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Dany Heatley
Vincent Lecavalier - Ryan Getzlaf - Cory Perry
Brendan Morrow - Mike Richards - Shane Doan
Chris Pronger - Scott Niedermayer
Jay Bouwmeester - Dan Boyle
Dion Phaneuf - Duncan Keith
Martin Brodeur - Roberto Luongo
Canada's top line could be the perfect mix of play-makers and finishers. With the creative imagination of both Nash and Crosby, Jerome Iginla provides the perfect winger to finish plays. If this line can gel early in the tournament they could put a lot of pressure on the opposition and allow Canada's other three lines to open up.
It seems unimaginable that an all San Jose Shark line won't be in the plans for Team Canada. Patrick Marleau has done everything possible in the last two years to prove he belongs on the elite list of Canadian players. What makes Marleau so instrumental is the defensive role he would play on the penalty kill. Marleau currently leads the number one penalty unit in the league in San Jose and with teammates Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, could be an overwhelming second scoring line. With many people calling for Dany Heatley to be left off the Canadian roster, it is unlikely that he will. Despite leaving Canada's capital this year he still remains Team Canada's all-time leading goal-scorer with 38 goals and Team Canada's all-time leading point-scorer with 62 points. Despite his professional career, Heatley has always answered the call for his country and as never turned down a chance to play for Canada.
Following the trend of keeping chemistry together Team Canada may select Cory Perry to accompany Ryan Getzlaf on Canada's third line. It would seem that unless Canada named Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis to the roster, Vincent Lecavalier would be an odd man out and could find himself along side Getzlaf and Perry on the wing. Cory Perry offers an interesting mix of skill and grit that could push him far in the minds of Steve Yzerman and Canadian management. There's no denying the chemistry between him and Getzlaf, and Lecavalier has always played well for Canada in the past.
The checking line for Canada will be what defines their success, which makes leadership and experience an asset. Shane Doan will be a lock to make the roster as well Brendan Morrow who looks rejuvenated since his return from injury this season. Mike Richards brings an element to the game that David Booth could best explain. It's speed and grittiness that will be counted on to wear down European teams looking to open up the ice with set plays and dangles. If Canada brings their physical game to Vancouver it will allow the game to be played their way and with a crowd of over 19000 cheering for the host team, should put intimidation into the hearts of all players starring into the maple leaf.
The ageless wonders of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer once again lead Canada's defensive core. Size will play a factor for Canada as big powerful bodies such as Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester will take away space from opposing players. Dan Boyle should make his Olympic debut after being named a reserve in 2006. The final position could go to Duncan Keith who has matured into a solid blue liner over the past few seasons. Shea Weber is a strong possibility to take this roster as well and will not be overlooked. Both defensemen could make the team and gives them a cushion should someone on the blue-line be injured.
On the Bubble:
I don't think it would surprise many to see Ryan Smyth carried as a 10th forward. You can't have a team Canada without "Captain Canada" and his leadership will be carried out in whatever role he is given, whether on ice or not. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis are two possible players who could be looked at based on their chemistry together. An all Tampa Bay line along side Vincent Lecavalier could be to tempting to over look. Steve Yzerman likes Stamkos, "[Stamkos] was a guy we debated down to the last minute," said Yzerman, noting that the depth at the centre position made it tough to narrow the forward group. "He'll still be a player I watch this fall." There will be no shortage of scoring on Team Canada however a player like Jeff Carter or Eric Staal could sneak on should management feel the need to add a goal scorer. Jonathan Toews remains a strong consideration out of Chicago. Toews has looked good since returning from a concussion that forced him to miss six games. However Toews would probably be counted on in a defensive role, one that Patrick Marleau might fill instead. Finally if there ever was a sleeper for Team Canada I would place a long shot bet on Jordan Staal. Staal was an invite to Canada's team orientation camp in Calgary this summer and could fill a defensive role if Canadian management feels the need to add a big shut down player to play against crafty European snipers and play-makers, a role Staal proved he could fill in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs . On defense Canada has one of the deepest depth pools in the world to choose from. It will be interesting to see if long time Canadian representative Ed Jovanovski is left off the roster. Jovanovski has made four World Championships appearances and also played on the gold medal team in Salt Lake City. Mike Green will be a popular vote considering his breakout season last year. His 73 points in 68 games earned him a Norris Trophy nomination however his meek playoff performance has raised questions about his game in big pressure situations. One thing Green does have going for him is his 2008 World Championship performance where he recorded 12 points in 8 games as Canada would go on to lose to Russia in the finals but Green was named to the Tournament All-Star Team. Drew Doughty another Canadian summer invite could get passed over despite his strong play this season because of Canada's strong defensive depth.
Goaltending may be the biggest debate topic when the Team Canada roster is announced at the end of December. While the third goaltending spot could go to either Cam Ward or Marc-André Fleury, it will make little difference. It will be Martin Brodeur or Roberto Luongo between the pipes, with my edge going to Brodeur who has been a model of consistency throughout his career. As I mentioned in a previous article, this seemed to be the big year for Luongo going into the season, coming into his prime and playing in front of his home team city, it seemed almost destiny. A mediocre start to the season followed by a fractured rib which caused him to miss a few weeks and now he might have fallen to far behind. Cam Ward's injury looks to be the final dagger in his Team Canada bid after a horrible start to his season. Stanley Cup winner and possible Canada goalie of the future Marc-André Fleury should nail down the third goalie spot. Although Fleury will not see the ice during the tournament, it is a big step for him as he continues to earn the respect he lacked early in this career.
Debating the final Team Canada roster will continue across the country until its officially announced on December 29th. One thing that won't be debated is the skill that will represented in Vancouver at the 2010 Winter Olympics. No matter how you slice the team down, Canada will be very competitive and a gold medal favorite.
Kent Kean writes for www.SchoolYourPool.com, the most complete fantasy hockey advice website on the internet. Featuring player and prospect rankings and interviews, daily starting goalies, buy low/sell high, injury reports, goalie carousel, and lots more...come on over to www.schoolyourpool.com and Get Educated!
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