July 31, 2008

Ask The Hockey History Blogger:
Who Will Make Team Canada 2010?


Who is going to make Team Canada
for the 2010 Olympics?

This is a common question I get. Even though I am now more known as the hockey history blogger, it is good to see so many people do remember me for my work in international hockey circles, too.

Kevin Mitts wanted me to join Spector and Eklund in a triangle comparison of who we all thought would make Team Canada 2010. I heard Spector was interested, but I never heard from Eklund. And no date was ever confirmed.

It's early, really early. But it's always fun to do something like this. So I'm going to present my thoughts now, and hopefully Spector, Eklund and everyone else will share there thoughts soon here after.

I'm going to stop just shy of actually predicting who will make the team right now though. It is way too premature to make such predictions, especially with no management or coaching staff in place.

What I present instead is a list of players who are going to be very much on the radar of Team Canada for the following season.

Goaltenders

Favorites: Roberto Luongo, VAN, Martin Brodeur, NJ, Marty Turco, DAL

Contenders: Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT, Carey Price, MTL, Cam Ward, CAR, J.S. Giguere, ANA, Pascal Leclaire, CBJ

As it stands right now the familiar threesome of Luongo, Brodeur and Turco are pretty clearly Canada's top three goalies. I see no reason why not to go with them again. The real story will be which of the three will be the starter, the back up and the spare.

I also see no reason to carry a young star such as Price or Fleury as the spare. I'm not going into buying the development theory - that's what the world championships are for. I believe you go with your best. And since none of the top three will whine if they're not playing, Luongo, Brodeur and Turco are heavy favorites to return.

Defense

Favorites: Scott Niedermayer, Dion Phaneuf, Brent Burns, Brian Campbell, Dan Boyle, Ed Jovanovski, Chris Pronger

Contenders: Mike Green, Jay Bouwmeester, Eric Brewer, Scott Hannan, Chris Phillips, Dan Hamhuis, Shea Weber, Robyn Regehr, Braydon Coburn, Duncan Keith

We really need to know who the GM and coaches will be before picking the blue line crew. Wayne Gretzky might lean towards tried and true experienced defenders. Steve Yzerman or another new GM may be more open to a changing of the guard.

Brian Campbell and Dan Boyle essentially play the same role, so it will be interesting to see if both make the team.

I don't care how good Chris Pronger can be, I've seen him look down right awful at times. I could live without him, though we would need a top shutdown defender to replace him. That might open up a spot for Bouwmeester.

If he can stay healthy Jovanovski is still very capable of having a big impact in a game. He's a Gretzky favorite, and combines speed a physicality. If not, Shea Weber might get the call.


Forwards

Favorites: Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Vincent Lecavalier, Dany Heatley, Rick Nash, Mike Richards, Brendan Morrow, Shane Doan, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Getzlaf, Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, Joe Sakic

Contenders: Derek Roy, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, Simon Gagne, Mike Fisher, Nathan Horton, Ryan Smyth, Brad Richards, Mike Cammalleri, Daniel Briere,

It would be awfully tough to crack a spot amongst Canada's top 13.

Crosby, Iginla, Lecavalier, Heatley and Nash are locks.

Mark my words - Mike Richards will be on this team. A line with Shane Doan and Brendan Morrow seems really solid on paper anyways. Meanwhile Ryan Getzlaf is set to emerge as Canada's next super star forward.

At this point were not sure if Joe Sakic and Simon Gagne will even be playing, and I suspect only one of Jason Spezza/Joe Thornton would make the team. Both need to take their games to the next level. The reward will likely be a scoring line role with Dany Heatley on right wing, and possibly Rick Nash or Ryan Getzlaf on left wing.

St. Louis can't afford to show any drop in play this season, though his speed and chemistry with Lecavalier is indispensable.

Injuries will definitely play a role in the Olympic team's final look. It's a good thing Canada has the depth to deal with such occurrences. Of course that depth pool includes players who, with a strong season, will definitely be added to this list of candidates.


UPDATE: Spector has turned in his list, which can be viewed here.

A few comments.

The most notable name included that shouldn't be is Jason Pominville. Pominville would make a fantastic addition due to his ability on both special teams. However he is a dual citizen and in 2008 played for the United States in the world championships. He is now committed to Team USA for the rest of his international career.

No worries Spector, I almost fell for the same thing!

I agree with Spector about Bouwmeester, although I still think Jovo will get a look if Gretzky is in charge. Spector's defense is more physical than mine, while mine is more mobile. Although the 2010 Olympics will be played on NHL sized ice, something that really has stuck with me about the 2006 Olympic failure was the slow blue line.

I'm not certain guys like Corey Perry or Antoine Vermette have enough to contribute in third or 4th line roles, not like Doan, Morrow, Richards and others can. But, with monstrous seasons this can all change!

THORNTON, SPEZZA: I've been getting a number of emails upset with me for suggesting Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza both have to take their game to a level higher in order to be on Team Canada.

No doubt both are special players, but let's face it: Team Canada 2010's top 2 centers will be Sidney Crosby and Vincent Lecavalier. With Mike Richards almost certainly centering a checking unit, I think Thornton/Spezza will be asked to fill a 3rd line role which will be asked not only to create offense, but commit defensively, win faceoffs, and get their noses dirty.

Both of these players need to take a page out the Dale Hawerchuk book of Team Canada: Accept and excel at a lesser role. By doing so you are actually playing one of the biggest roles on the team.

7 comments:

Bob Roberts said...

It's never too early to speculate about hockey and you don't need to predict. Choose your 2010 team -- here's mine:

#1 Line Morrow/Crosby/Iginla

Hustle,will,hitters,setup,shooters

#2 Line Nash/Lecavlier/St.Louis

Speed,chemistry,setup,shooters

#3 Line Avery/Richards/Doan

Speed,spark,hitters,setup,shooters

#4 Line Toews/J.Staal/Stamkos

Speed,shooters,defense,youth,skills


Defense

Phaneuf/Green/Weber/Burns/Keith/
M.Staal/Robidas

size,strength,speed,shooters,skills,smarts,youth


Goal

Luongo/Fleury/Price

skill/experience/size/youth


PP Unit 1

Morrow/Crosby/Iginla
Phaneuf/Richards

PP Unit 2

Nash/Lecavalier/St.Louis
Green/Burns

PK Unit 1

J.Staal and Richards
Phaneuf/Weber

PK Unit 2

Crosby w/Iginla or Morrow
Keith/Staal

PK Unit 3

Lecavalier w/Avery or St.Louis
Green/Burns

This is great, but I want the games now!

kmitts said...

Joe,

Thanks so much for doind this.

I read it as soon as soon as you posted but haven't had the time to comment.

I think Marty goes, but doesn't start. They'll want his experience, but I think it's Roberto's time. Bob mentioned taking Fleury and Price... I don't see the need for having two goalies without experience at that level.

I don't see Niedermeyer playing. He's still top 3 in the league, but he never if he's going to play. I thought your most surprising choice was Jovanoski.Bob's choice of Staal... I just don't think he'll be ready... though I guess he's got time refine his skills between now and then, and I totally see him being used in later games.

I like the idea of having Mike Richards and Doan there for the third line, with Ryan Smyth. That's not a line I'd want to compete against. I noticed you didn't pick any of the really young guys, what's your reasoning for that? I'm such a fan of the J Staal plays that I'd like to see him there in some capacity. Another thing that surprised me was saying Jumbo Joe needs to take it to the next level. He's one of the top assist men in the league, throw him on a line with any natural score and pucks go in. I guess he didn't excel last year, but he was still top tier.

Joe Pelletier said...

In response to Bob Roberts:

Hi Bob! Thanks for participating. You present a real strong team.

It's so tough to predict right now without a GM in place. In fact I thought we might have had one in place by now. My guess is either Gretzky or Yzerman.

I considered Avery on the watch list. I can't see Gretzky putting up with his sideshow antics, but he and Yzerman have a bit of a history together.

I love Stephane Robidas, but if he's one of Canada's top 7 defensemen we're in trouble.

Marc Staal is probably a bit too young at this stage. Same goes with Stamkos.

Joe Pelletier
http://www.greatesthockeylegends.com

Joe Pelletier said...

In response to Kevin Mitts:

Hi Kevin.

I included Jovo because he quietly had a good year last year, and is a Gretzky favorite. Plus with the games in Vancouver, he could have a monster tournament. He really knows how to raise his game at just the right moment. He also is a good blend of skating and skill with physicality. I kind of wonder about Canada's physical presence on the back end. Jovo could fill the hole nicely.

My comment about Joe Thornton is more about his inability to raise his game in the big games. He still has that playoff choker label, and he played very poorly in Torino. He needs to take a page from the Dale Hawerchuk book of Team Canada and accept a lesser role and excel at it.

Also, I agree with you about Brodeur and Luongo. This is in Luongo's back yard. It is his time.

Joe Pelletier
http://www.greatesthockeylegends.com

kmitts said...

I agree with Joe about Robidas not being one of Canada's premier defenceman... though didn't the much maligned McCabe get to play? I know... cheap shot, I've really got nothing against him as player.

With Jovo's injuries and declining carerr I just don't see him being invited to the team. Hey, maybe Big Burt will have a good year and get the call! Not holding my breath...

What's the link between Yzerman and Avery? He's a great agitator, and there's no denying he's got a decent enough scoring touch, but I think they'd be worried about him being a distraction.

I see your point about Thorton and Spezza. While they may be elite players, they are indeed running behind Sid and Vinny.

How well will Brad Richards have to perform to be taken into consideration.

Master Lok said...

For the fourth line centre - you're looking for a defensive presence, a face off guy and somebody who will get his nose dirty?

If he has a strong season, my darkhorse is Shawn Horcoff.

Bob Roberts said...

Joe -

Sorry to be so long in replying. Who knew summer would be so busy?

I think Avery is the best player right now to provide spark for the team. It's true that his "antics" can be a problem, but having him on this team in this situation I think would filter out any odd impulses. Never mind answering to Gretzky or Yzerman -- how about facing Iginla or Doan or Phaneuf? At the same time the thing is that this guy can PLAY. PP, PK or even strength: he can fly, he can score, and is it such a bad thing to have a guy in the lineup who the other teams are leery of? You have to have a sparkplug guy to win big. If not him, then who?

As for Robidas and Mark Staal -- did you see them in the playoffs?

Robidas STEPPED UP with Zubov out and STARRED. Big hits, big goals, big defensive plays, gets his shot on the net, played the pp and pk. Skated like the wind and no bad penalties. This guy has arrived. Use him as your seventh defenceman.

Mark Staal -- what a playoff! A tiny 8 PIMS in 10 games while averaging 22 minutes of icetime/game with a plus/minus of +4 and 26 hits. Scored a GWG. 6'4", 205. AND THIS IS A ROOKIE. And he'll have another season and a half not to mention 15 or 20 more lbs of muscle under his belt by 2010. Oh, and his age? He's 7 months older than that number 87.

As for Stamkos -- this guy is the proverbial "real deal". He's in the Hockey Dictionary under "Got It All". Speed. Oh, and speed. And he skates like the wind. Puck handling. Passing. Shooting. Playmaking. Vision. And, oh yes, all this at high speed. It was a mistake not to have Crosby last time with 40 career NHL games. Stamkos with 125? Probably having played a lot both even strength and PP with Vinnie and Marty?

It's a little closer to the NHL season, but not close enough!

Drop the puck already.