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.
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.
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.
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.
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.