Back in the summer of 2008, I took a really early look at potential candidates for Team Canada 2010.
Now that we are past the half way point in the 2008-09 season, let's review that list and see who is playing themselves into consideration, not to mention off the list.
Goaltenders - In the summer I said:
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
With serious injuries to Luongo and Brodeur, combined with a terrible start to the season for Turco, Canada's locks in the crease are no longer guaranteed.
Luongo will be on this team, health permitting. Brodeur is still likely, although the 37 year old has to show a return to form following a lost season due to major injury. He needs a strong start to the 2009-10 season.
Turco, soon to be 34, has turned his season around somewhat, but youngsters Carey Price and Steve Mason are too good to ignore.
Defense - In the summer I said:
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
Niedermayer and Pronger have had average seasons at best so far. It is hard to imagine either leader not on the team, but at some point you have to move on. That is a lesson Team Canada should have learned in 2006, and before that back in 1996. Niedermayer has a brilliant hockey mind, while Pronger provides a physical presence on the small ice that is not abundant amongst Canada's elite d-men. If these Olympics were played back on larger ice, where Pronger has really struggled, he would be an obvious cut in my mind. On the small ice he may be able to redeem himself.
Danny Boyle should be a lock, as is Dion Phaneuf despite some growing pains this season. Shea Weber making the biggest gains this season, and like Phaneuf offers the physical game. Right-handed Mike Green's offensive game is as intriguing as Robyn Regehr's shut down game. And one of either Jay Bouwmeester or Brent Burns, blessed with size and skating, should make it. If one of Niedermayer or Pronger are cut, then both should included.
With Wayne Gretzky not managing nor likely coaching, Ed Jovanovski's name can be withdrawn from consideration. Hannan, Phillips, Hamhuis, Coburn and Brewer have not had strong enough seasons to to warrant serious consideration either.
Those players were all dark horses that I felt Canada should keep their eyes on. One I did not name and should have was Marc-Eduoard "Pickles" Vlasic in San Jose. He has very quietly been a force on the NHL's best team this year, the San Jose Sharks.
Forwards - In the summer I said:
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,
I don't think there has been a whole lot of movement off the favorites list here.
Crosby, Iginla, Lecavalier, Heatley, Richards, Nash, Getzlaf, and Thornton have to be locks, health willing. Add Simon Gagne to that list. He has proven recovered from his scary concussion.
That is 9 forwards right there. Somehow you have to include Jeff Carter, who is battling Alexander Ovechkin for the NHL goal scoring lead, not to mention is a strong penalty killer. Assuming Getzlaf plays left wing, Canada has Crosby, Lecavalier, Thornton, Carter and Richards at center. That's a nice problem to have.
It is hard to imagine Shane Doan not returning, so now we're up to 11 forwards. And I haven't even mentioned the renaissance of Patrick Marleau. Marleau is a strong two way player, and more versatile than Ottawa's Jason Spezza or Boston's Marc Savard.
Derek Roy remains an interesting option, but everyone else on the prior list needs to up their games.
If The Games Started Today
The men's hockey tournament starts on February 16th, 2010, a full year away. But here's my best guess as to what Team Canada may look like if the games started today, and everyone was healthy:
Niedermayer - Boyle
Phaneuf - Weber
Pronger - Green
Gagne - Crosby - Iginla
Getzlaf - Lecavalier - Heatley
Nash - Thornton - Marleau
Roy - Carter - Richards
Without a doubt, if you were to pick the team now, Savard would be second line centre ahead of Lecavalier and Thornton.
He's a two-way player, heads up, and can make decent players into great players.
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