One of the interesting things Team Canada 2010 did was to include elite role players at the expense of more offense. In fact 8 of Canada's top 15 scorers in the NHL were actually left off the 2010 Olympic team, including the NHL's highest scoring defenseman.
Steve Yzerman, Mike Babcock and company obviously studied their Canadian hockey history. Successful Canadian hockey teams of the past have included elite role players.
Yzerman knows that more intimately than anyone. In 1987 and again in 1991 Yzerman, the NHL's third best offensive player, was not invited to the victorious Canada Cup teams.
Instead Canada brought along guys like Brent Sutter, Kevin Dineen, Rick Tocchet, Dirk Graham and, on defense, Normand Rochefort and Mark Tinordi.
The 2010 Canadian Olympic team includes Brendan Morrow, Mike Richards, Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron. All four are likely to fill out Canada's last line and 13th forward spot, yet all are excellent candidates to move up to any of the scoring lines whenever Canada needs a little grit or emotion.
The next key to the championship puzzle will be for coach Babcock to get superstar players to accept lesser roles than they normally have played. That's what Mike Keenan was able to do most famously with Dale Hawerchuk in 1987.
Who is the candidate most likely to be asked to accept lower roles in 2010? How about Jarome Iginla?
Many people expect Iginla, a star of 2002 and arguably the best player of the decade, to play on the top line with Sidney Crosby. But Iginla provides a physical presence unlike most of Canada's star forwards. In order to maximize that element in Canada's game plan, Iginla very possibly could find himself playing with Richards and Morrow on what would be an excellent grind line. He could move up and down from Crosby's line depending on the tempo of the game.
Iginla an excellent candidate for this because he is a leader. He knows he can maximize the role players contribution by being part of them. He can influence the rest of the team by doing so, especially when he does move up to the scoring lines.
Iginla understands the importance of someone accepting a lesser role. He understands that in doing so he may be playing the most important role of all.
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