Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Team Canada 2010

With the news Monday that Wayne Gretzky will not return as the executive director of the Canadian Olympic hockey team for the upcoming Vancouver Games in 2010 (Gretz took himself out of the running for the GM position, but is still interested in other roles), speculation will run rampant until a new leader is named.

Will it be a tag-team effort from Ken Holland and Steve Yzerman? Maybe Kevin Lowe or Brian Burke? Or if Team Canada really wanted to take the pressure off the players and move it to management, how about both Lowe and Burke together?

The possibilities are almost endless, as will be the rumours that are sure to whip Canadian hockey fans into a frenzy. When it comes to hockey, and more specifically Canadian hockey, we're like 13 year-old girls at a Jonas Brothers concert.

But my question is, does it really matter? I mean, couldn't 90% of the Canadian public put together this roster, or at least 3/4 of it?

The way I see it, 11 forwards are absolute locks for the squad that will attempt to recapture gold in Vancouver:

Jarome Iginla
Sidney Crosby
Vincent Lecavalier
Dany Heatley
Ryan Getzlaf
Rick Nash
Eric Staal
Joe Thornton
Mike Richards
Brendan Morrow
Shane Doan

Yes, there are six centers in that line-up, but I don't see how any of them can be left off the roster. Two of Staal, Vinny and Getzlaf will have to play the wing. The checking-line is set with Morrow, Doan and Mike Richards.

From the looks of it, Canada will be searching for a winger to play in it's top 9 and a 13th forward, one of whom has to be able to kill penalties. If Simon Gagne is healthy and returns to form this season, he fills in the first slot. So all the bubble guys (Jonathan Toews, Martin St.Louis, Jeff Carter, Brad Richards, Patrick Sharp, Nathan Horton, Scott Hartnell, Jordan Staal, Patrice Bergeron, Sean Avery) will be battling for the final spot up front.

Just kidding. The only way Sean Avery will be in Vancouver for the Olympics is if Vogue needs a coffee boy.

One final thought on the front end: Would it be totally ridiculous to consider selecting a shootout specialist? If we've learned anything over the past 15 years in international competition, it's that every game has the potential to be decided by a shootout and odds are that at least one of the biggest games will be. So why not make Toews or Sam Gagner lucky number 13?

The makeup of the back end is in a transitional stage and competition is wide open. Chris Pronger, Dion Phaneuf and Brian Campbell will definitely be on the team. If Scott Niedermayer doesn't retire (or unretire's at any point) he's an automatic. After that, things are pretty hazy. You have several young guys who all have different skillsets but roughly the same amount of overall ability (Jay Bouwmeester, Mike Green, Shea Webber, Dan Hamhuis, Marc Staal) and a few leftovers from the old guard who may or may not have enough left to make a contribution (Robyn Regehr, Wade Redden, Dan Boyle, Ed Jovanovski, Scott Hannan).

One unmentioned name thus far, and a guy who I believe will make the team is Minnesota defenceman Brent Burns. His NHL stats have improved every year and he was easily Canada's best defenceman at the last World Hockey Championship.

Barring injury it's safe to assume Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo will be the first two goalies named to the team, and rightfully so. Marty is perhaps the best goalie ever to play and certainly the most consistently dependable goalie we've seen in 20 years. Luongo didn't have a great season last year, but when it comes to goaltending it's still those two and then everybody else.

Traditionally Canada has gone with a younger goalie as the third string which is bad news for guys like Marty Turco and J.S. Giguere who probably won't have a shot. When you consider the number of young goalies (Cam Ward, M.A. Fleury, Carey Price, Pascal Leclaire) who have developed nicely and have all worn the Maple Leaf in international competition (and won), it's likely the Team Canada brass will again take this route with the selection.

In the end whomever gets the GM job will only have a handful of genuinely tough decisions. He'll have to settle on a couple forwards, perhaps three or four defencemen and a 3rd string goalie who will never see the ice anyway.

So while Hockey Canada and the national media will conduct a full-fledged and all-encompassing search, hyping up the candidates and staging a dramatic selection process so they can find the "right man" to lead us back to Olympic Gold, most people have already figured out who will make the team.

Basically there isn't a wrong pick when the roster is this obvious. Not to say the position as executive director of our Olympic Hockey team isn't important or honourable because it absolutely is. It's just that I would trust almost any Canadian with a pulse to do it.

As long as it's not Cliff Fletcher or John Ferguson Jr., I think we'll be okay.

1 comment:

  1. Bold .. you think Doaner is going to make it? He probably will, but I struggle to consider him as an elite player.

    But your spot on ... anyone who follows hockey would pick very similar teams.