Once every 4 years, hockey fans around the globe are treated to a display of hockey like none other: the Winter Olympics….And for a year leading up to said Winter Olympics, every journalist in Canada makes their picks as to who should wear the Maple Leaf and represent Canada in the two week tournament to decide who is the world power of hockey.
First, a little background: Canada spent an entire 50-year span wallowing in mediocrity in Olympic hockey… until 2002 in Salt Lake City when the whole country was pulled together by 23 players. Led by the aging Mario Lemieux, the team brought home gold thanks to great play, great defence, great goaltending, great coaching, and one small loonie buried under center ice. In 2006, the location was Italy and the outcome was disastrous, as Team Canada not only was denied a medal, but played without heart and finished in a distant 6th place. In Canada, the only option is to finish first (even 2nd place is a disappointment), so a 6th place showing was a setback to Hockey Canada as a whole.
Now, heading into 2010, expectations are high! They are led
by a new superstar, Sidney Crosby, and even have home ice advantage, as the tournament will be hosted at Canada’s left coast, Vancouver. I hate to throw more weight on the back of Canada’s heroes, but anything less than gold will be a complete and utter failure.
I refuse to call myself a journalist, but because I write a column, I get to put my $0.02 into who I think should be representing up in Vancouver. These are my opinions, and are meant to be discussion points. Please add some comments to tell me if you think I have the roster dead on, or if you think I am crazy!
The Shoe-In Line: Nash-Crosby-Iginla
Is there any question about these three players? Guessing these three are going to make the team is as easy as guessing Canuck fans will bail on their team as soon as they hit a 5 game losing streak. GUARENTEED! I am just curious if Sid knows how to play with wingers that aren’t softer than Charmin (Malkin).
The Shark Line: Thornton-Marleau-Heatley
Why break up the highest scoring line in the league? Because one of them turns soft in games that count? Cause another hates playing in Northern Alberta? And because the third couldn’t lead a cat out of a wet paper bag? Not enough reason for me! Keep the line together!
The Young Line: Getzlaf-Carter-Perry
This is where things get a little cloudier. I am taking two scorers off of one of the worst teams in the NHL (Anaheim), and throwing them in with a big centre man who hates to get his hands dirty. It’s pretty easy to say right now that these three would be a LOCK to be on Team Canada in 2014 in Russia. On a side note, these three played together in Grand Forks during the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship, so maybe they can reignite that gold medal flare.
The Checking Line: M. Richards-B. Richards-B. Morrow
These lines get harder to predict the deeper we get. As usual, Canada needs to have a checking line to shut down the likes of Russia’s top line (Malkin-Ovechkin-Kovalchuk), and there aren’t many top-line penalty killers and defensive forwards who can still play a regular shift out there other than this trio. I love the idea of having a shutdown line that can put up 75 goals an NHL season, combined. Depth is where Canada will dominate the other teams.
The Extra’s: Stamkos
On my Team Canada, the ‘Extra’ rostered player came down to two people, Steve Stamkos and Shane Doan. It was youth and potential vs. leadership and experience, and for me, I took the potential. This team is stacked with true leaders (basically everyone minus Thornton and Marleau) so having another Up-And-Comer on the team that can take this experience forward to 2014 is important.
No team in the tournament will be able to match up Blue-Lines against what Team Canada’s line-up will look like. This group of six (plus one spare) is chalk full of talent, experience, scoring, toughness, and overall Canadian-style grit. The best part is that there is a talent pool large enough that Steve Yzerman can take scorers that are still tough, and stay-at-home’ers that are still quick. It’s quite a great dilemma to have to choose from this group.
The Smashers: Pronger-Regehr
How would you like to be a smallish, European forward flying down the wing with these two monsters lining you up? Its lights out for the likes of Hemskey!
The Shooters: D. Boyle-D. Keith
Personally, I think Duncan Keith is one of the most under-rated D-men in the NHL today. He is defensively consistent in all three zones and can be that trigger man on the point for the power play. Dan Boyle is nothing but one the best two-way D-men in the league. He would also make for four Sharks on the Olympic team, which as a Flames fan, I love. The more Sharks NOT getting rest, the better!
Ok, ‘The Skaters’ isn’t the best title for these two, but I had to go along with the alliteration of the category. Really, what I wanted to call these two was the ‘All-Arounders’, but if you’ve ever watched these guys play hockey you know why I went with the skaters. Bouwmeester’s skating has been described in the past as being ‘sex on ice’… it’s just so fluid and smooth. But the best part of these two is that they can also be a formidable duo when it comes to stopping the opposition and turning the puck up ice to the talented group of forwards.
The Spare: Weber
Weber would be a top four D-Man on any other country’s blue line in the Olympics. Unfortunately for Shea (remind me never to name my boy that!), there is just too much bloody depth at the position on Team Canada.
I would like to give a massive shout out to Drew Doughty as well. If the Olympics were in 2011, he would be a shoe-in for the team. I wouldn’t blame you for ordering a Team Canada Doughty jersey… you’d be able to wear it for YEARS to come.
The goalies are the easiest roster spots to fill on Team Canada. The only question is which one of these all-stars is going to backstop Canada as the games become more important. My guess is that it will be Marty because of A) his past Olympic experience and B) his great name! Fleury probably won’t even lace up the skates at all in the tourney unless an injury occurs, but he could be anointed the new starter for Canada in 2014, as Brodeur’s run as ‘Canada’s Goalie’ may be nearing an end. Although he does have one more Gold Medal run in those pads of his.
The Starter: Brodeur
The Backup: Luongo
The Youth: Fleury
As I was writing this article, I realized just how much depth Canada has at all positions. I started having some gruesome thoughts about ‘what if Team Canada was in a plane crash on Feb 6th, who would be on the second Team Canada, and how would they finish in the Olympics?’ Honestly, I think Canada should be able to put in two teams (hell, we get to put in MULTIPLE speed skaters, and bobsledders… why not hockey teams too???) and I think this second one would push for a silver or bronze. The weakest part would be goaltending, and even that is better than most other countries! (Names in bold have the best chance of still making Team Canada.)
M. St. Louis – P. Bergeron – M. Camallarri
D. Penner – Eric Staal – J. Spezza
J. Toews – J. Neal – V. Lecavalier
M. Lucic – M. Savard – R. Smyth
STILL: W. Wolski, N. Horton, D. Roy, J. Tavares
M. Green – D. Doughty
B. Seabrook – D. Phaneuf
T. Myers – B. Campbell
F. Beauchiman – M. Staal
M. Green – D. Doughty
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