With the announcement that Steve Yzerman will be the Executive Director of the 2010 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team, I have decided to help make Stevie Y's choice a bit easier, by tracking my picks for the 2010 Roster over the next year and a bit.
After the abortion that was the 2006 Olympics, I think that Hockey Canada has learned a few things. As heartless as it sounds, they need to ignore past loyalties to the program, instead focusing on the present and the future. This is what worked in 2002, and again in 2004 for the World Cup. They focused on the best players available, and paid no mind of the players who have been loyal to Hockey Canada. With only a finite roster size, they can not afford to make any loyalty driven picks such as Kris Draper was in 2006, or a gamble like Todd Bertuzzi was at the same year. Having those players on the ice while Jason Spezza and Eric Staal watched from the press box, and a rookie Sidney Crosby watched from North America, is an absolute crime to hockey.
One of the strengths of the 2002 team was that it was able to combine a group of proven winners such as Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, and Joe Sakic, with some hungry young players like Simon Gange and Jarome Iginla, and some hungry veterans who had never quite reached the mountain top including Eric Lindros and Owen Nolan. Also, with the only exception of Mike Peca, they did not take a single defensive forward, instead forcing usual offensive threats Theo Fleury and Joe Niewendyk into those roles. This also enable those checking forwards to break out and create a scoring chance in the wide open Olympic game. With current crop of exciting and dynamic young players, this should be able to be done with little problems.
2006 Roster: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Marty Turco
Martin Brodeur has essentially secured himself a place between the pipes on Team Canada whenever he wants it. He truly cemented himself as a legendary performer in 2002, and could easily ride on those coat tails for the rest of his career. That being said, he is still one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL, and is on pace to shatter all goaltending records, probably by the end of this season. He has to be considered a lock for this position, and a favourite for the starting position.
His biggest competition for the starting spot comes from fellow 2006 alumni, Roberto Luongo. Luongo has been dazzling for his entire NHL career, even when the teams in front of him have struggled. He has defied tradition and been named the Captain of his team, so he definitely brings a great deal of character to the locker room. At the end of the day, it will all come down to whoever is playing better at the time between he and Broduer. I'll give it to Martin, but only barely.
Turco has to be considered in the running for the ellusive third spot on this roster, but he faces some stiff comeptition from the likes of Cam Ward, and J-S Gigure, who have the edge over Turco in terms of a winning pedigree. However, I think that the third spot will go to the future of Canadian Goaltending, Carey Price. Yes, he's young, yes he sturggled in the playoffs last season, but he is going to be the answer. Brodeur and Luongo will not be around forever, and they will need someone to carry the torch for them and Price is the best answer. Even if he does not see any action in the tournament (like Ed Belfour in 2002), the experience he will gain will prove invaluable for future teams.
Glen's Picks for 2010:
Reserve: Carey Price
2006 Roster: Rob Blake, Jay Bouwmeester, Adam Foote, Bryan McCabe, Chris Pronger, Wade Redden, Robyn Regehr Reserves: Dan Boyle, Injured: Scott Niedermayer, Ed Jovanovski
As much blame for the Torino failures that gets places on the forwards, it is hard not to look at this squad and wonder if it really is the best players we had available. Granted injuries to Niedermayer and Jovanovski hurt, but this defense really lacked the same star power that the 2002 team had.
So what needs fixing? For starters, both Rob Blake and Adam Foote are in the twilight of their careers, so are easy to be cut. While I do feel that Boyle, McCabe and Redden will have good years this season, I don't see them in the same company as the elite defensemen that are emerging in the new NHL, so get rid of them too. As much as I like both Jovanovski and Regehr, I don't see either of them having the speed required to perform on an international ice surface, and both of them narrowly missing out on the cut to younger, more skilled defensemen.
This leaves only Neidermayer (my pick for Captain of the team), Pronger, and Bouwmeester returning. Leaving four spots on the main roster, and one on the reserves for a host of fantastic players.
Allow me to start with the obvious choice, Dion Phaneuf. He is easily in the top five defensemen in the league, and should be considered a lock to be on the top pairing, shadowing the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Alexander Ovechkin.
Speaking of Ovechkin, the next most obvious candidate is a teammate of his, Mike Green. Green exploded last season, emerging very quickly as one of the leagues pre-eminant offensive blueliners. He figures to play a prominant role on the power-play, plus he practices regularly against the Russian Superstar, and may be able to exploit a weakness of his, if there is one.
Another player who rapidly emerged last season, is Minnesota Wild Defenseman, Brent Burns. Despite palying on one of the most defensively minded teams in the NHL, he was still able to rack up a respectable amount of power play points, while being a physical threat. He also performed well above expectations in the World Championships, which has to make him a favourite to play on this team.
For the last roster, and one reserve spot, I expect them to be split between youth and experience. For experience, the best of the players who were not part of the 2006 team have to be Chris Phillips, Dan Boyle, and Brian Campbell. While the Sens fan in me would love to see Phillips put on the red sweater, I think that the choice has to be Campbell, who should figure prominently in the Blackhawks renassaince over the next few seasons. As for youth, the decision is much tougher, as Braydon Cobourn, Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis, Marc Staal, and Duncan Keith should make serious cases to be drafted, saying nothing for rookie sensation (and former World Junior Captain) Karl Alzner. Choosing from that list of elite palyers is tough no doubt, however, I think that at the end of the day, someone is going to remember Shea Weber (along with Dion Phaneuf) absolutely embarassing both Ovechkin and Malkin in the 2005 World Junior Championships, and decide that pair just needs to be reunited. This would actually push Campbell to the reserve, which given the glut of offensive talent on the blue-line, is not as big of a loss as to be expected.
Glen's Pick for 2010:
Phaneuf - Weber
Pronger - Burns
Niedermayer - Bouwmeester
2006 Roster: Todd Bertuzzi, Shane Doan, Kris Draper, Simon Gagne, Dany Heatley, Jarome Iginla, Vincent Lecavalier, Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, Martin St. Louis, Joe Thornton Reserves: Jason Spezza, Eric Staal
Now here is where things get really interesting. As mentioned earlier, Todd Bertuzzi and Kris Draper are out. As great of a two-way players as Brad Richards and Ryan Smyth are, neither of them have the real raw talent anymore that some of our other options do, so count them out. Martin St. Louis is a great play-maker, but he is getting older, and could easily be replaced by a number of younger players. If Gagne is able to fully recover from his concussion and score 40 goals this season, then he would be a lock for this team, unfortunetly I just do not see that happening, leaving him out of the running. Shane Doan should be in contention for the roster, however I see him being a last minute bump. Lastly, there is Joe Sakic, a true legend, and one of the all time greats. He decided at the last minute to return for this season, and could potentially return next year, but he will be 40 at the start of the Olympics, so I expect him to sit this one out.
This leaves only Heatley, Iginla, Lecavalier, Nash, and Thornton from the main roster, with Spezza and Staal being obvious call ups from the reserves, freeing up six spots on the main roster, and two spots for reserves.
The most obvious addition, is the most obvious ommission from the 2006 squad, Sidney Crosby. In 2005-06, he was on his way to a 102 season, and was the obvious future of Canadian hockey, yet was somehow left off of the team. This will be his team to lead, and he is a given for the teams first line centre.
With Nash and Heatley already on this team, you need to look no further than the third member of their dominant line at the 2008 World Hockey Championships, Anaheim Ducks centre, Ryan Getzlaf. He is a rapidly emerging two-way forward, who already has a Stanley Cup ring. Plus, the unreal chemistry exhibited with Nash and Heatley make him a no brainer.
Getzlaf's teammate in Anaheim, Correy Perry, is growing into an elite power forward. He can hit, score, and shut down. I see him taking Doan's spot on the checking line, and filling in a similar role to Theoren Fleury in 2002, only with less backage.
Joining Perry as a two-way shut down player, is one of the most improved players over the past 12 months, Flyers centre Mike Richards. He really has the talent to do it all, and he saw a great deal of time in the playoffs against both Ovechkin and Malkin.
The third member of the International Grind Line should be Dallas Captain, Brenden Morrow. He proved throughout the playoffs that he is a leader who can step it up in big time situations. He has the physical presence to work players down, and the offensive upside to capitalize on their mistakes.
This leaves only one spot on the main roster, and two reserve spots open for a whole host of talented, young players. I think that Hockey Canada should have learned from their mistakes in not taking Crosby last time, by giving a roster spot to one of the next young phenoms. I would give it to Steven Stamkos over Jonathan Tavares, just because Stamkos is a year older, and has more experienece at the World Junior level.
The final two spots are going to be difficult to fill. However, I think that the spot on the main roster has to go to one of the most dynamic players in the new NHL, who has proven his talent at the International Level, even playing in the World Championships before the NHL, Jonathan Toews. I could see his speed meshing well with the likes of Jason Spezza for some reason.
The last spot, on the reserve, has a great deal of potential, with the likes of Jordan Staal, Derek Roy, Brad Boyes, and Jeff Carter all having tremendous upsides. However, I think that the real star on the rise, who can paly both ends is Florida Panthers centre/winger, Nathan Horton. He is going to be a superstar in the NHL, and deserves a spot on this team. Also, as a bonus, he could easily step in to any spot on the roster should any of the players get injured.
Glen's Pick for 2010:
Lecavalier - Crosby - Iginla
Nash - Getzlaf - Healtey
Towes - Thornto - Spezza
Morrow - M. Richards - Perry
Reserves: Stamkos, Horton
Lastly, there is still the tough decision for who to sit behind the bench. Possible contenders include Wayne Gretzky, Ken Hitchcock, Alain Vigneault, and Andy Murray. However, the favourite has to be Detroit Red Wings coach, Mike Babcock. With his winning record, there is little to fault him, however, I think that Guy Carbonneau is the best choice. He does a great job of coordinating a balanced attack for a young offensive team, which is precissely the squad that Canada should field. I would put both Hitchcock and Sutter as the assistant coaches, to be able to coordinate the defense.
Tune back into this blog in the coming months as I expect this to be a regular feature, should I decide to add or subtract some players from this list.
Until next time,