Experts' early selections for 2010: Team Canada
With the NHL opening another season on the international stage, we thought we'd have some fun and start putting together our Olympic teams for the United States and Canada. We'll update our experts' picks throughout the NHL season as we count down to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Team Canada is below. Click here for Team USA.
The skinny: The Canadian forward group will be almost totally overhauled from the Torino Olympics, with as much as a 50 percent turnover in just four years. That's a good thing, but it also means players like Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Ryan Smyth will still be making a case for themselves over the next year.
Enough said. The only question is whether he wears the "C" or not (we say not just yet, but that's a small thing).
Time's running out for Jumbo Joe to show that he's a big-game kind of guy, but hard to keep him off the Canadian squad at this point.
Also a given. One of the premiere forwards in the NHL.
Terrific two-way player who is going to get better and better. We've penciled him as the center on the Canadian energy/checking line.
Staal would make it five centers on the squad, which is probably one too many; but Staal's international experience, not to mention his size and skill, make him a valuable addition even if he lines up on the wing.
Led all Canadian skaters a year ago with 98 points, and he's got a lot to prove after a miserable turn at the 2006 Olympics in Italy.
Big, strong, talented. Why wouldn't you want him?
We think Doan would look pretty darned good on a line with Richards and Brenden Morrow. Take that Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, et al. Terrific guy in the dressing room, too.
Played his way onto this squad with his superlative playoff performance a year ago. Hard as nails with a healthy dose of skill thrown in for good measure.
Was a nonfactor in Torino in 2006, but he wasn't alone. He's on probation for this Canadian squad and will need a strong season to reinforce his place on the team.
Another center, but he's a kid; he won't mind playing the wing, will he?
Love this young man's character. If he's not wearing a "C" in Buffalo, he should be soon. He also managed 81 points last season, ninth among all Canadian NHLers.
Hard to ignore the offensive numbers Heatley has put up in the past couple of years, but it's also hard to ignore his awful performance in Italy in 2006, his invisibility in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals, and last season's sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Probation pending this season's performance.
The skinny: This is a tough club to get into, with guys like Ed Jovanovski, Robyn Regehr, Dan Boyle and Chris Phillips on the outside. One guy to watch, though, will be Shea Weber. If he can stay healthy, he could be on this list.
Rock-solid, heavy-hitting, offensively gifted. Gee, not a bad package.
Brings an edge to the proceedings and has been on this stage before.
The elder statesman can still bring it with the best of them -- we think.
Hard to keep one of the best puck-moving defensemen and power-play specialists in the league off this defense-rich Canadian team.
If Bouwmeester and Phaneuf play together, they'll set media relations back a century, but Bouwmeester is a must.
Led all NHL defensemen with 18 goals last season and skates like the wind. Surely there's room on this squad for a player like that.
The key for the Canadians will be in balancing skill and grit, and luckily Keith has both and makes our squad in place of others like Jovanovski, Rob Blake and Regehr.
The skinny: Young guys will have to wait as the Canadians will boast the best goaltending depth in the Olympic tournament.
Until someone tells us differently, he's still the best Canadian netminder in the mix and one of the best in the world.
We'll give Luongo the benefit of the doubt after a tough year in Vancouver. He's still easily No. 2 on the depth chart pending new information.
The theory is to give the third spot to a youngster, maybe a Pascal Leclaire or even Carey Price. Sorry, Turco deserves this gig, and the Canadians may need to use all three netminders given the pressure to win in Vancouver.
The skinny: We didn't add Wayne Gretzky's name to this list, but if there's a fourth coach, it could well be The Great One. Guy Carbonneau, Lindy Ruff and Randy Carlyle will also be looking to get the call.
Nobody better in the business right now. It will be a bit of a shock if his Wings don't at least return to a third straight Western Conference finals next spring.
Not just because he managed to get his Pittsburgh Penguins to the Cup finals a year ago, but because he's defied critics, skeptics and just about everyone else with his coaching acumen. So he's not part of the Hockey Canada old boy's club. Too bad, welcome aboard Michel.
Just a great communicator of ideas and schemes and would be a good mesh with Babcock and Therrien.
The skinny: This group is loaded ... obviously. If they're looking for role guys, they might look to someone like Shane Doan or Patrice Bergeron. Also, Simon Gagne, if healthy, will get major consideration. In fact, he'd probably be selected.
Sid is ready for his Olympic debut. He'll be the big story in red and white.
He gives Team Canada a third monster offensive talent down the middle.
The big right-shot pivot can center the fourth line or slid to a wing. It would be his first Olympic experience.
The oversized sniper (141 goals in his past three seasons) would be taking his second Olympic turn.
Iggy is another no-brainer choice. It'll be his third Olympic appearance.
Lecavalier and Crosby are my top two centers for Canada.
He's a natural leader who'll provide a shot of adrenaline. It would be his first Olympics.
Another talented goal scorer, Nash would be making his second Olympic trip.
The big, young right wing fits as a versatile new addition to Team Canada.
I see him as a perfect third-line center for this group. It would be his first Olympics.
If he wants a spot, he'll get a spot. The team captain would be making his fourth Olympic appearance.
I like Staal because he's versatile and can play the center and the wing. He didn't dress for the Games in 2006.
Martin St. Louis
He's another guy that gets a spot because of his versatility. It would be his second Olympics.
The skinny: This is a transition time for the Canadian defense. The young guys may be a little too young and the older guys might be a step too old. We'll see. Terrific skaters like Jay Bouwmeester and Mike Green will definitely merit some serious consideration.
The underrated puck mover will jump-start the attack from the blue line. He was a taxi squader in '06.
The 23-year-old has blossomed under Minny coach Jacques Lemaire. It would be his first Olympics.
This group will need the experience and toughness that he brings.
After retiring, he'll return for a last waltz at an Olympics in his home province. Canada missed him in '06.
He'll provide a physical presence and a big shot on the power play. It would be his first Games.
This would be the fourth Olympics for the all-purpose defenseman.
I've added one more young (23) D-man to this group. It would be his first Olympic appearance.
The skinny: J.S. Giguere will get a lot of consideration. He has played well in big games but hasn't yet received an important role on the international stage. Youngsters Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price should get a look, too.
He's still a big-game goalie. This would be his fourth Olympics.
This also seems like a no-brainer choice. He could unseat Brodeur as the starter.
How many nations could roll out three stoppers to match this trio?
Mike Babcock. If you look at his record, you know that he has earned the opportunity.
Dave Tippett. An underrated head coach, he has the right demeanor for the job.
Ken Hitchcock. His Olympic and international experience will be important behind the bench.
The skinny: I can't remember the last time I ever filled out a Team Canada without the name Ryan Smyth on it. But Captain Canada needs a big bounce-back year in Colorado to get back in this mix. Jason Spezza and Martin St. Louis are other big-name omissions, but believe me, they're on the radar. There's just so much offense to choose from, but I also wanted to bring together different dynamics to the mix, not just offensive skill.
Many believe he should have played in Torino as an 18-year-old. No debate this time!
Even though he's a natural center, how about Vinny on the wing with Sid?
The 2002 Olympic gold medalist wants to erase bad memories of Torino.
NHL ice surface in Vancouver will benefit him.
How do you like this big boy lining up alongside Thornton and Nash. Power forwards bonanza.
And, in fact, Nash has played with both Thornton and Getzlaf at different times in past World Championships.
We see him centering Canada's grind/energy line between Morrow and Doan. Now that's a forecheck that leaves imprints!
Stars masher won a World Championship with Canada.
Scored winning goal in championship game of 2004 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.
Lots of natural centers on this team, but Staal can play wing, too.
This may surprise some, but I like his versatility and big-game abilities. After he has a huge year in Dallas this season, it wouldn't be such a surprise to see him back on the Olympic team.
Young Blackhawks captain will force his way on this elite team with a monster season.
Dany Heatley: He's the highest-scoring player in Canadian international hockey history. Automatic 50-goal scorer must be on the team.
The skinny: I know, I know -- how the heck could I leave off Brian Campbell? I may very well put him back on next time we update this list; but, for now, he fell victim to my desire to have a good mix of offensive and physical blueliners. Boyle is really the guy I took ahead of him, in terms of your classic puck-moving type. I just think Boyle's experience at this point is the X factor. A big year in Chicago for Campbell may make me change my mind. Mike Green, Wade Redden and Jay Bouwmeester were other notable omissions. Tough team to crack, boys.
The B.C. native isn't going to pass up an Olympics in his backyard, is he? If he's still playing, he's obviously on this team. Besides, you can't say no to Canada two straight Olympics!
Played with an injured foot in Torino. Bad memories all around for Pronger and his Canadian teammates in that tournament.
Welcome to your first Olympics, sir. Please proceed to your opening game and find an opposing forward to drill through the boards.
Terrific skater and puck mover will be the right-handed Niedermayer on this team.
Watch out world, if you hadn't heard of this guy by February 2010, you're in for a surprise. Massively talented at both ends of the ice.
Maybe a surprise choice, but ask Mr. Crosby how tough Phillips is to play against. One of the NHL's premier shutdown guys.
If he wasn't playing in Nashville, this guy would get as much ink as Phaneuf. Physical player with an offensive touch.
The skinny: Marc-Andre Fleury, Carey Price, Cam Ward and J.S. Giguere are obviously in the mix here, too. Price is a very popular choice for No. 3 in 2010, and it may very well happen if he has a huge year for the Habs this season. But I believe, at this point, Turco is an established top-end NHL starter who has earned the right to crack that team. Fleury could very well also end up there if he backstops the Penguins to another deep run.
He was the apprentice to Brodeur at the 2004 World Cup and 2006 Olympics. Now, he'll be the man in front of his own Vancouver Canucks fans!
At 37, he'll still be among the best three or four goalies in the world come February 2010. But he won't make a big deal if Luongo is the man.
Has answered his critics with back-to-back solid playoff years.
The skinny: If for whatever reason Wayne Gretzky isn't in the mix for coaching, then Lindy Ruff is the guy I'd like to see part of this group. One of the NHL's longest-tenured coaches, it's a crying shame Hockey Canada hasn't involved Ruff before. Dave Tippett, Tom Renney and Randy Carlyle are other candidates on my list.
Who better to handle the pressure of being the Olympic host team expected to bring home the gold? He can shield the players and take the heat.
If this guy doesn't end up on this coaching staff, then I don't know anything about hockey. Having coached Canada to worlds gold on both the junior and senior levels, and now doing the ultimate in the NHL as well, his résumé speaks for itself.
Canada's coach from last spring's World Championship has a bevy of international experience, including the last two Olympics. Works well with others, too.
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