Nash and the Boys
TURIN--It seems peculiar that, after two stunning weekend losses, Rick Nash was the only member of Team Canada singled out for punishment.
Nash didn't play a shift in the third period against the Finns last night, and it wasn't because of any injury problems. Pat Quinn and Co. either didn't like his game, or it was felt something dramatic had to be done that would jar the attention of the younger players on the club.
|Ryan Smyth at practice today: Let's see... how many of our pucks did they stop over the weekend?|
And, one supposes, there's nothing wrong with that. Nash is a big boy, and he wasn't cryin' afterwards, to his credit.
But it does let the veterans on this team off the hook, and it tells you something about the design of this team.
Clearly, the intent of Wayne Gretzky, Kevin Lowe and the rest of the Team Canada executive was that the younger players on the roster would carry the majority of the burden en route to a second straight gold medal.
Vinny Lecavalier, don't forget, was the MVP of the 2004 World Cup. Nash was a star at the worlds in Austria last spring. Gretzky and Lowe identified Todd Bertuzzi early on as a player they had to have for these Olympics. Dany Heatley tore up the NHL in the first half. Robyn Regehr was a stud at the World Cup and has been a tower of strength for Calgary this season.
Gretzky seemed to indicate this morning that he isn't expecting captain Joe Sakic, defenceman Chris Pronger or Kris Draper to make the difference.
It's the kids who are going to have to win the gold, says the Great One.
"In ’02 some of the young guys really stood up on the ice, (Jarome) Iginla came through, (Simon) Gagne came through, (Eric) Brewer came through, (Ed) Jovanovski. We need this young group now, they’ve got to step too,” said Gretzky this morning after a Team Canada workout.
“I’m not trying to put extra pressure on them. We need these young guys to now help take some pressure off the older guys. . . We need this group of young guys now, we need some of them to step up and pitch in on the ice."
Like, say, oh, Rick Nash?
It's an interesting way to approach the cohesion problem Team Canada is experiencing. Another method, it says here, might be to stop messing around trying to get ice time for seven defencemen.
It doesn't work in the NHL, and it doesn't work here. Sombody's gotta sit, and right now you could pick pretty much any one of the seven.
Up front, the constant scramble isn't helping, but the absence of production means the staff is going to try something. Instead of reworking the lines in practice today, they stayed pretty much the same as they were in the final part of the Finland game, including:
Simon Gagne-Joe Sakic-Jarome Iginla; Ryan Smyth-Vinny Lecavalier-Martin St. Louis; Todd Bertuzzi-Joe Thornton-Rick Nash; Dany Heatley-Brad Richards-Kris Draper.
Shane Doan, who was at least very effective in the physical department against Finland, was the extra forward.
Martin Brodeur, barring a shocking decision by Quinn, will start against the Czechs tomorrow.