So I look at available Canadian hockey players and I see no fewer than 11 centremen worthy of serious Olympic consideration.
That's just the centres.
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|Savard and Green: Teammates in 2010?|
Sidney Crosby, Vinny Lecavalier, Joe Thornton, Mike Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, Marc Savard, Patrick Marleau, Travis Zajac, Jason Spezza, Jonathan Toews and Eric Staal. If you want to make it an even dozen, anyone who saw Andrew Cogliano skate at the all-star game in Montreal might argue you cannot leave that kind of speed off this team. Oh yes, there's also Derek Roy and Brad Richards.
See how quickly 11 became 14? And that's just the centres!
How, with a year to go before what may be the biggest hockey competition in the history of the country, will Steve Yzerman sort this out? Sure, you can shift one or two to the wing. Marleau for sure, maybe Staal.
But you can also get yourself in a lot of trouble by just putting a team together of seven or eight centres and expecting some to magically become solid wingers in both ends of the ice.
The choices won't be as hard among wingers, nor among the goaltenders, if only because nobody has stepped up to take a job away from Martin Brodeur or Roberto Luongo, and Brodeur hasn't even been playing.
On defence, we know it will be a transition time for Canada, with as many as five rearguards from the 2006 Olympic roster not on the squad this time. Which among the younger group are truly ready for this pressure-packed stage will be a tricky guess, and don't forget a couple of the twenty-something defenders froze in the spotlight at the world championships gold medal game in Quebec City last spring.
This we know. Some of the guys who look great now won't look so good next November, and some of the players who don't appear to be strong candidates now will be next fall. Also, while everyone loves change, you need that significant level of experience to win a competition like this.
So instead of saying this is the projected team, let's say these are the leading candidates for the 2010 Canadian Olympic team as of February, 2009. I'm not going to chicken out by taking a bunch of centres either. I'll only move one to the wing.
Here goes. And don't worry, I know you'll disagree:
GOAL: Brodeur, Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury gets the nod as No. 3 because at least he's played in a Stanley Cup final. This should have been Carey Price's job to lose. Steve Mason? Not taking a sophomore who by the time this team is selected won't have 75 NHL starts on his resume.
CENTRE: Crosby, Lecavalier, Getzlaf, Savard, Mike Richards.
No Thornton? Are you kidding? Well, somebody has to be left off, and I want Richards on this team for his gritty attitude and leadership. Savard? He's the No. 1 centre on the best team in the league. I would worry with my group, however, that there isn't enough big-time international experience. But it's a heckuva group nonetheless, wouldn't you say?
LEFT WING: Rick Nash, Ryan Clowe, Simon Gagne, Eric Staal.
Great size. Staal is the only centre to shift over. Gagne, if healthy, is still among the best two-way forwards in the game. Apologies to Ryan (Captain Canada) Smyth, Milan Lucic, Mike Cammalleri and Scott Hartnell.
RIGHT WING: Jarome Iginla, Jeff Carter, Shane Doan, Marty St. Louis.
Came close to picking Devin Setoguchi over St. Louis. That may happen in the end. Dany Heatley currently on the outside looking in.
DEFENCE: Mike Green, Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf, Shea Weber, Dan Boyle, Jay Bouwmeester, Chris Pronger.
Pronger gets to stay for now because of the experience, but he's on the bubble. Just never been that impressed by Bouwmeester in these big internationals and would be prepared to look hard at Brent Burns, Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell. Braydon Coburn and Dennis Wideman very, very close. But somebody has to stay home