Vancouver Bound

So, we’re only about 3 weeks removed from the 2008 Summer Olympics but a quick count on the calendar tells us that we’re only about 16 months from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. And you know what that means. The country goes ape-shit for 2 weeks over Team Canada hockey.

Yesterday Wayne Gretzky announced that he will not be the man who puts the team together as he was for the 2002 in Salt Lake and 2006 in Torino. I would like to take this chance to throw my name in the hat for that job if anyone from Hockey Canada is reading. Wayne did go on to see that if the General Manager of the 2010 team had interest – Wayne would consider coaching the team but nothing was set in stone.

So it got me to thinking. If the team was going to picked right now – who would be on it? I think there are some people that are “can’t misses” and will be there no matter what but there are some young guys that have a chance in the next year and a half to earn their way on. So here is my 2010 Team Canada roster AND line combinations.

Line 1: Dany Heatley, Ryan Getzlaf, Rick Nash
Line 2: Jarome Iginla, Sidney Crosby, Joe Sakic
Line 3: Eric Staal, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier
Line 4: Ryan Smyth, Mike Richards, Jonathan Toews
Alternates: Simon Gagne, Jason Spezza

Explanation: I know when you see Iginla, Crosby and Sakic on a line you think it should be the number one line. But the line of Nash, Getzlaf and Heatley were dominant and World Championships this spring as a unit. They are all big, they can all score and they are all fast. There was not one set of Defense from a Europena team that could handle their size and toughnexx when they started moving the puck and hitting. That said, the Crosby line is “a” number one line and there’s no drop off in talent when you put them out. Many would say Sakic is too old but this is a very very young team and you need leaders. Combine that with Sakic’s international experience and the fact that the Games are in his hometown and he’s earned his spot if he hasn’t retired yet. My 4th line, you may notice, is not full of a lot of talent but all 3 of those guys are battlers and all 3 can kill penalties and block shots or be put out in the last minute. Make no mistake. European referees call a ton of penalties on Canada because we hit more than Europeans are used to so you can’t have all skill. Someone has to kill those penalties. On to the D.

Defense: Chris Pronger, Scott Neidermayer
Defense: Brent Burns, Brian Campbell
Defense: Dion Phaneuf, Brent Seakbrooke
Alternate: Mike Greene

You’ll notice that other than Pronger and Neidermayer this is a very young defensive core but they have all played for Canada before at either the World Jr’s or the World Championships. Almost all of them are big and tough and are used to, both, killing penalties and working the powerplay. Brent Burns is my personal favourite in this group. He doesn’t get much attention around the NHL but he does all the little things right – including knock out Russians with their heads down. Neiermayer, to me, is the only question mark as he may retire by then. But I’ve read that the main reason for him returning last year was to be a part of this team. We shall see. Let’s talk goalies.

Goalie: Robert Luongo
Goalie: Martin Brodeur
Goalie: Marty Turco
Alternate: Carey Price

A lot of people will see that the top 2 here are out of order and Marty has earned his spot for one more shot at starting. I disagree. It’s time for a changing of the guard. Luongo has been the only reason Vancouver has been even respectable the last few years – let alone good. Marty is not a bad goaltender at this point but the fact that he plays over 70 games a year is starting to catch up with him. I have Price as an alternate because I don’t feel he’ll be ready for this kind of pressure but he is definitely the next guy for Canada and should be there to get the experience.

So what do you think? The great thing about talking about Olympic Teams in Canada is no one will ever agree. We have so many great players and someone’s favourite will always be left out.

Let it not be forgotten that, unlike most Olympics, this will be played on smaller NHL sized ice and not the stupid, oversized Europena ice. For this reson it is important to have a big physica team that can shut down European systems that will not be used to the smaller ice surfaces. Sure, most of these guys are from the NHL and know the ice surface but their International teams and programs run game plans that function on bigger ice surfaces. You force them to change instead of us, this time, and you make it even more uncomfortable by driving their heads through the glass at the same time with a 6 foot 5 monster from Red Deere.

Thoughts? Maybe you have your own line-up that you’d like to post in the comments or e-mail me. Let’s argue!

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