Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Picking Team Canada for Turin

While my handy counter below the links list on the right informs us that there are 76 days until the first men's hockey game at the Turin Olympics, Team Canada will actually be announcing its preliminary roster on Dec. 22.

That's just three weeks away, making it about darn time we bloggers put together our own team lists. To start with, I'll name the players who are virtual guarantees to be there, assuming they are healthy and don't pullout. The remaining group of players, I'll break up into who I think Gretzky and co. will select and who I believe should be selected. Got it?

And while I'll be musing on other team's rosters at a later date, let's get started with the defending champs.

The guaranteed Olympians
Goal: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo
Defence: Scott Niedermayer, Wade Redden, Robyn Regehr, Chris Pronger, Ed Jovanovski
Forward: Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla, Simon Gagne, Vincent Lecavalier, Rick Nash, Dany Heatley, Ryan Smyth

Quite a few names there, no? 15 in all, and I can't see any of these fellows not being there when the team is named considering the selection committees' penchant for including players who have served in the past. What that leaves us is with one third goaltender, two more defencemen and five forwards, assuming they go with the likely 3-7-13 arrangement.

Who Gretzky takes
Goal: Curtis Joseph. The sentiment is beginning to build for Cujo, who went to the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 and was burned for five goals against Sweden in the team's first game. More on Joseph later.

Defence: Rob Blake and Adam Foote. Yes, Blake will be 36 on Dec. 10, and Adam Foote is 34 (and hasn't exactly lit a fire under the Columbus Blue Jackets). That said, it's my belief that Canada's selection committee is going to go with players who have been there before, regardless of current performance. And, yes, this strategy would leave Bryan McCabe, the NHL's highest scoring defenceman, at home. It'll happen.

Forward: Shane Doan, Brad Richards, Steve Yzerman, Martin St. Louis, Todd Bertuzzi. Keep in mind, this is who I think will be selected to the team, not who I think should be there. More familiar faces for international competition, with the only newcomer being Bertuzzi, whom the selection committee seems to have a soft spot for, despite how inconsistent he has played since the 2002-03 season. If these guys are who is taken, there will be no Eric Staal, Sidney Crosby or even Jason Spezza, who, as of this writing, leads the league in scoring. This would also leave off the defensive specialists like Kris Draper and Brenden Morrow who have become regulars on these teams in recent years.

Think I'm nuts? Just wait till they announce the team. There'll be plenty of uproar over who is left at home, to be sure.

Who Mirtle takes
Joseph. Honestly, he's been the best Canadian goaltender in the league this season. The bad rep Cujo has had since leaving Toronto has been completely unjustified considering how phenomenal he was for the Red Wings in the playoffs (1.39 GAA in 2003-04 against Nashville and Calgary, 2.08 in 2002-03 against Anaheim). Joseph muffed on his one shot in Salt Lake City. If given another, I highly doubt he'd do the same. Runner-up: Marty Turco

Defence: Blake and Bryan McCabe. At some point, this team has to progress forward and not simply recycle those who have come before. McCabe is 11th in NHL scoring and could provide a big boost to a team that laboured a little on the powerplay in the 2004 World Cup. Bring McCabe along as the seventh defenceman, and if this team struggles to find goals, here comes some offence off the bench. Just make sure he's paired with the ultra-steady Regehr. Runner-up: Dion Phaneuf

Forward: Richards, Spezza, Crosby, Draper and Morrow. That's right — four different forwards than those I envision on Gretzky's team. I'm leaving Yzerman, Doan, St. Louis and Bertuzzi all at home for the same reason: They're not the hottest players heading into the Games. Richards is probably a guarantee, and Spezza should be a no brainer to pair with Heatley. With a move to the wing, Crosby's explosive speed and knack for creative playmaking would be amazing to see on the large ice surface and powerplay. Morrow has had a great season offensively himself, and, along with Draper, would provide two excellent in-the-trenches guys for the penalty kill and spare-part duty. Runner-up: Eric Staal

The thing is, there's not a lot of room to maneuver in putting this club together with so many great players having suited up for Team Canada. In my opinion, the roster is going to need as many players that are great now — and not four years ago — in order to beat some very hungry competition.

Here's what the lines look like on the team I've selected for Turin:

Lemieux - Sakic - Iginla
Smyth - Spezza - Heatley
Gagne - Thornton - Nash
Morrow - Richards - Crosby

Niedermayer - Regehr
Redden - Blake
Pronger - Jovanovski

Brodeur - Luongo

Top Canadians statistically
*- projected Olympians in bold

Goaltenders (league rank in GAA and save percentage)

1. Manny Fernandez (2, 1)
2. Curtis Joseph (4, 3)
3. Manny Legace (5, 9)
4. Dwayne Roloson (11, 5)
5. J.S. Giguere (9, 8)
6. Alex Auld (10, 14)
7. Jason LaBarbera (15, 15)
8. Marty Turco (13, 18)
9. Roberto Luongo (23, 11)
10. Kevin Weekes (18, 21)
11. Matthieu Garon (19, 23)
12. Ed Belfour (28, 19)
13. Jose Theodore (21, 30)
14. Dan Cloutier (24, 27)
15. Martin Brodeur (25, 29)

Defencemen (points per game, min. 10 games)

1. Bryan McCabe (1.32)
2. Wade Redden (1.11)
3. Eric Desjardins (.93)
4. Ric Jackman (.86)
5. Dan Boyle (.77)
6. Rob Blake (.68)
7. Ed Jovanovski (.68)
8. Greg deVries (.68)
9. Philippe Boucher (.65)
10. Scott Niedermayer (.64)
11. Patrice Brisebois (.56)
12. Steve Eminger (.58)
13. Brent Seabrook (.57)
14. Brian Campbell (.55)
15. Brent Sopel (.55)

Forwards (points per game, min. ten games)

1. Jason Spezza (1.86)
2. Dany Heatley (1.73)
3. Simon Gagne (1.61)
4. Eric Staal (1.50)
5. Marc Savard (1.48)
6. Joe Thornton (1.43)
7. Ray Whitney (1.21)
8. Pierre Turgeon (1.14)
9. Sidney Crosby (1.12)
10. Brad Richards (1.12)
11. Alex Tanguay (1.08)
12. Steve Sullivan (1.06)
13. Jason Arnott (1.04)
14. Jason Williams (1.04)
15. Vincent Lecavalier (1.00)
16. Shawn Horcoff (1.00)
17. Patrick Marleau (1.00)
18. Ryan Smyth (1.00)
19. Joe Sakic (.96)
20. Glen Murray (.96)

UPDATE There are apparently some formatting issues with this post which I'm going to work to fix tomorrow. My apologies if the site/post is too bogged down to read.

Labels: , , , ,


At 9:29 a.m., November 30, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great subject, James! Canadian hockey fans can chew the fat for hours on this subject.

One guy who, in my view, consistently gets screwed is Steve Sullivan. That guy is a dynamite talent, and flourishes on the big Euro ice surface. If you want a two way player who can move his feet, here's your guy. He won't get a serious look, sadly, but he should.

I truly hope Mario makes the right decision and stays home. It's fairly obvious that he isn't a world class player at age 40, and he knows it.

I also wouldn't be so quick to put Rick Nash on the team. His injury troubles so far this year put him behind the eight ball when stacked up against Spezza and Staal. Frankly, I would bring them all and leave a slightly fading, 36 year old Joe Sakic at home, but Burnaby Joe will get his ticket to Turin based on a lifetime achievement award.

I will say this -- if Gretzky decides to go with the veterans at the expense of the great young players, and Canada chokes, his halo will take a serious knock.

At 9:36 a.m., November 30, 2005, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I am pretty sure that Yzerman won't go and there is even some talk floating around that Yzerman might even retire. Lemieux may not go either but only if he pulls out himself which is a possibility. I could see him pulling out and pushing Gretzky to take Crosby instead.

Considering Nash likely won't return until mid-December, only a week or so before selections must be made, there is a good chance he will be left off the roster too. The plus for him is that he is a winger which might keep him on the roster. If he were a center he'd definitely be a no go.

And based on performance this year (or any year except 2003-04) Martin St. Louis won't be going either. There are too many other players that are more deserving, but again, St. Louis is a winger and that helps.

Don't forget about Shanahan up front. He is a natural winger who is having a great year so far (15 goals). He could go over Nash or St. Louis and Staal could replace the other.

On defense I suspect one of Blake or Foote won't go either. Gretzky has taken young players in the past probably before they deserved to go (Regehr, Hannan, etc.) so I think he will do it again. That might open a spot up for Phaneuf if he decides to pass on McCabe (which I tend to agree that he will).

At 1:42 p.m., November 30, 2005, Blogger ninja said...

Breaking up the line of Thornton, Doan and Smyth would be a mistake. It was by far the most dominant line at the World Cup and should only be better this time around.

Nash is a highly suspect pick simply because of injury. I want him there, but only at 100%. Bowling guys over doesn't work on a bum ankle.

Mario knows he shouldn't go. Especially on the big ice. We need to keep the puck out of our net, and he's never had a shiny +/-.

McCabe would be a nice addition to the Power Play, but not if he gets a regular shift. Without Kaberle, his +/- would be nasty (as in bad), and his lack of speed/decision making would only be magnified on the bigger cube.

Luongo, well, maybe if he gets traded and rediscovers some of his mojo. Right now, he isn't the guy who should've won the Vezina on SV% alone last time out. Give it to Turco.

At 4:31 p.m., November 30, 2005, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

As a Red Wings fan, it pains me to say it, but Yzerman is done. I hope they find a place for him in the organization, because it's where he belongs, but he just isn't a very good NHL player anymore, let alone of the caliber to belong on an Olympics squad.

On the other hand, Draper I can get behind.

At 12:52 a.m., December 01, 2005, Blogger Achtungbaby said...

Whew! For a second I thought you meant Mike Richards. Glad to read (correctly) that you haven't lost your head. Nice team, Canada should really send 3 teams though. The bob sledder's can do it, why not hockey?

At 4:52 a.m., December 01, 2005, Blogger Chris said...

Well obviously there are a number of permutations that some of the great players that Canada has could be fielded into a team. However, James I think it would be a travesty if Canada doesn't field a line which is comprised of Spezza, Heatly and Staal. While as much as I respect Mario and Stevie Y, they aren't playing with youth and vigor they once had. I grew up watching these guys play hockey so occasionally it shocks me that they're now old, but I'm afraid like Gretzsky, Mario and Yzerman now belong behind the bench more than on the ice.

If I were to roll 4 lines for team Canada I'd personally pick

Gange - Sakic - Iginla

Staal - Spezza - Heatly

Lecavalier - Richards - Tanguay

Symth - Thorton - Bertuzzi

I'll concur that Draper should get the nod as a defensive specialist and the extra forward. I'd leave Nash off the team as he's been injury plagued this team and has only played sporadically.

I tend to think the defensive core is a little bit more obvious. I can't disagree with your picks of Neidermeyer, Pronger, Jovanoski, Redden, Blake, McCabe and Regher. However, while you give props to Dion Phaneuf, I'd take Brent Seabrook over Phaneuf if one of the aforementioned 7 go down. Right now Seabrook has 13 points and is plus 7 while playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. Fairly impressive numbers for a rookie defenseman on a bad team. I think the fact he's on a bad team in the states in preventing Seabrook from generating the buzz he otherwise would.

At goal I know we'll take Brodeur but..he's been terrible this season. I'm not sure if the years are catchy up to him like they finally did to Patrick Roy, or if he's not adapting well to the new rules or what. But I'd take Luongo, Cujo and the non-o J.S. Giguere. Cujo seems to have recovered his form and having one of the best years of his career. Luongo is the goalie of the future and Giguere seems to get passed over alot despite the fact a lousy Ducks team road him to the finals not so long ago.

I'm a little worried we'll make the mistake that the pre-Gretzsky Olympic teams made and bring along some big names whose best before date was a few years ago. Don't get me wrong, I love Mario but in his prime and 100% healthy he has not been for some time now.

At 3:35 p.m., December 01, 2005, Blogger jamestobrien said...

Mario Lemieux is my favorite athlete of all-time.

And that fact makes me even more in favor of him staying home this Olympic year. Otherwise, I think he might embarrass himself.

Simply put, Lemieux's never been the swiftest skater, but now he's moving like he's in quicksand. I never thought I'd see the day when I was dissapointed to see Super Mario on a breakaway, but that day has come.

I know he's a softy, but I think Paul Kariya's name should at least be mentioned. He's having a pretty good year and is always a powerplay threat. And don't forget Mark Recchi kids. He's a great energy guy...a veteran that can move.

At 11:33 a.m., December 31, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, now that the team has been picked, I have to say I'm a little surprised. I mean there were obvious choices in Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla, both who won gold in the 2002 Olympics, but who they took is not so much of a surprise as who they left out and, of course, the taxi squad. Take Sidney Crosby. An extremely talented kid with LOTS of potential. They leave him off, and the apparent reason is because of his hype. To me, that's a pretty dumb, irelevent reason. But at the same time, it sort of makes sense. The Olympics is not about Sid the Kid, it's about bringing home gold. In short, I'm kinda two way. They also left off Paul Kariya. A strange decision all around, since he's been quite explosive this year. Now, the Taxi Squad. May I be one of many to say 'what the hell?' Bryan McCabe is an all-star defensman and 11th in league scoring! Jason Spezza and Eric Staal have been nothing short of outstanding this season, both young,talented centremen. Really, the only diffrence is that with Staal, he's carrying a somewhat mediocre Carolina Hurricanes on his back. With Spezza, he's with an outstanding hockey team (go sens!) and is not the only star.

Anyways, that's my opinion, and great topic by the way!


Post a Comment

<< Home

Links to this post:

Create a Link


Free Page Rank Checker
eXTReMe Tracker