2006 World Hockey Championship
Picking Team Canada
Picking Team Canada
Toronto radio station the Fan590 had a little world hockey championship talk today, including a conversation with Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland. Sure, the tournament's still a month away, but considering it's going to start up just as the first round of the NHL playoffs is ending, we might as well talk about it now.
At the helm of the Canadian club will be Holland as GM, Phoenix Coyotes GM Mike Barnett as assistant GM, head coach Marc Habscheid and his assistants — current Chicago Blackhawks head coach Trent Yawney and former Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien. (What's interesting is that Holland is leading this team despite the fact his top-seeded Red Wings will then be battling in the playoffs. One wonders how attentive he can really be to the tournament in Riga while it's the most important time of year for his 'real job'.)
The world championship doesn't often get a lot of pub, but it's usually an excellent tournament to watch as many of the players there have something to prove (Lubomir Visnovsky and Jonathan Hedstrom come to mind from 2005). There have also been a lot of great 'Canadian Hockey Moments' at the WC, including Anson Carter's gold-medal winning goal in 2003.
There's not likely to be a ton of speculation as to who will make up the Canadian team — and certainly not as much as there was for the Olympic team — but here are my picks nonetheless. (There will, of course, also be additions from NHL teams that are eliminated after the first round.)
- Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh. A lock to join this team. Crosby has said he wants to play, and after the phenomenal year he's had, it's a given he'll be out there skating against Team Russia's Alex Ovechkin.
- Roberto Luongo, Florida. A no-brainer — if he wants to play.
- Shane Doan, Phoenix. Because of Barnett's involvement, my guess is Doan will play. He'll also likely be this team's captain.
- Bryan McCabe, Toronto. Given his participation in the Olympics two months ago, it's likely McCabe will decline, but the invitation will definitely be extended.
- Rick Nash, Columbus. It may have been too long a year for Nash, who missed time due to injury and then played for Canada at the Olympics. Still, given his heroics at last year's world championship alongside Joe Thornton, I can't imagine him not receiving an invite.
- Jay Bouwmeester, Florida. A lock to be invited, but, like the others mentioned who played in Turin at the Olympics, may turn down the request due to international burnout.
- Patrice Bergeron, Boston. Bergeron clicked well with Crosby in the junior event in 2005 and will almost certainly play alongside the 18-year-old wunderkind should he decide to play.
- Marc Savard, Atlanta. If the Thrashers miss the playoffs — which I think they will — Savard should be at the top of Holland's list. On pace for a 30+ goal, 90+ point season, Savard would look great in red and white on the big ice.
- Brent Seabrook, Chicago. As the old expression says, flowers do indeed grow from pots of dirt. That was the case this season for Seabrook, who was a tower of strength as a rookie on an absolutely awful Chicago team. A future all-star, to be sure.
- Brad Boyes, Boston. Don't laugh. With 24 goals and 63 points through 75 games, Boyes will be one of the top scoring Canadian-born players to miss out on the playoffs. Not exceptionally big or fast, Boyes is nonetheless a great two-way player who has really come into his own as an offensive threat this season.
- Greg De Vries, Atlanta. Former Colorado Avalanche veteran would bring a strong stabilizing presence to a backend that will likely be pretty green.
- Kyle Calder, Chicago. I'm a huge fan of Calder's. The former Kamloops Blazers is an excellent heart-and-soul type, and despite his small stature, plays with a fiery vengeance. It's been another long season for the Blackhawks, but Calder's been about as good a player as they've had.
- Derek Morris, Phoenix. Another injury-plagued campaign for the former Calgary Flame, but Morris is still excellent on the power play (as evidenced by the huge contract the Coyotes inexplicably gave him this season).
- Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Minnesota. An excellent playmaker with elite-level vision, Bouchard could open a lot of eyes with a big performance in Riga.
- Manny Fernandez, Minnesota. Despite the fact the Wild simply couldn't score this season, Fernandez had a career year — and vastly outplayed Dwayne Roloson in doing so.
- Mike Comrie, Phoenix. The disgraced former Edmonton Oiler was all over the map this year with the Coyotes, playing brilliantly at times but also faltering for long stretches. His telent level is unquestionable, and he could mesh well with teammate Doan.
- Mike Cammalleri, Los Angeles. 2005-06 was a breakout year for the undersized Cammalleri, who finally started to show his elite offensive skills at the NHL level. He also has a strong international pedigree dating back to his outstanding play at the 2001 and 2002 world junior tournaments.
- Brad Stuart, Boston. His play has been overshadowed by the fact he was included in the Joe Thornton trade, but Stuart has had a career year on the Bruins blueline.
- Mike Van Ryn, Florida. A +15 rating on the Panthers blueline? Join the club, Mike.
Nick Boynton, Boston. It wasn't a spectacular season for Boyton, but I'm expecting a rebound campaign next year. Perhaps it will start in Riga.
Honourable mention: Darcy Tucker, Eric Brewer, Marc-Andre Fleury, Curtis Joseph.
* Should the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Scott Hannan and Jonathan Cheechoo will all be invited.