The time has come to take an early look at who could end up making the Canadian men's ice hockey roster in 2014. Sochi will play host, and the Maple Leaf-crested players will attempt to defend the gold that they won four years ago.
It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in a room with six or seven of my closest friends, watching Canada and the United States battle for the gold medal in what is still the best hockey game I've ever seen.
The US went down 2-0 and clawed their way back. Zach Parise tied the score with the goalie pulled and only 24 seconds left in regulation. Then came Sidney Crosby's heartbreaking (or ulcer-relieving, depending on which side of the border you're on) goal to end the tourney.
The conversation about who will represent which countries this time around is starting to heat up despite the fact that NHL players still may not take part in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Obviously this slideshow entirely depends on the league making the (correct) choice to send players to participate next season.
Over the last few years, several of the old guard that was available for that goal medal-winning team have faded into the proverbial sunset. Chris Pronger won't be around this time to anchor the back end. Ditto for the captain of that team, Scott Niedermayer.
That leaves some room for some new blood, especially if the choice is made to move away from mainstays like Joe Thornton, Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla.
Team builders Steve Yzerman, Doug Armstrong, Ken Holland and Kevin Lowe are already meeting on occasion and kicking some ideas around. Here are a few locks for the Canadians heading into 2014.
As always, your polite disagreements are always welcome in the comments. Make your case and make it well.