In 302 days, one of the most anticipated hockey tournaments ever held in North America begins. Of course, we are talking about the men's hockey competition at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Over the next few months, expert after so-called expert will give their opinions on who should be on the various national squads that will contest the 12-team tournament.
To the citizens of the host country, the make-up of only one team really matters. And no selections will be more scrutinized, analyzed and criticized than the 23-man roster chosen to represent Canada.
So who should be on Canada's dream team for the 2010 Olympics? Here are my selections:
My Picks: Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks; Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils; Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets
Also considered: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins; Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes; Marty Turco, Dallas Stars; Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Luongo is the best in the world at his position, and is ready to take over as the number one man from Brodeur. The NHL's all-time wins leader is a great insurance policy and already has an Olympic goal medal.
Mason gets the nod for the third spot over Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price as the man who looks the most like the heir apparent at this point.
If Luongo or Brodeur go down, the back-up position may be between Ward or Turco, who have a bit more experience than the three considered for the primarily ceremonial third spot.
My Picks: Chris Pronger, Anaheim Ducks; Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks; Jay Bouwmeester, Florida Panthers; Shea Weber, Nashville Predators; Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames; Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks; Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Also considered: Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks; Brent Burns, Minnesota Wild; Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Niedermayer and Pronger will provide experience and leadership to what otherwise is a very young, if skilled defense. Phaneuf, Weber, Bouwmeester and Keith round out the top six, with Mike Green from Washington slated as the seventh man and power-play specialist.
Depending on how well Green plays in his own end, he could quickly move into the top three pairs.
Boyle and Burns are the toughest cuts on the blueline, but would be worthy additions if someone else struggles or gets hurt. Doughty and Letang are long shots but are developing quickly.
Line One: Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks; Dany Heatley, Ottawa Senators; Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets
Line Two: Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning; Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames; Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Line Three: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Jeff Carter, Philadelphia Flyers; Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Line Four: Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers; Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes; Brendan Morrow, Dallas Stars
13th man: Simon Gagne, Philadelphia Flyers
Also considered: Marc Savard, Boston Bruins; Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning; Jonathan Toews, Chicago Black Hawks; Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators; Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks; Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning; Patrick Sharp, Chicago Black Hawks
Getzlaf, Heatley and Nash were dynamite together at the 2008 World Championships, finishing 1-2-3 in tournament scoring. Lecavalier, Iginla and Thornton provide an overwhelming combination of size, skill and experience. Crosby gets two wingers with speed and finishing ability in Carter and Staal.
The fourth line of Richards, Doan and Morrow will be no fun to play against and will also get their share of goals. Gagne is the perfect 13th guy as he can play in all situations and in both ends of the rink.
Of those also considered, St. Louis was the toughest to leave off the team, because of his all-around ability, speed and his chemistry with Lecavalier. Toews is developing fast and could force his way on the team with a big first half.
Spezza and Marleau could be considered if injuries are a factor. Stamkos and Sharp will probably not make the grade in 2010, but could be a part of future Team Canada's.
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