So the other night I watched as my beloved Maple Leafs dropped yet another game and I thought to myself, do I really have to wait another year for some meaningful hockey?
Then it hit me, like a puck in the teeth, HOLY CRAP! The Olympics are less then four months away. The hair on my neck shot straight up as I tried to fathom how much this tournament means to not only me, but my whole country.
In my short, 22-year life, I have never been so excited and so anxious for a hockey tournament.
My fellow Canadians will bond together as this tournament will bring the world to Vancouver. You will have Toronto Maple Leaf fans and Montreal Canadiens fans splitting pitchers at the bar. Edmonton Oilers fans and Calgary Flames fans high-fiving each other as our hockey driven nation will be in perfect harmony, until the regular season resumes.
I made a feeble attempt (much like a Jason Blake wrist shot) at putting together the starting squad in my head. About 50 different names raced through my brain. Sidney Iginla, Jarome Crosby, I had to go lay down. Imagine how Steve Yzerman, Mike Babcock, and company feel? They have a list of over 50 deserving players to choose from and only 20 will make the starting roster.
Well, I’m going to try and break it down for you as best I can by composing my potential line combinations for the upcoming tournament. Obviously a few names will be chosen based on their performance this season and a few will be left behind. Let’s start with the forwards, shall we?
Well, first line centre goes to, you guessed it. The one they call Sid the Kid, number 87, the youngest captain to ever hoist hockey’s Holy Grail up to the heavens. Love him or hate him, this smug little bastard is the complete package and is guaranteed a spot on the team (barring injury, *knocks on wood).
Now, who will have the privilege, no the honour, of gracing Sid’s left and right wings? Well, if NHL 10 for Xbox has taught me anything, it’s that your ideal line has three types of players: a playmaker, a sniper, and a power forward. Now Crosby is the playmaker, who is good enough to be his sniper?
How about two-time 40-goal scorer Rick Nash? The 25-year-old from Brampton, Ontario and the first overall pick in 2002, yah, I think he’ll fit in just fine at left wing.
So now we just need a hard-nosed winger, one who is physical in the corner yet graceful around the net. That honour, my friends, should go to the good ol’ Edmonton boy named Jarome Iginla. Not only can Iginla dish out the pain, he also has two 50-goal seasons on his resume—not to shabby.
FIRST LINE: NASH – CROSBY – IGINLA
So that wasn’t so hard, but it only gets tougher from here. Let’s work on the second line; this won’t necessarily be the second-best line on the team, but we’ll call it that since I can’t think of anything else.
Two guys come to my mind instantly, two guys who were united before the beginning of this season and are probably sipping pina coladas on a beach in San Jose as you read this. Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley have started this season with a bang, both at the top of the league in scoring and finding great chemistry together.
Now Senators fans, don’t get upset about this selection because you’re still mad at Heatley, he left Ottawa because it’s boring—I’ve been there, let it go.
Using my trusty NHL video game guide, we have got our playmaker and our sniper, just need that power forward. That honour I will give to Ryan Getzlaf. Now before you freak out and call me an idiot, yes, I know Getzlaf plays centre. The reality is that Canada has too many centres and some will need to play the wing, hence the above decision to play Getzlaf on the wing.
SECOND LINE: HEATLEY – THORNTON – GETZLAF
So now we get down to the "nitty gritty," only six forward positions left, about 15 players to choose from.
I’m going to go with another beach buddy tandem down in Tampa Bay, Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. I do believe that guys who play together in the regular season should play together during this tournament (see Heatley and Thornton above), it just makes sense.
Since their 2004 Stanley Cup win, this dynamic duo has accumulated a total of 828 points between the two of them. Lecavalier does have me worried a little; he had a below average season last year and has yet to light the lamp this year. Don’t make me look stupid, Vinny!
I will make a bold move here and put Brenden Morrow on the other wing. I love the way this guy plays, the epitome of Canadian hockey, he was bitten by the injury bug last season but has bounced back and is playing great hockey down in Dallas.
THIRD LINE: MORROW – LECAVALIER – ST.LOUIS
Now we are down to the final line, the line that will do Canada’s dirty work. This line can potentially make or break this team; it should consist of the heart and soul players that define any championship team.
I have to give the center position to Flyers captain Mike Richards. Not only is Richards offensively gifted, he may be the best two-way player in the NHL. With 19 short-handed goals in his NHL career, he will be relied upon heavily to kill penalties and shut down the opposing teams’ best players.
Left wing position will go to Captain Canada, Ryan Smyth. I’m sure many will disagree with this choice, but Smyth has come out of the gate firing to start this season. NOBODY plays with more heart and passion than Smyth; this guy will block a shot with his teeth if he has too, for the good of the team.
My final spot will go to Shane Doan. Doan is a gritty veteran and the type of leader that Canada needs.
FOURTH LINE: SMYTH – RICHARDS – DOAN
That will wrap up my starting forwards for the upcoming Olympics. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on who should make this team.
Honourable Mentions: Eric Staal, Brad Richards, Simon Gagne, Marc Savard, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp, and Jonathan Toews.