It's a tough struggle to pare down the available Canadian players for the men's Olympic hockey team. Anyone you keep displaces three worthy candidates. I have placed an emphasis on speed and international/NHL playoff experience and success. I've arrived at this team as the one I think will have the best chance of succeeding for Canada.
First line: LW Rick Nash C Ryan Getzlaf RW Jarome Iginla
Second line: LW Dany Heatley C Sidney Crosby RW Steven Stamkos
Third line: LW Brenden Morrow C Mike Richards RW Jeff Carter
Fourth line: LW John Tavares C Joe Thornton RW Corey Perry
Extra forward : Patrick Marleau
Jarome Iginla is your veteran presence in this lineup. He's still quick and strong with a great shot. Ryan Getzalf almost willed his duck team past the Red Wings last year in the playoffs. He's a force of nature out on the ice and should be difficult to deal.
Then throw in big quick Rick Nash. The sniper is on a pace to score fifty. He was one of the few Canadian forwards to create chances at the Turin Olympics.
Sidney Crosby is a great playmaker who is strong on his skates and whose engine is always running. It's good to have another Stanley cup winning captain on the team. Steven Stamkos has never been my favourite Canadian international but he had a good rookie year and he's a better sophomore.
Canada left a lot of youngsters off the team in Turin in an attempt to recreate the Salt Lake success. I'm recommending against that. If there are quick young scorers available I say take them.
The Russians didn't pass on Ovechkin for Turin because he was too young. I didn't want Dany Heatley or Joe Thornton for this team. They were useless at Turin together but it's impossible to argue with their numbers. Probably they should play together.
The checking line is Mike Richards , Jeff Carter, and Brenden Morrow.
Carter and Richards have been great checkers for Canada in the past at the world juniors. They're fast, strong and can score putting defensive pressure on other teams top lines. Brenden Morrow was Canada's best defensive forward. He's coming back from injury last year that may have slowed him significantly. Still I'd like to try him as the third checker.
My last line has the aforementioned Joe Thornton, young scorer John Tavares and Corey Perry. Thornton is the best playmaker in the game. Unfortunately he plays the game at half speed and he seemed overwhelmed at the Olympics last time.
If he is again switch in speedster Patrick Marleau on this line. He's been strong at the world's. Tavares is a streak who puts the puck in the net. Corey Perry is another youngster with a great world junior and NHL resume. Here's a chance to add Olympic gold to it.
First PR Chris Pronger Dan Boyle
Second PR Shea Weber Drew Doughty
Third PR Dion Phaneuf Duncan Keith
Fourth PR Mike Green (Dan Hamhuis)
One of the greatest weaknesses of the Canadian team at Turin was lack of offense from the defense. Throw in the fact that Chris Pronger was playing on one foot and couldn't keep up with the Swiss let alone the Russians and it's obvious that this Canadian team needs to be healthy and needs to have offensive skills.
Dan Boyle has been one of the best Canadian puck movers since he won a cup with Tampa Bay. He's quick and smart with the puck and runs a great power play. Chris Pronger is big and rangy and has a point shot.
As long as he's healthy he can skate enough, especially on NHL size ice to be effective. Anyone who gets hurt before the tournament needs to be subbed out for a healthy player who can skate.
Shea Weber is a big kid who hits hard and has scored 20 from the blue-line. Drew Doughty is anchoring an LA defense that's becoming one of the stingiest in the league.
He's playing twenty-three minutes a night and is a plus player in LA. Dion Phaneuf has tons of bad press and still doesn't always look responsible on his blue-line. Yet he was great world junior player on the big ice.
He's a good skater with a big left shot and he hits like a tank. I have to keep him. Duncan Keith has been great in Chicago. He had a couple of panicked moments when faced with Detroit’s speed in the playoffs. Brent Seabrook might be the safer choice, but I'll accept the offensive skill.
Mike Green fills my need for another top end offensive defenseman at the Olympics. You'd take Paul Coffey on your Olympic team and you need to take Mike Green as well despite some moments of panic he had in last years playoff.
I'd stick with seven defenseman and Dan Hamhuis and Brent Seabrook would be my first choices as an eighth or injury replacement defenseman.
Starter: Roberto Luongo
First Back-up: Chris Mason
Second Back-up: Martin Brodeur
This is a scary situation for Canada. Martin Brodeur is getting too old to depend on in these situations. He's had some old man moments to intersperse with his great play the last couple of playoffs. His numbers still warrant it, so I've chosen him to be on the team.
Roberto Luongo hopefully won't turn out to be Canada's next Mike Liut. He showed vulnerability in the playoffs when faced with Chicago's speed. Hopefully, Canada will be good enough not to need the best goaltending to do well at these Olympics.
My pick for the last year has been Steve Mason but right now he has worse numbers then Pascal Leclaire. I choose Chris Mason as Canada's second goalie because he had a great last year for St Louis and is doing well again this year.
The Left Behind
Some players I could luckily eliminate because of injury. Marc Savard, Cam Ward, Eric Staal, Ryan Smyth, Pierre Marc Bouchard, and Devin Setoguchi are all hurt.
Vincent Lecavalier just isn't playing well enough to be considered. Dustin Penner is too darn slow. Martin St Louis is another guy having a good year but I just like the youth that Tavares and Stamkos bring, a little better. Brad Richards is having a great year as a playmaker in Dallas.
He'd be on my list if Crosby, Richards(Mike), Getzlaf and Marleau weren't ahead of him. Toews, Sharp and Cammalleri deserve consideration. I just think Stamkos and Tavares are better. Brent Burns hasn't seemed to recover his offensive edge and is a little too risky on the defense without it. Bouwmeester likewise is a great skater but his offensive prowess doesn't justify his risk-taking.
Robyn Regehr is slowing down a bit. Scott Niedermeyer has been coughing up the puck in his own zone all year long. You can't have that at the Olympics. Marty Turco, Ray Emery and Carey Price have all had good years so far.
I just don't trust Price and Emery. Turco has a better track record but I'd probably pull him in to replace Brodeur as the veteran and Brodeur has better numbers and a better track record. Steve Mason has had a poor start to his sophomore year.
I think Canada at home will be under incredible pressure. The offense looks good and the defenseman seem fast, tough and skilled. If they get decent goaltending I think this team can win gold.
If they're shut out of the medals on home soil in an NHL sized rink, expect a federal government inquiry and perhaps some sort of referendum. Steve Yzerman might get his spot in the hall of fame revoked. All that said this team has to do better then the seventh they managed at Turin. There's no way Canada is the seventh best hockey nation in the world. I'm calling them for the Gold.