BR Picks: Who Should Make Team Canada for the 2010 Olympics?

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BR Picks: Who Should Make Team Canada for the 2010 Olympics?

With the U-20 World Junior Championships going on in the nation's capital this holiday season, it got me wondering about the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver.

After a disappointing finish in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, Team Canada and newly appointed GM Steve Yzerman are looking to make amends and bring the gold back to Canada.

It may seem like a distant memory, but Team Canada's triumphant victory over the USA in 2002 was only a mere seven years ago in Salt Lake City.

However, a team stacked with superstars and not enough role players in Torino added up into the demise of the 2006 version of Team Canada, resulting in no medal at all.

This time around, Team Canada may have its strongest showing since the 2002 Olympics with a wide selection of talented young players combined with savvy veterans who have been to the Olympics before.  Here is a look at a potential lineup for the 2010 Team Canada Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team.

Goaltending

In goal, look no further than already established Olympic gold medallist Martin Brodeur. He went 4-0-1 with a 1.80 GAA during Canada's 2002 run to a gold medal after taking over for Curtis Joseph after a loss to the Swedes in their first game.  

Brodeur was brilliant in 2002 but fell into mediocrity in 2006 with a 2-2-0 record with a 2.10 GAA as Canada was bounced by the Russians in the Quarter-Finals.

It may always been said that experience wins championships, but in this case, Brodeur's best days may be behind him.  Internationally, Brodeur's record is 16-6-2 with a 2.19 GAA in Olympics, World Cups, and World Championships.

Yet, his grip on the No. 1 position in Canada's net is slipping.  Roberto Luongo is due to be the next dominant Canadian goaltender on the world stage.  Luongo is 12-2-3 with three shutouts and a 1.99 GAA in senior international play, including Olympics, World Cups, and World Championships.  

It is only a matter of time before Luongo is the No. 1 man.  It may even happen as early as 2010.  With Luongo only getting better as the captain of the Vancouver Canucks, Team Canada should be looking at Luongo possibly taking over the top job come 2010.

As for third- and fourth-string netminders, Canada has an abundance of bright, young goalies to choose from.  Other Canada netminders include Carey Price, Cam Ward, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, or Marty Turco.

Price, who went 6-0 with two shutouts and a 1.14 GAA during the U-20 World Junior Championships in 2007, has quickly risen to the starting goaltending role in Montreal.  His international experience could come in handy, as well as his cool, calm demeanour in a hockey-mad city.

Turco served as the third-string goalie in 2006, but never got any playing time.  His inconsistent play in recent years has begged the question: Could Turco be a big-time goaltender on the international stage?  

I believe he could, especially if he had a solid core of defenders in front of him.  Turco has shown flashes of brilliance, but can he show it often enough to get a roster spot?

Giguere is big and can stop the puck.  His play in the Anaheim Ducks net has been fairly consistent and good.  He may lack international experience, yet Giguere did play six games during the lockout year with the Hamburg Freeze of the German Elite League, playing on the larger ice surface.  Giguere may be a long-shot, but still is a goalie to consider.

Cam Ward's brilliant play during his rookie season has led to mediocrity during the rest of his seasons so far in Carolina.  

Through he missed the playoffs during the last two seasons, Ward has commanded the Team Canada net in the World Championships, compiling a 9-1-0 record along with a 2.39 GAA and a .908 SV%.  Ward could also be a long shot, but his international experience may come in handy.

Defense

Back on the blue line is where much of Team Canada's strength lies.  An exhaustive list of all the potential players that could or should play for Team Canada in 2010 would be extensive.  Here are the front runners for the six positions, plus extras who could be anchoring the Team Canada defense.

With rookies, you also need the veterans, the players who have been there, done that. Not the most loved defender in the NHL, Chris Pronger provides Team Canada with elements that many of the younger defenders may not: leadership, a vast array of international experience, including gold medals at the U-20 World Junior Championship, the World Championships, and the Olympic Games, and smart offensive jump starts from the back end.

Pronger's strong pass out of his own zone rarely goes astray and almost always hits a forward in full stride.  His size and reach can force an opposing forward out and he can finish him off with a bone-crushing body check.  Pronger won a Gold Medal in 2002 in Salt Lake and his leadership can be an asset to the 2010 Team Canada.

With a possible retirement on the horizon for Rob Blake, Scott Niedermayer, and Adam Foote, Team Canada may still have their eyes on both of these Team Canada veterans.  

Both were part of the 2002 Gold Medal winning squad, both have won Stanley Cups, and both have had leadership roles at international levels that are intangible elements a young Team Canada will need.  Look for these two to possibly be either reserves or on the blue line, dependent on retirement.

The rest of the blue line is open for the taking.  One of the biggest forerunners for a position on the Team Canada blue line is having a breakout season in Nashville.  Shea Weber is not only a native British Columbian, but he's also awing Predators upper management by his play thus far this season.  

Tied for second in scoring among defenders and tied for first in goals among defenders, Weber's emergence as a offensive powerhouse has put him in good standing to make a push for the Team Canada blue line.  His international experience also adds to his cause, having played in the 2005 and 2007 World Championships.

Another defender making a turnaround impact for his team is San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle. Through 33 games with the NHL leading Sharks, Boyle has been rejuvenated and leads all defenders in scoring with 29 points and is tied for the lead in goals with Weber with 11.  

Boyle's three-game winning goal total is tops among defenders and his case for Team Canada is growing with every game.  Boyle also played for Team Canada during the 2005 World Championships.

Former San Jose Shark defender Brian Campbell may be flying under the radar this season in his new digs in Chicago, but Campbell's swift puck-moving ability has made him an asset that is priceless for Team Canada.  

Campbell has 25 points so far this season, which is in the top five among defenders. Along with only amassing two PIMs in 32 games shows Campbell has discipline and can play with the best.  Campbell was a part of the 1999 World Junior Championships, in which he was named a first team All-Star for the tournament.

You want size and hitting on the Team Canada blue line?  Then you have to pick Dion Phaneuf.  Phaneuf's resume of international experience speaks volumes.

Two years on the World Junior team, including being part of a dominant Canadian squad in Grand Forks in 2005.  Phaneuf also took part in the 2007 World Championships, earning a Gold Medal there too.

Phaneuf's size and strength has helped make him one of the most intimidating defenders to play against in the NHL.  His offensive upside doesn't hurt his cause either.  Phaneuf's 23 points so far this season is 12th among defenders.

His -11 is indicative of an off-season, having had plus seasons since his rookie year.  But Phaneuf's crushing body checks will have the Team Canada brass seriously considering him on the  blue line.

Another puck-moving defender Team Canada can be looking at is Washington's Mike Green.  Green's emergence as an offensive juggernaut on the Capitals blue line has not gone unnoticed.  

Green's 56 points last season, including 18 goals was indicative of a player ready to break out and do even more damage.  Thus far this season, Green has 20 points in 23 games.

Jay Bouwmeester's international resume may be the most impressive of all Canadian defenders, save maybe Scott Niedermayer's, if he plays.  Known for his offensive upside and his shut down style of defense, Bouwmeester has been a rock of consistency.

In five NHL seasons, Bouwmeester has seldom missed a game, playing all 82 games for the past three seasons with the Florida Panthers.  Bouwmeester has played extensively on the international scene, including three World Juniors (2000-2002), three World Championships (2003, 2004, 2008), World Cups (2004), and Olympics (2006).

To round out the list of potential players who could make it, there is Chicago's Duncan Keith.  Keith has emerged as a strong leader and consistent point producer on the Hawks back line.  

Last season, Keith had a +30 rating and is tops among defenders with a +18 rating this season.  Keith has an offensive upside that few remember and he can always be counted on to be defensively responsible on the ice.

 

Best Of The Rest

Ed Jovanovski - extensive international experience, was part of 2002 Olympic Gold Medal winning team, good leadership skills, size and strength, has offensive upside that could be valuable

Sheldon Souray - booming slapshot, great for the powerplay; can get burnt in the defensive end very easily; size and strength

Dennis Wideman - up-and-coming defender has proven to be a clutch goal scoring defenseman in Boston; solidly both in defensive and offensive zone, rarely gets caught out of position

Wade Redden - decent, offensive defender; has had rough few seasons; trying to stay consistent; can move the puck well and can put the puck in the net

Robyn Regehr - has been on Team Canada before in 2006; has physical upside similar to Phaneuf; can be a good leader

Keith Ballard - up-and-coming defender on a young Panthers squad; can be a responsible, strong defender on the ice; has good offensive upside

Brent Burns - very versatile, can play forward or defense; can put the puck in the net; brings alot of energy

Honourable Mention: Kris Letang, Drew Doughty, Mike Commodore, Eric Brewer, Braydon Cobourn, Cam Barker, Dan Giradi, Brent Seabrook, Dan Hamhuis

Forwards

Sidney Crosby tops this list.  One of the most electrifying players in the NHL today happens to be one of the youngest leaders in NHL history and happens to be from Nova Scotia.

Crosby is a no-brainer to make Team Canada, unlike was the case in 2006.  Crosby is a dominant player who can change the course of a game at any given time.  He's a great leader, has great vision, and can thread the needle perfectly and put the puck anywhere he wants into the net.

If Joe Sakic manages to stick around for 2010, he will undoubtedly be Captain Canada. The British Columbian native is on a one-year contract and is currently out with an injury, which may be one that could put the nail in the coffin of his great and storied career.

But if he does make it for the 2010 games, his leadership will be priceless and something Team Canada will need, since Sakic has a vast array of international experience, including three Olympics.

Among the greatest playmakers in the NHL today, Joe Thornton's size, strength, vision, and skill make him the most dangerous player on the ice whenever he's on the ice.

Thornton's 546 career assists in 788 career games may give you a sense of how well this guy can set up any player anywhere on the ice.  His dominance is second to none, and Team Canada could also welcome his leadership.

Thornton's teammate, Patrick Marleau, is another strong candidate for Team Canada.  In the past, Marleau has been a role player and has taken on a smaller role on the team such as a third- or fourth-line checker.  His strong play has been rejuvenated this season in San Jose as the Sharks are on a tear.  His leadership is also valuable.

Simon Gagne was a part of the 2002 Gold Medal winning team and has recently rejuvenated his career after having a string of groin injuries.

His experience internationally is a good asset to Team Canada.  His strong play and great vision are an asset.  

Alongside Gagne, his Philadelphia Flyers teammates Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are both having career seasons that has helped them up their stock in making Team Canada in 2010.

Carter leads all players with 26 goals while Richards has 39 points in 35 games thus far this season.  Richards recently became captain of the Flyers and his youth, leadership, and physical play can help Team Canada.

In Anaheim, there are a wealth of players who can make a case for Team Canada. Ryan Getzlaf continues to be a dominant presence as the prototypical power forward, already having compiled 38 points in 34 games.

Along with Getzlaf, Corey Perry is another physical forward who can help Team Canada as a possible role player with his size, strength, hitting, and his hands.

If Sakic can't go in 2010, Jarome Iginla will probably be one of the best players to represent Canada as their captain.  Iginla has been a force in Calgary over his tenure there and has also been a difference maker for Team Canada in 2002 and 2006.  There's not much more to say about Iginla; he's a game changer.

Ottawa's Dany Heatley and Jasson Spezza are two of the top players in the league, both having had their share of success in Ottawa, both players can also boast international experience.  Heatley played in 2006 with Team Canada while Spezza was a reserve player.  This time around, they will look to make the team full time.

Leadership can come in many forms and none can be more synonymous with Team Canada than Shane Doan and Ryan Smyth.  Both players have been referred to as Captain Canada, having played for Team Canada and delivering championships on the international stage.  Both players would be excellent role players such as grinders.

Often overlooked but never outplayed, Boston's Marc Savard should get a serious look this time around.  Savard is among the top scorers in the league year in and year out, yet never gets the attention or credit he deserves.  Savard's 29 assists so far this season are fourth in the league.  His vision is amazing and his setups are flawless.

It would be wrong to say that Vincent Lecavalier or Martin St. Louis should not make the team because Tampa Bay is having a bad year.  Both are the top players in Tampa and have had success both their and on the international stage.  Lecavalier and St. Louis were both on the 2006 squad and have also played in World Championships and World Cups for Canada.

Chicago's fine young players, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, are making a case for 2010.  Sharp's 19 goals thus far and Toews skill and accomplishments on the international stage make them both big contenders for a spot on Team Canada.

Toews, who scored a hat trick during the 2007 U-20 World Junior Championships, is renowned for his clutch play and his leadership.

Rick Nash is the prototypical power forward.  After scoring what many believe to be the goal of the year against Phoenix last season, Nash's stock only keeps rising as the Columbus Blue Jacket's captain keeps on impressing with his size, speed, and skill.

Eric Staal is only going to get better.  And that's a scary fact for other nations.  The eldest Staal brother is powering a Carolina Hurricanes offense that has been quiet as of the last few seasons.  Staal's numbers are reflective of his size, speed, and skill.  Staal is yet another prototypical power forward.

Brad Richards has rejuvenated his career in Dallas.  After having varying degrees of success, including a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy in Tampa Bay, Richards is fitting in just fine with the Stars high-octane offense.

Along with teammate and captain Brendan Morrow, both of these players could be seen as potentials for either role players or top two line scorers.

 

Best Of The Rest:

Patrice Bergeron - can he stay healthy?; has great speed and skill

Jason Arnott - great leader; has size and strength combined with a hard shot

Todd Bertuzzi - should Team Canada take another chance on Bertuzzi?; has rejuvenated his career in Calgary

Mike Ribeiro - has great hands, quick feet, excellent vision

Mike Cammalleri - quick feet, soft hands, can score or setup

Scott Hartnell - has size and isn't afraid to throw it around; can finish off any play with his hard shot

Alex Tanguay - has been rejuvenated in Montreal; one of the best playmakers in the league

Jordan Staal - great penalty killer; has great hands

Chris Kunitz - small, yet feisty, adds an element of grit to the lineup

Daniel Briere - if he can stay healthy, could add tons of speed to the lineup

Honourable Mention: Devin Setoguchi, Bryan Little, Rod Brind'Amour, Daymond Langkow, Brad Boyes, Milan Lucic, JP Dumont, Derek Roy, Ray Whitney, Nathan Horton, Paul Kariya, Stephen Weiss

Your Turn...

After looking at all the potential players that could make the team, now it's your turn.

Who do you think should be on the team?

Is there any players you think have been left out?

What should the lines be in 2010?

Take your pick, but Steve Yzerman and company have a lot of work ahead of them to pick their 2010 Team Canada.  Good thing they have a long list of potential players that could make this team.

Now it's up to them to make the right choice.

It's your turn to pick, BR!

 

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