By Bill Duke
Predicting the constitution of Team Canada’s Olympic roster for the Vancouver games is not exactly a novel idea. In fact, analysts have been doing so for more than a year already.
However, with each passing game it gets a little clearer as to who the front-runners are for positions on what is sure to be one of the best hockey teams ever assembled. Sort of. While none of Canada’s “sure things” have played their way off the team, a few players whose stock bottomed out last season or over the summer have played their way back into serious consideration. The most notable being a pair of offensive forwards in San Jose.
I’m speaking of course of Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton. Following his controversial departure from the nation’s capital, Heatley was thought to be a negative influence and the type of bad personality that could poison the dressing room of Team Canada. Well, after 26 games in California Heatley is not only second in the NHL with 18 goals, but nary a negative thing has been written or uttered about his attitude or demeanor. He has superb chemistry with NHL assist leader Thornton, who himself was left off many projected Team Canada rosters this summer. The duo are playing so well together and possess such offensive skill it would be folly for Stevie Y and the Canadian brass to leave either man off the sqaud. In fact, San Jose very well could (and should) have three forwards in Vancouver as former captain Patrick Marleau is logging major ice time and contributing more than a point per game. How dangerous would a potential second line of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley be?
The real debate as to Canada’s Olympic entry stems from the plethora of capable defencemen vying for one of the six available spots. One has to consider veterans Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger locks, but after that no ommission would be particularly shocking. Jay Bouwmeester is the next best bet, and Dan Boyle has proven to be an all-around player, so they will likely land spots should injury not befall them between now and February.
Were it up to me, the last three spots would go to Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Mike Green. Why Green? Because he is lethal on the powerplay and unlike Bryan McCabe (who was foolishly included on the Turino roster) he is not a total disaster in his own end. That would mean five of the seven defensive spots would go to Western Conference players. However, a look at the number of just-misses who also play in the West reveals how many top flight defencemen play this side of the Eastern time zone.
Chicago’s Cam Barker and Brent Seabrook still have outside shots to make the team, as do Calgary’s Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf. L.A.’s Drew Doughty would be an inspired choice, but his first Olympic experience may have to wait for Russia. Minnesota’s Brent Burns is a long shot, but he is still making appearance’s on projected rosters every now and again.
So, were it up to me, who would I put on Team Canada? Funny you should ask; I just happent to have my roster attached below (as of Nov. 27).
Dany Heatley – Joe Thornton – Patrick Marleau
Martin St. Louis – Sidney Crosby – Jarome Iginla
Rick Nash – Mike Richards – Corey Perry
Ryan Getzlaf – Jeff Carter – Steven Stamkos
Scott Niedermayer – Chris Pronger
Dan Boyle – Shea Weber
Jay Bouwmeester – Mike Green