The 23-man roster that will represent Canada at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver has been set, or so it would seem if hockey analyst and former player/coach Pierre McGuire were executive director of Canada's men's hockey team.
With 365 days before the puck drops in the opening game of the tournament, McGuire unveiled the players he believes should make up the men's national team - a list that includes 12 members of the old guard.
In the blue paint, Martin Brodeur was selected to be the starting goaltender for the country's Olympic team. The 36-year-old has missed most of the 2008-09 NHL campaign following elbow surgery in November but with the Montreal native on the mend, McGuire feels his resume is too deep to ignore.
"A staple in the Canadian net since the 2002 Salt Lake City games, Martin Brodeur is Canada's ultimate pressure-treated goaltender, winning three Stanley Cups, Olympic gold and a World Cup during a glittering professional career."
Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo is number two on the list. The hometown favourite is considered Brodeur's heir apparent as Canada's international goalie, partly on the strength of two gold medal performances at the World Championship.
Montreal's Carey Price is McGuire's third selection to represent the maple leaf. Struggling with his NHL team of late, Price won over the country at the 2007 World Junior Championship when he stared down the U.S. in a semifinal shootout showdown and then beat Russia for gold.
On the blueline, there are a lot of new faces wearing Canada's crest with only two returning defenceman from the 2006 Torino Games - Jay Bouwmeester and Scott Niedermayer.
"Bouwmeester recorded a natural hat trick for Canada in winning consecutive gold's at the 2003 World Championship, 2004 World Championship and 2004 World Cup," McGuire commented, "while Niedermayer is the only player in hockey history to win a Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold Medal, World Championship, World Cup, Memorial Cup and World Junior title."
A member of the taxi squad in Torino, Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle is in the starting lineup for McGuire's 2010 team.
"A coach's dream, Boyle is a one-man transition team with all the right moves to move the puck forward and generate offence from the back end," McGuire said.
Minnesota's Brent Burns and Washington's Mike Green are also called to represent their country by McGuire. Burns had a two-goal performance in Canada's gold medal loss at the 2008 World Championship and earned tournament best defenceman honours while Green has established himself as the world's best goal-scoring defenceman in less than two seasons, and a virtually unstoppable force on the power play.
Adding some grit to the backend, McGuire placed Flames hard-hitter Dion Phaneuf and Nashville Predators grinder Shea Weber on the Canadian squad.
"A high risk-high reward player, Phaneuf blasts slap shots - and opponents - in a style of play that screams: Beware if you dare to cross him," said McGuire.
For Sicamous, B.C., native Weber, he may play in the heart of country music but he's "pure rock and roll on the ice," says McGuire, "combining toughness and talent as well as any NHL defenceman."
Up front, Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier are two of seven Torino returnees to make McGuire's squad.
A driving force on the Flames offence, Iginla will forever be remembered as the man whose clutch two-goal performance at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games helped deliver Canada's first Olympic gold medal in 50 years.
In Lecavalier, you get a big game player who set up the Stanley Cup winning goal in 2004 and four months later sent Canada to the World Cup final with an overtime goal versus the Czech Republic.
Also returning to the Games to represent their country, according to McGuire, is Phoenix's Shane Doan, Philadelphia's Simon Gagne, Ottawa's Dany Heatley, Columbus' Rick Nash and San Jose's Joe Thornton.
Sidney Crosby was not a part of the squad that finished out of the medals at the Torino Games, but that omission won't be repeated according to McGuire.
The native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, represented Canada only once at the senior level but he represented the country at the 2006 World Championships where he accumulated 16 points in just nine games to become the youngest player ever to lead the tournament in scoring.
Some players who have improved their stock this season in the NHL stood out to McGuire and did enough to make his team.
Philadelphia forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf, and Boston's Marc Savard are all having strong NHL campaigns and made enough of an impression on McGuire to round out Team Canada's front line along with Dallas' Brenden Morrow who should be there for Canada come 2010 despite missing most of the season with a torn ACL.
"Carter has followed up a sensational World Junior career for Canada by developing into an elite NHL goal-scorer," said McGuire, "while teammate Richards is every bit the heart and soul player Philadelphia and Team Canada icon Bobby Clarke was, the player Richards is most often and most appropriately compared to."
Getzlaf has been the very epitome of strength down the middle in the NHL after averaging a remarkable 1.5 points per game as a two-time World Jr. medalist.
Morrow has represented Canada five times in senior competition, but forged his place in the Canadian hockey consciousness with an awe-inspiring 2008 playoff performance for Dallas.
Boston's Savard has never represented Canada at a major international event but is a point-per-game NHLer who holds a unique distinction for players of his skill level.
McGuire admitted that there were some very tough omissions when he completed his list.
“I think you have to start in goal, when you consider Carey Price and Steve Mason. I don't think anyone is going to debate Martin Brodeur or Roberto Luongo are going to be there so who gets to be the third guy. I give Carey Price the edge because he's from BC. He's played in that rink before.”
McGuire also had a very difficult choice to make for his final forward spot.
“When you look at the forward position it's Shane Doan versus Jonathan Toews. Toews is a great leader and when you look at his performance in Leksand,Sweden during the World Juniors was unbelievable. But I've watched Shane Doan play in international competitions; I've watched him be a leader. I know he has 22 goals this year for Phoenix. He's done all the little things right so I give him a bit of a veteran edge because of all the pressure that's going to be on this team in Vancouver. I think Doan can settle everything down and that's why he gets a bit of an edge.”
McGuire's Team Canada Lines
Bouwmeester - Niedermayer
Phaneuf - Weber
Burns - Green
Crosby – Lecavalier - Iginla
Heatley – Getzlaf - Nash
Carter – Thornton - Gagne
Morrow – Richards - Doan
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