Who would I pick to be on Canada's 2010 Olympic Team, if I were Steve Yzerman? Everyone's got their opinions, and here's mine. One thing's for sure, I don't envy Yzerman his task of choosing the best possible players for Canada.
Goalies: Martin Brodeur (New Jersey), Roberto Luongo (Vancouver), Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh). Outside chance: Steve Mason (Columbus).
Marty is the man for Canada, and as the best goaltender in the NHL today, one of the most experienced international tenders out there, and as a multiple Vezina winner, he's the clear favourite to start for Canada in 2010. Of course, Marty is getting old, and if he has another injury-laden season or if his numbers slip, Canada will turn to Roberto Luongo, who is always good and has occasional flashes of brilliance. If one of Canada's top three can't make it, I predict Steve Mason from Columbus will get asked to participate over Cam Ward. Ward is a great pressure goalie, but if Mason continues his blistering performance from last year into this coming season, he'll be the clearly better player come February.
Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester (Calgary), Mike Green (Washington), Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim), Chris Pronger (Philadelphia), Brent Burns (Minnesota), Shea Weber (Nashville). Outside chances: Dion Phaneuf (Calgary), Duncan Keith (Chicago).
Niedermayer and Pronger have earned their spot by being two great veteran defensemen, and Norris Trophy alums. Green was nominated this year, and there is no doubt that his huge point shot will help a team with the talent up front that Canada will have. Burns is a solid defenseman, and Weber brings a slap shot and a decent defensive presence. Bouwmeester is a great all-around player. The reason why I think Phaneuf won't crack the lineup right away is because Dion's play has been slipping the last couple years. He's not living up to his promise. Keith, on the other hand, could be a stable rock in Canada's back end, and I think if he had 2-3 years more experience, he'd be a lock in this lineup.
Forwards: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim), Dany Heatley (Ottawa), Jarome Iginla (Calgary), Rick Nash (Columbus), Mike Richards (Philadelphia), Jonathan Toews (Calgary), Shane Doan (Phoenix), Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay), Dan Cleary (Detroit), Jeff Carter (Philadelphia), Patrick Sharp (Chicago). Outside chances: Milan Lucic (Boston), Corey Perry (Anaheim), Eric Staal (Carolina).
One of the hardest things about putting Team Canada together is avoiding the temptation to build four unbeatable scoring lines when you really only need two. What we need is two super lines, an energy line, and a checking line - all of which are dangerous, but you need shut-down hockey players out there. So, that's what I'm looking at here, and why I'd invite Danny Cleary out to play when not bringing on Corey Perry. Lucic is the same as Cleary but I feel he adds less offense, and Staal is a good player, but why bring him when you have Vinny Lecavalier or Getzlaf?
My line combinations look a little like this: (LW-C-RW)
I like having Toews on a wing because I can slot him in for any centre easily, or move Lecavalier up to the top line and have Toews centre Sharp and whoever. He might not be ideally suited to playing left wing on the third line, but that doesn't mean he'd be bad at it - and we need players who can adapt.
My captain would be Jarome Iginla, with Nieds, Prongs, and Doan wearing As.