Team Canada's roster is scary good
Thanks a lot,
To be fair, there weren't actual tears running down his face. But as Team Canada's major domo read off the names of the 23 players who'll represent the country at next year's Winter Olympics, my Texas-born, Ol' Glory-wavin' nine-year-old was on the verge.
"Come on!," he groused before storming out of the room where we were watching the announcement. "Thornton, Heatley and Marleau? That's your fourth line???"
Tough to say which players will form which line at this juncture, but the point was well made. After more than a year of scouting, polling, thoughtful discussions and heated debate, Yzerman and his staff put together one scary good team to represent the home side in Vancouver.
Canadians who've spent just as much time scribbling down phantom rosters of their own will inevitably disagree with a few of his choices, but as they make their arguments for a personal favorite, they'll have to ask themselves this question: to add someone, who from this squad gets cut?
Good luck finding a guy who doesn't belong.
The trio of goalies was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
The blueline is anchored by five givens: captain
The makeup of the forward corps will generate the most second-guessing, but that speaks more to the depth of options than the quality of Yzerman's selections. Impossible to argue with the bulk of the group:
And that's the point my son recognized. Other teams will rely heavily on their top six forwards to carry their chances. Canada will, too. When they won in 2002, it was because their best players were the best players on the ice.
But this Canadian squad also offers up the potential of tremendous mismatches with its depth. Imagine trying to defend against the strength, skill and determination of a third line featuring Toews, Morrow and Iginla or a fourth line that includes three of the NHL's top 15 scorers?
Good luck with that.
Not that this is just a fantasy hockey team loaded with snipers. With so little time from the moment the team assembles in Vancouver until the puck drops on Feb. 16 against Norway, the ability to mesh with teammates and slide into clearly defined roles will be critical, so Yzerman has assembled a squad that boasts some well-established chemistry. There are obvious connections, like the Sharks' first line, Getzlaf and Perry, Pronger and Niedermayer, Keith and Seabrook. Then there are others that might be rekindled. Crosby, Bergeron and Perry excelled together at the World Juniors in 2005. Nash, Getzlaf and Heatley were unstoppable at the World Championships. It's a group capable of hitting the ground running.
In the end, what Yzerman has given Mike Babcock are options. With this team, he has redundancies for any possible scenario. So now the onus is on the coach to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He'll have fun.
Of course, there's going to be plenty of discussion about those who didn't make the cut -- guys like
Tough for those players left off, but it's possible one or more may yet get the call. Injuries culled
For now, though, this is Steve Yzerman's team. He owes no apologies.
Well, except maybe to my son.
In a perfect world -- at least, Canada's view of a perfect world -- Olympic hockey would be set up like the bobsled competition to allow countries to qualify multiple teams. Yzerman announced Canada 1 today. Given the chance, here's how a Canada 2 might have been constructed: