By Allan Muir
When it comes to Canada's national hockey teams, the story is never who makes the cut, but who gets snubbed. Second-guessing the roster has become the country's other official sport.
Such scrutiny is the price that comes with having the world's most enviable talent pool, one so deep that a solid case can be built for literally dozens of choices. But it also points out the challenge facing Steve Yzerman and the rest of Canada's management heading into Sochi. It's not just a matter of picking the best players or the ones with the flashiest statistics, but the men capable of playing multiple roles...and meshing well with one another.
And it's about picking players who will be ready when Feb. 12, 2014 rolls around, not just those who've answered the call in the past. Experience is important, but the team can't live in the past.
So maybe that means no Rick Nash, who has underperformed at his last couple international events. Maybe Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton and Ryan Getzlaf don't have the versatility to find footing among Canada's deep group of centers. Maybe some youngsters are ready but others, like Tyler Seguin, Logan Couture and Jeff Skinner aren't quite there yet.
Or maybe they'll all be obvious choices next December when the rosters are announced. A lot can change in a year's time. Injuries, comebacks and breakthroughs will play a significant role in how this team eventually comes together.
No matter who wears the colors, Canada looks to have the deepest forward corps and the best top-four in the tournament. But behind them will be a group of goaltenders guaranteed to triple antacid sales from Cornerbrook to Victoria.
Here's how I see the roster playing out.
• Sidney Crosby (Penguins): The best player in the world wasn't all that special in Vancouver until he scored the Golden Goal. Expect him to make a more consistent impact this time around.
• Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks): Put him wherever you want. He'll be Canada's MVP.
• Jordan Eberle (Oilers): This kid is magic whenever he puts on the maple leaf, but he'll have to be used as a top-six forward to be effective. This could be Nash's spot.
• Martin St. Louis (Lightning): The trend is to go younger, but that's for the fast legs. Yzerman knows St. Louis is still plenty quick and has great chemistry with Stamkos.
• Patrice Bergeron (Bruins): The defending Selke Trophy winner will key Canada's checking line and take all the big face-offs. • Jarome Iginla (Flames): The toughest choice. This natural winger is clearly nearing the end of his career, but Yzerman always finds a place for a savvy veteran presence who has seen it all. Iggy can fill that role.