Lacing Up with Ash and Stoosh - 02.22.09
Lacing Up is a weekly column taken from an email conversation between Ashley Gallant and CJ. “Stoosh” Jiuliante. Stoosh is a former Faceoff Factor staff writer and a long-time hockey fan.
Ash: Vancouver and Whistler were in party-mode on February 12th, starting the official one-year countdown to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Steve Yzerman and Brian Burke have their work cut out for them, as they are the executive directors/general managers for the Canadian and American men’s national hockey teams, respectively. In one year’s time, they will bring their teams to Vancouver to battle for glory and gold. I don’t envy their position, but I thought we could have a little fun anyways.
Imagine you are Yzerman or Burkie.
Imagine an entire nation is looking to you to put together a team that will bring home Olympic gold.
Who is a lock to make that team? And who is a dark horse to steal one of those coveted spots?
Matt: It’s hard to imagine we’re talking about the Olympics once again. How fast time flies!
To answer your question, I think one player who undoubtedly will not be overlooked is Sidney Crosby. The last time around, the powers-that-be “snubbed” the young superstar and regretted it in the long run. They certainly won’t make that mistake again.
The problem, though, is that Yzerman is going to have to deal with is that, along with Crosby, their best players all are centers: Joe Thornton, Marc Savard, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Marleau, Jeff Carter, Vinny Lecavalier, Mike Richards, and even Derek Roy. That’s nine centers. Nine.
We all know Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash and Shane Doan will make it, bringing the total to 12 forwards. Something will have to give to fill out the wings. Will some centers convert to wingers or will some deserving participants be “snubbed” like Crosby a few years back?
On defense, you have to consider Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Mike Green, Shea Weber and Dion Phaneuf to be locks. That leaves little wiggle room for guys like Jay Bouwmeester, Brian Campbell, Dennis Wideman, Dan Boyle, etc.
And, in goal, Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo have their spots reserved. But who else is in the running? Marty Turco? Cam Ward? Steve Mason? Carey Price? Marc-Andre Fleury?
Quite simply, the decesions are going to be extremely difficult. I don’t evvy their job. Okay, so maybe I do.
Ash: I think you’re 100% right, Matt – barring injury (knock on wood), Yzerman will definitely hand Crosby a ticket to Vancouver next winter.
I think that it was a mistake for Hockey Canada to not invite Crosby along for the ride to Torino, but not for the reason everyone else thinks. Some would say that Crosby had the talent at that age to warrant a place on the Olympic team, just like Malkin and Ovechkin had spots on Team Russia.
However, sort of I understand Hockey Canada’s point of view that they had to take more veteran players who had proven themselves in the NHL. Crosby had not yet played internationally at the senior level, and had only been in the NHL for a few months. Canada was the defending Olympic champion, and (as always) had a “gold or nothing” attitude. Their decisions came down to who had the skill the experience to handle the situation, so it wasn’t entirely surprising that Crosby was left disappointed.
My point of view is simple: Crosby should have been on that 2006 team because he will be the face of the Vancouver Olympic Games.
Hockey Canada should have looked beyond the 2006 Olympics to Vancouver and realized that the pressure to win gold in 2010 is one hundred times greater than the pressure to win consecutive gold medals on foreign soil. I have heard several Olympic athletes claim that there is nothing like the Olympic Games and that nothing can truly prepare you for the pressure and the competition. I think Crosby would have benefitted from the Olympic experience itself and that the experience would have paid off, even if he had failed to score a point in Torino.
Enough of that for now…
I understand what you say about there being an abundance of centres in comparison to wingers (sound familiar?). I am not overly concerned, though, because some of those centres will simply be shifted to the wing. Players have to be willing to accept unfamiliar roles if they want to play on this team. It may mean that Joe Thornton will be playing on the third line. Or perhaps Dan Boyle will be the 7th defenseman. Or perhaps Crosby will take on the role of a winger on a line with Lecavalier and Iginla.
There will certainly be ‘snubs’, but I also believe that everybody who makes this team will deserve their spot.
Steve Yzerman definitely has his work cut out for Team Canada. First, he has to choose a coach, and my first choice would be Pat Quinn. Quinn has won Olympic Gold, the World Cup, the U-18, and WJC. He also suffered the painful tournament that was the 2006 Olympics, so he has an idea of what went wrong and how he would make sure things would go ‘right’ this time around. I would also bring in Mike Babcock and Brent Sutter as assistants.
Here’s what my team would look like:
GOALIES: Marty Brodeur and Roberto Luongo are locks, provided they are injury-free. The third goalie spot is open and will likely go to a young goalie that plays well in the fall (*Carey Price*, Steve Mason, M-A Fleury), or perhaps a more veteran player (*J-S Giguere*, Marty Turco) if their play justifies his addition to the team.
D-MEN: Scott Niedermayer is a must because he has won it all. I would also take Dan Boyle and use him on the powerplay with Mike Green. I would also put Dion Phaneuf and Shea Weber back together. I’d bring in Brent Burns – he was fantastic in last year’s WC – and Jay Bouwmeester.
FORWARDS: The line of Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, and Dany Heatley must be reunited next winter because they showed incredible chemistry at the 2008 WC. Marc Savard needs to be on this team, as he is one of the most underrated players in the NHL and unbelievably has never played for Canada at the senior level. Shane Doan is Captain Canada and should be brought back, period. Sidney Crosby, Vinny Lecavalier, Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, are no-brainers. I’d also bring along Mike Richards and put him in a checking role, and I’d bring his Flyers teammates Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne. I think I’d also take Patrick Marleau along for the ride, especially if he doesn’t let his play slide.
My reserves would be Chris Pronger, Eric Staal, Marty St-Louis, and Corey Perry.
Brian Burke will have an interesting group to work with next year as well. He is in charge of forming Team USA, and I think this team will be very young, and very skilled.
For coaches, I like the idea of bring in John Tortorella (who coached in the 2008 WC) and Ron Wilson.
As for a team, my Team USA would look something like this:
GOALIES: Tim Thomas deserves starting duties, with Ryan Miller and Ty Conklin seeing time as well.
D-MEN: I know a lot of Pens fans would hate this, but I think you have to put Ryan Whitney on the team. I’d also take Brian Rafalski, Ryan Suter, Jordan Leopold, and J-M Liles. I think you could make a spot for Mike Komisarek too.
FORWARDS: This team will have quite a few skilled, young forwards: Pat Kane, Zach Parise, Phil Kessel, Paul Stastny, Dustin Brown, Patrick O’Sullivan, Brandon Dubinsky and Peter Mueller. I’d also consider Doug Weight because he has been playing well this season and he is a veteran presence in the room. Chris Drury would also bring leadership and clutch scoring when needed. Throw in Jason Pominville, and perhaps Jamie Langenbrunner and Ryan Malone and I think you have a pretty good group of players.
What do you guys think of my teams? Do they have a shot at Olympic glory?
Matt: Since I missed the second half of your original question and ignored Team USA, let me break down my picks…
Unlike Team Canada, Team USA is very diverse in positions, with many wingers mixed in with the centers. That certainly makes for an easier selection process, though it doesn’t necessarily make for a better team.
My forward picks: Parise, Kane, Langenbrunner, Kessel, Brown, Pavelski, Gomez, Ryan, Wheeler, Booth, Drury, Malone, Gionta.
My defensive picks: Rafalski, Gilbert, Whitney, Suter, Komisarek, Liles
My goalie picks: Miller, Thomas, and one of Conklin, DiPietro, or Quick.
Ash: Not a bad lookin’ team, Matt.
I’m sure we’ll have plenty more to talk about this year, especially once players are named to selection camp this summer.