Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bringin' Home the Gold

canada olympics hockey 2002
I only have a passing interest in the upcoming Winter Olympics. I dislike the Olympics in general. Being held in Canada is only making me marginally interested. First, I don’t think most events are actual sports. Ice dance is not a sport. It’s dancing…on ice. Don’t tell me dancing is a sport. If drunken people do it in a club then it’s not a sport. Am I supposed to take these events seriously when they are subjectively scored by crooked judges? At least the winter Olympics are better than the summer ones which are filled with survival tactics (e.g. running, swimming), not sports. Wow, you can run fast. Great, that isn’t fun, it’s what you have to do when a bear is chasing you. The only thing I am looking forward to in the Olympics is men’s ice hockey (I also get pretty into the women’s final). In fact, to me the Olympics is synonymous with hockey. If Canada is shut out of every medal, but they take home the gold in men’s hockey, I will consider it a success.

The roster announcement is set for about a week away, so I thought it would be appropriate to outline my picks for the team. I’ve already stated my reasons for leaving Thornton and Marleau off the team, but I’ve got a terrible feeling one, if not both, will be on Steve Yzerman’s list.

It’s imperative that Canada makes the right picks because Torino was a clusterfuck. That year Gretzky and friends picked a horrible defence (McCabe, Redden, Foote, Blake in particular). Pronger looked old and out-of-place, but the four previously mentioned were miles behind the competition. The offense couldn’t score and remember the number one centre that year was Jumbo Joe Thornton. There was also the baffling Todd Bertuzzi selection and the Sidney Crosby omission. These aren’t even just bad moves in hind sight. Even before the tournament began these picks were suspect. Canada needs the gold. It’ll take a long time for the nation to recover if we don’t. Onto the picks.


Nash - Crosby - Iginla

Perry - Getzlaf - St. Louis

Heatley - Richards - Carter

Morrow - Toews - Doan



Pronger - Boyle

Keith - Bouwmeester

Niedermayer - Weber



Martin Brodeur

Roberto Luongo

Marc-Andre Fleury

In terms of forwards, the only real spot I wavered was with the 4th line centre. I contemplated both Mike Fisher and Eric Staal in the place of Jonathan Toews, but ultimately settled on Toews. I am skeptical of choosing players based solely on this season’s performance. Instead I’d prefer the selection committee to look at the player’s history, with an emphasis placed on playoffs and previous stints with Canada. That’s why I didn’t choose Fisher. Staal was harder to omit, but I’ve never really liked him and I don’t think he’s necessarily good as a defensive centre. Although switching Richards as the 4th line centre is a viable option, then have either Staal or Toews as the number 3. Unfortunately, Thornton will probably take a centre position away from one of these more deserving players. I chose Stamkos as the 13th forward. It may be too soon for the young sniper, but I think as the 13th forward he can inject some excitement and creativity into the line-up if Canada cannot generate enough offense in the first few games.

Defence is crucial to Canada’s success, especially against a dynamic offense like the Russians. Canada needs to worry about offense from the forwards and rely on defence that are fully capable of playing against some of the most terrifying players in the world. That’s the primary reason Chris Pronger needs to be on this team. The smaller ice surface will benefit Pronger’s game and will allow him to play the nasty, physical style he excels at. Pronger will not be intimidated by a line of Ovechkin, Malkin and Kovalchuk (holy shit). The team also needs a veteran presence, which is why Scott Niedermayer needs to play. Both Niedermayer and Pronger will provide a stabilizing presence on the blueline that will help the younger players play effectively. This will be the most pressure many of these players have ever played under. They need players who have won at every level they have played. This isn’t like 2006 when picking an aging Yzerman and Lemieux would have hurt the Canadians. Both Pronger and Niedermayer can still play at a high level and will be tremendous assets.

The only other pick I think needs to be explained is Mike Green as the 7th defenceman. I’m not entirely convinced Green plays hard and physical enough to warrant a spot on the top-6, but I think his offensive acumen cannot be denied. If they use Green strictly as a power-play specialist he can bring tremendous value. Coach Babcock must not play him in normal situations, otherwise he risks interfering with the chemistry of his other pairings and forcing everyone out of the rhythm on the game.

Finally, goaltending is the easiest position to pick. I admit that Roberto Luongo has played well enough to ensure a few starts, but this is Martin Brodeur’s team. He is the best goalie of all-time, a consummate winner, and is a lock in big games. There have been so many times in the past 5 years where I have questioned New Jersey’s ability to play well (e.g. when Stevens retired and Niedermayer went to the Ducks), yet every single year they are at the top of the Eastern conference and I believe this is largely attributable to Brodeur’s play. Plus, he was the only player who showed up to play in Torino. Without Brodeur the team may have finished last. The team should also bring Eddie Belfour over as a mentor to Fleury. They can have Belfour show Fleury how to properly attack the bars as the team’s 3rd string goalie.

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