The identities of the proud Canadians who will sweat profusely under the spotlight of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver will be revealed on Wednesday, Dec. 30, and we'll be live-blogging the announcement here on Puck Daddy. But in the moments leading up to Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman and his staff selecting their team, a few of those choices have come into focus while others remain undefined.
For example: If a goalie other than Martin Brodeur(notes), Roberto Luongo(notes) or Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) is named to the team it would be a Norway-winning-gold-level shock. Every indication, from the opinions of the punditry to the lack of true competition for the third slot this season, is that those three goalies are between the pipes in Vancouver. Despite protests from the Giggy minority.
The rest of the lineup appears fairly set, too, according to the projections from many different sources. Media like the Globe & Mail, the Calgary Herald, the Examiner and most recently a 15-member panel representing CBC Sports and Hockey Night in Canada have submitted their picks; from them, some names appear cemented in the lineup for Canada while others are clearly on the bubble.
Coming up, the Probable and the Bubbles for Team Canada 2010.
The Probable: Dan Boyle(notes), San Jose Sharks; Duncan Keith(notes), Chicago Blackhawks; Scott Niedermayer(notes), Anaheim Ducks; Chris Pronger(notes), Philadelphia Flyers; and Shea Weber(notes), Nashville Predators.
For most pundits, there are three names competing for two spots here: Jay Bouwmeester(notes) of the Calgary Flames; Drew Doughty(notes) of the Los Angeles Kings; and Mike Green(notes) of the Washington Capitals.
Bouwmeester's most likely making the cut, due to his durability, previous Olympic experience in 2006 and Harry Potter charm.
Green was put over by Don Cherry during the weekend, which is a welcome change from his blaming Green for his injuries on that David Koci hit. Being selected here would be an important moment of validation for Green, whose star has risen almost as quickly as criticisms about this defense (frequently unfounded, by the way) have. The awful 2009 postseason, losing the Norris to Chara and then missing the 2010 Olympic cut would be a fairly humbling trifecta
Bouwmeester played in the Olympics at 22; Doughty is 20, although he plays like a 10-year veteran. He has a ton of support from pundits to make this cut, and his play over his first two NHL warrants strong consideration. But he's never been on a stage like this before, all due respect to the WJ18-A tournament.
Two wild cards: Brent Seabrook(notes), who is getting the push to make the team as Keith's defensive partner -- and it's hard to deny the top pairing from the NHL's best defense; and Dion Phaneuf(notes), who's had a better season than 2008-09 but may not even rate above teammate (and former Olympian) Robyn Regehr(notes).
The guess here is Bouwmeester and either Doughty or Seabrook, if Yzerman and Co. take him as a package deal with Keith. Green's worked hard in attempting to make this team but the bid will fall short.
The Probable: Sidney Crosby(notes), Pittsburgh Penguins; Ryan Getzlaf(notes), Anaheim Ducks; Dany Heatley(notes), San Jose Sharks; Jarome Iginla(notes), Calgary Flames; Patrick Marleau(notes), San Jose Sharks; Rick Nash(notes), Columbus Blue Jackets; Corey Perry(notes), Anaheim Ducks; Mike Richards(notes), Philadelphia Flyers; Joe Thornton(notes), San Jose Sharks; Jonathan Toews(notes), Chicago Blackhawks.
And then there were three ...
It's a tribute to Canada's incredible depth at forward that 10 selections are basically locks right now, with Marleau arriving a little late to the party with his outstanding season with the Sharks. There are six players that are natural centers or who can play center in that group, which is going to make life interesting for Brad Richards(notes) of the Dallas Stars. He's got 42 points in 36 games, is as good a playmaking center as you'll find; but does Team Canada need a different type of center to fill out the roster?
That's why Eric Staal(notes) has been slowly inching off the bubble since his return from injury. He doesn't have Richards's Olympic experience, but he does have a 6-foot-4 frame that could be valuable up the middle on an NHL-size ice surface. We'd expect he'll snag one of the three remaining slots.
The final two spots for Team Canada should be on the wing and should be a particular type of depth winger that brings some grit and defense to the roster. Three names to consider: Marty St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning; Brenden Morrow(notes) of the Dallas Stars; and Shane Doan(notes) of the Phoenix Coyotes.
As the Kurtenbloggers point out, Morrow and Doan would give Team Canada one heck of a grind line if paired with, say, Mike Richards. St. Louis is a former Olympian whose two-way game could really spark a depth line.
Fisher's stock couldn't be higher right now, and he's had half the Canadian media campaigning for him in the last month. As for Staal and Smyth, Pierre LeBrun of ESPN explains:
If Yzerman sees Staal as a left-wing fit instead, that poses a serious challenge to Smyth and Morrow. Smyth was one of Canada's better forwards in Torino at the 2006 Olympics and is one of the country's most decorated international players. He also was having a heck of a season before getting hurt in mid-November. He's back in the Los Angeles Kings' lineup, but you wonder how much his absence hurt his chances. I admit I'm biased here, having given him his "Captain Canada" nickname eight years ago at the world championships because of his long international résumé. But I have a hard time putting together an Olympic team without his name on it.
The guess here for the Final Three: Eric Staal, Morrow and St. Louis.