FanPost

Team Canada - One Month Out

Editor's Note: Let's try this again! Birky has a great FanPost and hopefully the HTML doesn't torpedo it again!

Team Canada is set to announce its roster for the 2010 Winter Olympics on December 31st.  Final rosters don't have to be submitted until February 13th, so in the event of an injury or God knows what, changes can be made.  I think it's about time we here at PPP took a look at potential roster choices and who plays where.
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(Note to all readers:  Any conclusions I reach are, of course, simply my opinion and I welcome any and all discussion of this post.  Also, please excuse any spelling errors.)

Up Front:

Let's start with the Forwards group.  There are probably three guys who are all but guaranteed to make the final roster: Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, and Jarome Iginla.  Outside of these three, who will likely also make up the top line, there is a pool of about 23 players trying to earn 10 roster spots (9 dressed, 1 sitting).  Here are the candidates as I see them on 11/30/09:

J. Thornton, B. Richards, P. Marleau, C. Perry, S. Stamkos, M. St Louis, R. Getzlaf, J. Carter, R. Smyth, M. Cammalleri, M. Richards, J. Tavares, P. Sharp, V. Lecavalier, B. Morrow, S. Doan, J. Toews, J. Spezza, D. Heatley, M. Savard, E. Staal, D. Cleary and D. Penner.

Of these 23, I'm going to cut D. Cleary, D. Penner, B. Morrow, M. Savard, and E. Staal.  I think there are other players, such as Patrick Sharp and Mike Richards, who are effective penalty killers and bring more to the table than Cleary (Rob Zamuner anyone?).  Ditto with B. Morrow.  Penner has no international experience, which I constitute as a major blow.  Savard and Staal have both dealt with injuries this season.   I think these two have a major uphill battle considering the sheer number of centers in the running.  Staal, specifically, is a very streaky hockey player, and you take a major gamble including him on any roster with other, more consistent options available.

Now you have 18 skaters for 10 roster spots.  At this point, there isn't a major drop off in talent amongst any of these players.  How do you differentiate between these guys?  This is where current production comes into play.  We all know what Vincent Lecavalier can do.  But would you pick him over Steven Stamkos right now?  What if I told you that Stamkos has the most goals in the NHL since February 16th?  Does that change your opinion?

There should be two goals for Yzerman and company when filling out the roster.  The first is to stack the top 6 with the best possible talent.  That means guys who can excel both on even strength and the powerplay.  With the exception of Sweden and Russia, no team can match talent with Canada's top six.  In the bottom six, you want flexibility.  In case of injury, you want players who can step up and perform well on the second or first line.  You also want guys who can kill penalties, shutdown opposition players, and physically wear down the opposition.  Against Russia or Sweden, this is going to be very important.  Canada must get production from the bottom two lines if they hope to win.  Whether that is killing penalties, marking the other team's top line, or grinding away at the other squad's defense, the bottom six must be versatile and effective.

Down the Middle:

The deepest and most difficult of the three forward positions to predict is at center, and that's where we'll start.  Here is a brief table of the possible selections and how they've performed so far this year:

Player

Team

GP

FOW

FOL

FO%

ES TOI/G

SH TOI/G

PP TOI/G

G

A

Joe Thornton

SJS

28

244

209

53.9

15:40

1:07

3:42

7

30

Brad Richards

DAL

24

167

163

50.6

14:04

0:37

5:20

7

25

Patrick Marleau

SJS

28

165

133

55.4

15:04

2:28

3:24

17

14

Steven Stamkos

TBL

24

163

175

48.2

14:33

0:55

4:44

7

12

Ryan Getzlaf

ANA

25

213

217

49.5

17:29

1:10

4:03

5

23

Jeff Carter

PHI

24

219

221

49.8

15:03

1:59

3:01

9

14

Mike Richards

PHI

24

220

204

51.9

15:06

2:13

3:19

11

11

Vincent Lecavalier

TBL

24

203

183

52.6

14:22

0:51

4:38

5

16

Jonathan Toews

CHI

19

189

127

59.8

15:00

1:31

2:32

5

10

Jason Spezza

OTT

22

227

200

53.2

15:29

0:48

3:44

2

13

 

Marleau has played a large portion of this season on the left wing, and that's where I'm going to move him.  I don't think he'll make Team Canada as a center.  But as a winger, his value increases dramatically.  Lecavalier and Spezza simply haven't produced at the same level some of the others have.  I'm going to eliminate them as well.  Now, there are two ways you can go from here.  One is to take Joe Thornton as your second line center.  The other is to take a resurgent Brad Richards.  Both are known to be playmaking, pass first pivot men who excel on the power play.  Thornton has a reputation as a choke artist, mostly well deserved, stemming from his play in the Stanley Cup playoffs as well as international experience (specifically, his play in Torino).  However, at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, Thornton had 6 points in 6 games.  He followed that performance with 16 points in 9 games at the 2005 World Championships.  He has more international experience than Richards as well.  His stats so far this season are important as well.  Thornton has been better on face-offs in addition to averaging almost a minute more per game on the PK.  If I'm picking this team, I'm taking Thornton.

My third and fourth line centers are, for me at least, fairly straightforward.  Getzlaf and Mike Richards are the guys.  These two will do nearly anything you ask on the ice.  They are not only skilled, but physical as well, and Canada will need to utilize their size on the smaller ice surface against some of the European squads.

On the Wings:

The wingers are an easier group to predict.  The weakest position for Canada, if you can really call it that, can be found here.  As unpopular as it may be, I want the Sharks top line to stay together for the tournament.  Marleau-Thornton-Heatley has far and away been the best line in hockey thus far, and it makes little sense to split them up.  Outside of Iginla, Heatley is the second best right winger behind Iginla, and even though his personality is polarizing, keeping him on a line with his San Jose teammates and in an important role on the team should keep him quiet.

I'm taking Getzlaf's teammate Corey Perry too.  I've been able to watch the Ducks play a few times this year, and these two can be flat out dominant when they want to be.  They're familiar with each other's style of play, which is important for a short tournament.  At left wing on the third line, you've got three choices in my mind:  St. Louis, Stamkos, and Carter.  Because of his speed and playmaking ability, I want St. Louis.  He had 15 points at the 2009 World Championships and 10 the year before.  He's probably not the same caliber goal scorer as he used to be, but he remains a very dangerous player.

My fourth line is a group of two-way players.  I'll take Patrick Sharp and Shane Doan playing opposite Mike Richards.  This line can match up against any opposing group and excel.

The 13th guy will be a toss-up between Stamkos and Toews.  I'll take Stamkos, because he's the more dangerous offensive weapon of the two.

The Back End:

This will be brief because there are only two spots legitimately up for grabs right now on defense.  Neidermayer, Pronger, Keith, and Bouwmeester are, as far as I'm concerned, locked in for Vancouver.

Rob Blake said in a recent interview that one of the main issues in the Turin Olympics was the lack of puck-moving defensemen who could skate through the trap.  I highly doubt that will be an issue this time around, as I expect Yzerman to pick at least three and possibly 5 puck-movers for this team.  The first pairing will undoubtedly be Scott Neidermayer and Chris Pronger.  These two played and won a cup together in Anaheim and offer just about everything you could ever need out of a pairing.

Just as familiarity between forwards is important, it's vital for defensemen too.  That's why I'm taking both Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook as well.  Keith might be the best defenseman in the NHL right now.  He's third in the NHL in points amongst blue-liners and is reliable in his own end as well.  Seabrook is a fantastic all-around defenseman in his own right, although he uses his 6'3 frame to play a more defensive style.  He plays calm in his own end, which will be important against some of the faster teams.

My last pairing is Jay Bouwmeester and Shea Weber.  Both have elite size, fantastic skating ability, and can log major minutes.  While Weber is willing to take risks, I would worry much more about Phaneuf back there than Weber.

Dan Boyle is my 7th defenseman.

Die Goalie!:

Pardon my Mighty Ducks 2 quote.

Here are your three goaltenders for Team Canada:

Player

Team

GP

GS

W

L

OT

SA

GAA

Sv%

Martin Brodeur

NJD

22

21

15

6

1

603

2.05

0.925

Marc-Andre Fleury

PIT

22

22

15

7

0

554

2.54

0.903

Roberto Luongo

VAN

20

19

10

9

0

531

2.56

0.91

Brodeur is having the best season, easily.  He has three Stanley cups and an Olympic gold medal.  Marty starts.  Fleury led his team to a Stanley Cup in June and has played in nearly twice as many playoff games as Luongo.  He gets the edge as the backup.

Final Line-up

Nash - Crosby - Iginla

Marleau - Thornton - Heatley

St. Louis - Getzlaf - Perry

Sharp - M. Richards - Doan

 

Neidermayer - Pronger

Keith - Seabrook

Bouwmeester - Weber

 

Brodeur

Fleury

 

Extras: S. Stamkos, D. Boyle, R. Luongo

 

Let's hear what you guys think!

All stats courtesy of NHL.com.

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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