2006 Olympic Hockey Preview Part 3: Team Canada

Here is Part 3 of the 3 part preview of the 2006 Olympics. This part is All Canada and is pretty much all you need to know about the gold medal favorites.

Goaltending

Martin Brodeur L 6’2 210 05/06/1972 Montreal, QC

This guy is money. 3 Cups, 2 Vezinas, a World Cup championship and of course an Olympic Gold. What more does this guy need to do? No team these days can win without good goaltending, no matter how strong a defensive team they are. Just look at Ottawa who has been one of the best defensive teams the last 5 years and won nothing because of poor netminding. Brodeur is the backbone of the Devils and is going to be the backbone of team Canada. After getting over the initial shock of losing their coach and two best skaters, the Devils have surged back into the thick of things and much of that is due to Marty. He’s quick, has great reflexes and is one of the best puckhandling goalies around. In Torino he wont have the restricted area to deal with.

Roberto Luongo L 6’3 205 04/04/1979 Montreal, QC

Though his NHL successes are not that extensive, he has never played a playoff game, his international resume is excellent. Two World Championship Golds, a silver and a silver at the World Juniors don his resume. He is often found among the league leaders in save percentages, total shots against and total saves. He uses his big frame to cover alot of ground in net. But he is also very agile for a big man. He is more than capable of stepping in and stealing a game if need be.

Marty Turco L 6’0 171 8/13/75 Sault Ste. Marie, ON

4 reasons why Turco made this team. 1)He’s a great puckhandling goalie that would provide a seamless transition for the defence if Brodeur for some reason couldnt play. That kind of chemistry in a short tourney is important as it would allow little adjustment for the D. 2) He is a team player. The way he handled himself at the Worlds being the 3rd guy without complaint did not go unnoticed. That is the kind of attitude the team wants from their 3rd goalie who likely wont even dress 1 game. 3) He’s good in shootouts. He has only let in 3 goals so far in 6 shootouts and has won every single one of them. 4) He’s a pretty good goalie. He can not only handle the puck but stop it as well. He is usually found around the top of the league in GAA and wins. And he accomplishes that not only with talent but his competitive spirit.

The fact that there are goalies who didnt make the team that are better than some of the other country’s starters speaks volumes of the depth Canada has. There should be no controversy this time around. Brodeur is the man. Luongo may see a game or two due to the condensed schedule but Marty is a workhorse who will carry the load. Canada has the best goaltending in the tournament and that may be the difference between gold or bust.

Defence

Rob Blake R 6’4 225 12/10/1969 Simcoe, ON

Age may be catching up to Blake but he has been a warrior for Canada for years. His defensive play may be not so consistent this year but he is still a big hitter and can be punishing. His game is more offence. He still has a booming shot on the powerplay and can still run it efficiently. I think his experience and his winning pedigree are assets that are irreplaceable. When it’s on the line, Blake can deliver. He’s won gold, he’s won at the worlds, he’s won a cup. He knows winning.

Jay Bouwmeester L 6’4 220 9/27/83 Edmonton, AB

His successes so far in the NHL are minimal, but internationally, Jay Bo rises to the challenge. His game is perfect for the big ice. He can still manage to use his size to be physical and that is because of his wonderful skating ability. He has the ability to join the rush yet get back in position defensively. His offensive production may not be where the Panthers want it but if needed he’ll play a simple safe defensive game and that may be what Canada needs from their 3rd defense pair. He’s this year’s Eric Brewer for Canada.

Adam Foote R 6’2 215 07/10/1971 Whitby, ON

He may be slowing due to age and injuries but Foote is still a player I would want on my team in a big game. He may not bring the skilled elements to the team but offers tons of leadership, grit, toughness and heart. Most importantly he is a winner with 2 cups, a world cup and olympic gold. He knows what it takes and is willing to do whatever to get to the common goal. He has not had a good year with the Jackets, but past performance and the stuff he does bring is why he made this team.

Bryan McCabe L 6’2 220 06/08/1975 St. Catharines, ON

Like him or not, McCabe has been a productive offensive player this year. He missed 9 games and still is tied for the lead in points for defencemen. That kind of production should not go unnoticed. Many thought Mccabe would suffer due to the new rules, instead he has thrived. He is a power play monster and if he produces in Torino like he has with the Leafs, that could be the difference. Undiciplined? Maybe. Poor Skater? Maybe that too. But he has tons of heart, plays with grit and never gives up. That is what being Canadian is all about.

Chris Pronger L 6’6 218 10/10/1974 Dryden, ON

Pronger is the kingpin of the Canadian defence. Whatever game you want to play, he can play it. He isnt lighting up the scoresheet with regularity like he did when he won the Hart and Norris but he is still a threat. He is one of the best at the stretch pass. He may not be as tough as he once was thanks to the crackdown rules. But he is still an intimidating force that leaves opponents looking over their shoulder. If you want him out there in all situations he can handle it. The more work he gets, the better he plays. In 2002 he had a bad wrist and a bum knee and got his face mangled in the glass but never missed a shift. He is the type of player who would do anything to win.

Wade Redden L 6’2 205 06/12/1977 Lloydminster, SK

Quiet efficiency best describes Redden’s game. Whether it be running the power play, moving the offence from his own zone or protecting his goal he seems to get the job done. He was Canada’s best blueliner at the Worlds and has proven he can get the job done at the international level. He had to wait his turn but like his game he was patient and now will be asked to play a big role on the biggest stage.

Robyn Regehr L 6’2 226 4/19/80 Rosthern, SK

Regher is a physical monster on defence. He makes opponents pay for entering the zone. He is probably the most punishing player on the Canadian D as he just destroys anyone entering his zone. The Flames started slow for a reason, Regher was out with injury. But he came back and the Flames caught fire and it was no coincidence. He is an impact player on the defensive side of things. The big ice wont hurt him either as he is a very good skater for someone his size.

The blueline as a whole is the best in the tournament. And this despite having only 3 returnees from 2002. 2 key players were lost to the defence due to injury but it appears that Team Canada has seemlessly replaced them with solid talents. Losing Scott Niedermayer is a huge blow, it would be to any team. He is an irreplaceable talent. But there is so much depth in Canada that this is a loss that they could probably withstand, while other countries would be suffering. Ed Jovanovski was also a big loss but they had players waiting in the wings that could step up and fill in his skates. This is Pronger’s D. He is the main man and will probably log tons of ice. Redden I think is going to have to step up big with Nieds out. I think he will. McCabe’s prowess on the PP will be very important as there may be a rash of powerplays with the combination of poor international refs and an obstruction crackdown. There are so many good players lining up on D that it is hard to find too much fault in this group. It has size, it has toughness, it has grit, it has speed, it has skill, it can pass, has guys who shoot rockets and a few guys who can move the puck. There is not a better all-round group out there.

With Foote and Blake the only two right handed shots, it’s likely the two former teammates will be split up on different pairings. Perhaps Foote and Pronger will play together to give Canada a shutdown pair. They could also go with Regher and Foote if they wished. Blake could fill the role he had in Salt Lake and that was to pretty much rover with any of the other 6 blueliners. He spent the latter part of the tourney split between the 6th and 7th guy and I could see him in that role again. That would mean he would share time with either Mccabe or Bouwmeester. Redden is a player who can play with anyone and fill any role. Perhaps he will play with Foote in the shutdown role, or with Pronger in a duo role of defence and offence or with Regher on a very supportive 2nd pairing. Even with the injuries they have encountered, the team still has too many options to choose from. Either way, I think it is going to be pretty hard to get close to Brodeur with the kind of talent that will be out there every shift.

Forwards

Todd Bertuzzi R 6’3 245 02/02/1975 Sudbury, ON

The most controverial pick for Team Canada, Bertuzzi is going to have to prove his doubters wrong. He has the rare combination of size, speed, toughness and skill. That blend in talent has both helped and hurt big Bert. He is going to have to step up his play as he has been surprisingly ordinary so far this season. The new rules should have helped Bert be even more dominant but it just seems he has regressed after the Moore incident. If he can snap out of it in Torino and at the same time not snap, Canada will have a force to reckon with.

Shane Doan R 6’2 216 10/10/1976 Halkirk, AB

Doan is an up and down grinding winger who will add plenty of grit to the team. He is a good talent who can score and handle an offensive role. But here on this team he’ll be asked to kill penalties, work the corners and play a more defensive role. we have seen him do that in past tournaments with Canada with great success and we should not expect anything different this time around.

Kris Draper L 5’11 190 5/24/71 Toronto, ON

Obviously Draper is not paid to score. His job is to play strong defence (he won the last Selke trophy), kill penalties and provide tenacious energy. These things he does very well. His speed is a major asset on the big ice and he will use it to create havoc on the forecheck. Draper will probably be asked to win some key faceoffs as well as he is a top faceoff guy. He was an integral part of why the Wings won 3 cups, and why Canada won at the Worlds and the World Cup.

Simon Gagne L 6’0 190 2/29/80 Ste-Foy, QC

One of the NHL’s best snipers, Gagne is on his way to having a career year. But that is not what got him on this team. It’s the fact that he is a strong two way player that will give him an opportunity to play a major role with the team. He has filled in different roles from touney to tourney and at times game to game. He really can do anything asked of him. He has game breaking speed, is a strong penalty killer and is very imaginative with the puck.

Dany Heatley L 6’3 215 1/21/81 Calgary, AB

Heatley may be the team’s best pure offensive player. That says alot since Canada is loaded offensively. He has had a strong year in Ottawa after a few struggles since his terrible accident a couple of years back. This guy can flat out score. Heatley is a game breaker who can either create something on the rush, use his size to dominate or make a pin-point pass. I remember some people saying Canada cant develop skilled players anymore. I guess a guy like Heatley has proven them wrong.

Jarome Iginla R 6’1 208 07/01/1977 St. Albert, AB

Iginla is having a bit of an off year by his standards but success to him is not measured in personal stats but in wins and losses. He won’t win the Rocket Richard trophy and he isnt near the league lead in points, but when the games are big, he delivers. He almost singlehandedly carried the Flames to a cup win. He was terrific in 2002 and the way he has played for Canada made him an automatic for this team.

V Lecavalier L 6’4 207 4/21/80 Ile Bizard, QC

Lecavalier, with the kind of talent he has, should be more productive than he is. Yes he is still roughly a point per game player, but sometimes he just leaves us wanting more. More as in his play at the World Cup. Or more as in his play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Vinny is ultra skilled. His great size makes him tough to handle, he has good speed and terrific hands. His creativity is awesome. He has all the tools to be a big time player and scorer but hasnt gotten there yet. But as we have seen in the past, in a short tournament or series, Lecavalier has shone and it would not at all be surprising if he made a few big plays in Torino.

Rick Nash L 6’3 188 6/16/84 Brampton, ON

His status was questionable thanks to an injury filled first half of the year. But his ability to score and score often was simply too good to ignore. Nash is a monster player. If he isnt blowing past blueliners with his speed, he is powering through them with his size and strength. He is a top notch power forward. He won the Richard Trophy in only his 2nd year. That is a terrific feat in itself. He has performed well in his brief time on the international stage and the team is hoping he has a big breakout in Italy.

Brad Richards L 6’1 198 05/02/1980 Murray Harbour, PEI

You must be a good player if you are often compared to Joe Sakic and/or Steve Yzerman. That has been what has happened to Richards and I can’t say they are too wrong about that. He is a terrific playmaker who also can score a few and has a knack for big goals. He proved that in the playoffs culminating with the Conn Smythe Trophy. He is such a quick, smart, imaginative player that he is a perfect fit to any team. His versatility will come in handy as well as he can play all 3 forward positions, is a strong two-way player who can fill in defensively if needed, and can run the point on the powerplay. He gives Canada alot to work with.

Joe Sakic L 5’11 195 07/07/1969 Burnaby, BC

The MVP from Salt Lake is back again this time as Captain. Sakic is the natural choice to take over as the leader of the team when Mario and Yzerman bowed out. Sakic isnt your rah rah type but does his talking on the ice and from what we see, he says quite a bit. The impact he has in all facets of the game is why he is considered a terrific all-round player. He’ll be a key faceoff man, a big time scorer and the first guy around loose pucks. He is also one to score a few big goals here and there. This is his team now and I have to say, Canada is in great hands.

Ryan Smyth L 6’1 190 2/21/76 Banff, AB

Sakic may be captain, but Smyth is considered Captain Canada. The man with the moolay can never say no to Canada and in turn, the team cannot say no to him. Smyth wears his heart on his sleeve and the colour is red and white. Is he going to win scoring titles? No. Is he going to make tons of pretty plays? No. What you’ll get is a player who does all the little things and the ugly things that help teams win. He’ll grind it out in the corners, he’ll battle in front of the net, he’ll forecheck like mad. His speed, grit and heart are assets to any team.

Martin St-Louis L 5’9 185 6/18/75 Laval, QC

Based on recent play and production, the last Art Ross Trophy winner seemingly doesnt belong based on the numbers. But based on talents, he is a great fit to play in the Olympics. St. Louis is an absolute buzzsaw on the ice. His terrific speed can create tons of havoc either on the rush or on the forecheck. What Canada needs is for him to show that kind of fervor on the ice and be a problem for opponents. He needs to get back to leaving everything on the ice after every shift to get back to the level he showed when he won the Hart Trophy. That is what made him successful and that is what will make Canada successful.

Joe Thornton L 6’4 220 07/02/1979 St. Thomas, ON

It is hard to imagine that the league’s 2nd leading scorer was traded once already this season. But that’s the life of Joe Thornton. The former Bruin’s captain is having a great year with the Sharks and that is great news for Canada. Thornton has been a points machine this year no matter where he has played. He is near impossible to handle down low with his large frame and he seems to make something happen every shift. He can attribute that to his great vision and creativity. It wont matter how Thornton is used as he has filled in several roles for Canada in the past, but I am guessing scoring will be his number 1 priority and that we know he can do.

Whatever game any opposing country wants to play, Canada has all the tools to adapt. You want a power game? Well the team can call upon the likes of Thornton, Bertuzzi, Nash, Iginla or Heatley who are all difficult to handle. Your want to grind it out? Well the likes of Doan, Draper, Smyth, St Louis have zero quit in them. You want to play a speed/finesse game? Well Richards, Sakic, Gagne or Lecavalier are all tops in that regard. Or do you want to play a little bit of everything? Well Canada can bring it and then some. Canada can match up with any team but I cant say the same for everyone else when they try to match up with Canada. With the kind of talent Canada can put out there shift after shift, they may be too worn down when it is all said and done.

So will Sakic, Iginla and Gagne join up again to rekindle their magic in 2002? Or will Gagne line up with Nash and Thornton to recreate their magic at the 2005 worlds? Do you play the Tampa trio together? Will Richards head a defensive unit or will he be counted on to score? And where will Bertuzzi play? Questions, questions, questions that in reality have no real wrong answer. The players on this team are so good and talented that whatever role they fill, they will probably be excellent at it.

Taxi Squad

Dan Boyle R 5’11 190 07/12/1976 Ottawa, ON

Excellent puck moving blueliner who adds both championship and international experience to the team. Was great at the World Championships and even better helping the Bolts to the Stanley Cup.

Jason Spezza R 6’3 211 6/13/83 Toronto, ON

Terrific, dazzling centreman who is an offensive machine. His playmaking skills are 1st rate and he can score the highlight reel goal. This is the first stepping stone towards 2010.

Eric Staal L 6’4 205 6/29/84 Thunder Bay, ON

Just a monster offensive player who this year is scoring at will. His skills are unmatched, his size is too tough to handle and his skating deceptive. The funny thing is, he may be the LEAST successful member of the Staal family. That is a scary thought.

Canada is the favorite. It is there gold to lose. But there is plenty of competition out there. The thing is, Canada has positioned it self so well with the talent they’ve put together, the depth they have and the intangibles they bring. There are zero weaknesses to speak of for this team. They have pretty much every part of the game covered. With the kind of braintrust they have to build this team and guide this team, they have a great idea of what exactly needs to be done to get where they need to go. It is up to the players to execute and I have to say, it would be hard for this group of leaders, winners, playmakers, scorers, grinders, hitters and hard workers to not get the job done. It’s time to bring home again what is rightfully ours and that is GOLD.


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