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Posted: Thursday February 12, 2009 2:16PM; Updated: Thursday February 12, 2009 4:02PM
Allan Muir Allan Muir >
INSIDE THE NHL

My 2010 Canadian Olympic roster

Story Highlights

Like Team USA, Canada was too old and dismal at the 2006 Winter Games

With much talent to choose from, creating chemistry will be a key factor

Expect the best of Sidney Crosby as he skates with two deluxe wingers

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roberto-luongo.jpg
Hometown hero Roberto Luongo could easily supplant Martin Brodeur as Team Canada's No. 1 netminder.
Bob Frid/Icon SMI

It's the standard conceit of the Canadian hockey fan: If only the IOC would allow it, Canada has the depth of talent to enter two teams. And both would likely medal. Problem is, each country is allowed just one side in the Olympic tournament, making roster decisions more challenging, and more controversial, in Canada than anywhere else.

And, as experience shows, depth doesn't count nearly as much as chemistry. A gentle reminder for those who've managed to flush the painful memories: In 2006, the last time Canada sent out its finest, they fumbled and bumbled their way to a dismal seventh-place finish.

Hate to imagine what Canada 2 would have done.

Coming off the gold medal win in Salt Lake City -- the country's first in 50 years -- and World Cup title in 2004, expectations were high in Turin. But from early in the preliminary round, it was clear that the team was something less than the sum of its considerable parts.

The gang that couldn't shoot straight was blanked in three of its final four games, and while fans moaned that photographic evidence proved they'd been robbed in a 2-0 loss to the Swiss, that was arguing too fine a point. That group was too old, too slow and, in the case of Todd Bertuzzi in particular (who can forget his interference penalty that ankled Canada in the quarter-final loss to Russia?), lacked the discipline needed to win this type of event.

So the challenge for first-time Olympic GM Steve Yzerman heading into 2010 is clear: Forget the loyalties that shackled the roster in Turin and simply build the best possible team to win in Vancouver. Youth no longer can be seen as a detriment. Speed will be paramount. Enthusiasm, not obligation, should be the motivation. And if that means some world-class players will be left to wonder why there can't be a Canada 2, so be it.

The team won't be chosen until January, so performance and health will impact the final roster. But a year out from the event, here's how we think the roster will stack up.

Goaltenders

No. 1: Martin Brodeur
If he's healthy, it's hard to imagine Canada not going with the man who led them to gold at both the 2002 Olympics and 2004 World Cup. But will he be at the top of his game? The torn biceps that has sidelined him much of this season will be a subject of concern.

No. 2: Roberto Luongo
Even if Brodeur is able to play, this hometown hero has earned the chance to wrestle away the top job. He has a 12-2-3 record with a GAA under 2.00 while wearing the maple leaf.

No. 3: Steve Mason
With a gold medal on his shelf from the 2008 World Juniors and a legitimate shot at the Vezina, Mason has the look of Canada's goalie of tomorrow. An internship under the bright lights would help his preparation for future tournaments.

Defensemen

duncan-keith.jpg
Duncan Keith skated for Team Canada at the 2008 World Championships.
Daniel R. Harris/Icon SMI

First pair: Robyn Regehr and Duncan Keith
They may not have the profile of some elite defenders, but Regehr and Keith will prove to be Canada's dynamic duo. Keith struggled at last year's World Championships, but has emerged this season as arguably the best two-way defender in the game. What little press he gets focuses on his transition skills, but he's as gritty and reliable as they come in his own end. Regehr is steady, physical and smart. His international experience will be invaluable.

Second pair: Chris Pronger and Shea Weber
When Canada needs a physical response, they'll call on this duo. Pronger's play has slipped this season, so he'll need to amp it up to secure this shutdown role. Weber gets plenty of press for his booming shot, but plays a hard-hitting game that recalls a younger, more disciplined Pronger.

Third pair: Jay Bouwmeester and Mike Green
Even with the distraction of his looming free agency, Jay-Bo is playing the finest hockey of his career. Green will quarterback Canada's power play -- a critical role considering the failure of that unit in Turin.

Seventh: Brent Burns
Versatile winger/blueliner might have locked up his spot last spring when he was named top defender at the World Championships

Forwards

jarome-iginla.jpg
Jarome Iginla will likely wear a C this time around.
David E. Klutho/SI

First line (left to right): Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla
We finally could see Crosby at his best, skating alongside a couple of wingers capable of finishing his slick passes. Carter probably wasn't on Canada's radar six months ago. Now, as the country's leading goal-scorer, he'll play an integral role. Iginla's experience and leadership will help deflect the pressure from Crosby. Look for him to wear the C.

Second line: Dany Heatley, Ryan Getzlaf, Rick Nash
Chemistry is key in the tournament format, and this trio has it. Led by Getzlaf -- maybe the best all-around player in the game -- this line was Canada's finest at the World Championships, combining for 21 goals and 47 points in just nine games. Their blend of size, speed and brute force will be tough to contain.

Third line: Simon Gagne, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau
The Hockey Canada braintrust is enamored of Thornton's size and puck skills, but he needs a couple of finishers to maximize his impact. Gagne seems to have moved past the post-concussion syndrome that sidelined him much of last season and returned to his 40-goal form. Marleau might not be there if not for Thornton, but his familiarity with Jumbo Joe makes him the ideal complement to the line, even if he has to move to his off-wing.

Fourth line: Brenden Morrow, Mike Richards, Shane Doan
Canada always relies heavily on its checking unit, so this line may get as much ice as Crosby's does. All three are warriors, the sort of players who'll block a shot with their teeth if that's what it takes, but these bangers can also finish. Morrow has to prove he's recovered fully from the knee injury that sidelined him most of the season, but his playoff performance in 2008 demonstrated his value.

13th Forward: Marc Savard
Once regarded as a points-obsessed player, Savard has matured into a gritty, two-way forward who can fill any role on the team.

Taxi Squad: Jonathan Toews, Corey Perry, Drew Doughty

FARBER: My 2010 U.S. Olympic roster

MUIR: My first take on Team Canada (Aug. '08)

YOUR TURN: Debate Muir's and Farber's picks

 
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