The toughest team to pick in Hockey; Team Canada. Here are my picks for Canada’s forward lines, along with player-by-player rationale as to why I picked them:
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LW C RW
Jeff Carter Sidney Crosby Steven Stamkos
Rick Nash Ryan Getzlaf Jarome Iginla
Jonathan Toews Joe Thornton Dany Heatley
Brenden Morrow Mike Richards Corey Perry
Line 1: Three natural centers with undeniable skill should have no problem making the adjustment moving out of their natural positions to play with each other. The Left-handed Crosby may be moved to the Left Wing to give the line a better fit.
Jeff Carter: Tough to debate Jeff Carter as a member of Team Canada. He is a team player, and a leader, not to mention one of the most prolific Canadian goal scorers of the past 2 NHL seasons. I have him on the first line, out of his natural position (not even on his natural wing) But I see him as one of Canada’s most adaptable and versatile players.
Sidney Crosby: OK, he is not having the greatest season by his own standard, but he is still averaging a point-per game. This guy is the greatest Canadian hockey player in the game today. He is a no-brainer.
Steven Stamkos: The first debatable choice here, but does anyone remember when Sidney Crosby was left off the team in 2006? Remember Canada’s result in that tournament? I don’t think that Steve Yzerman makes the same mistake that Wayne Gretzky made 4 years ago. Over the past year, Stamkos, like Jeff Carter, has been one of the most consistent goal scorers in the NHL. His skill lined up next to Crosby on the first line should make Canadian hockey fans salivate.
Line 2: Every player on this line is playing their natural position; A sniper, a playmaker and a power forward. If this line finds chemistry, they could offensively dismantle opposing teams.
Rick Nash: Big, skilled, fast. Nash is the prototypical Canadian power forward. Nash can be unstoppable, and that cannot be denied. He has been so good for Canada at so many world championships. Look for him to be one of Canada’s offensive leaders.
Ryan Getzlaf: Getzlaf had a slow start to the season, and still has not scored many goals, however, he is racking up the assists, and just lately had a long point scoring streak snapped. Getzlaf is another no-brainer for me, especially playing with 2 natural, scoring wingers.
Jarome Iginla: Another slow starter, Iginla is starting to hit his stride. He can score, and play both ends of the rink. He is a great leader, and should be the captain of the team, in my opinion.
Line 3: NHL line-mates matched with another young star. This may be yet another dangerous combination for Team Canada.
Jonathan Toews: An early-season concussion may have knocked Toews off of the Team Canada radar; however, he is another young star with undeniable skill. Did I mention he is clutch?? Anyone remember the world junior shoot-out against the United States. That skill alone should land him on the team, as it may come in very handy, but he does so much more than that.
Joe Thornton: OK, he has been failing in the playoffs for San Jose for years now, and that may hurt his chances, but Joe Thornton has to be on this team. He is arguably the best playmaker in the world today. His past team Canada experience should make him a ringer for Team Canada.
Dany Heatley: I would think that his play so far this season has made every Canadian hockey fan (except maybe those that support the Senators) forget about his off-season trade request debacle. Heatley is a pure sniper whose deadly shot can turn a game around. He is a clutch difference maker who also needs to be a member of Team Canada 2010.
Line 4: You could say that this is a grind-line, but as with other lines on this team, their skill will also make them a constant threat to score. Like line 2, this is another natural line with all the players in their natural positions.
Brenden Morrow: Morrow is grinder type that has skill to spare. He also has the unique ability to crank it up a notch when the games mean more, as evidenced by his dominant playoff performances with the Dallas Stars (Anyone remember in 2008 when he almost single-handedly eliminated the powerhouse San Jose Sharks?) He is having a very good season thus-far.
Mike Richards: Possibly the best all-round forward in the world, let alone Canada, Richards does it all. He is a perfect for a shut-down line, but also has the ability to not only contribute, but lead offensively. Another no-brainer for Yzerman and staff.
Corey Perry: In the place of more skilled players (a la Eric Staal and Vincent Lecalvier, who are not having good NHL campaigns), Corey Perry fits this grind-line role perfectly. His grinder mentality will help this line to keep control of the puck in the offensive zone, and his touch around the net will shine through. Furthermore, Perry’s “pest” tendencies may goad opposing players into penalties, which will allow Canada’s power play to go to work.
ARGUE, DEBATE, TWEAK as you see fit.
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