With the NHL season finally underway, and with the chrisp winter air starting to decend on much of Canada(Snow in Alberta, Yikes), we are now only three months away from what promises to be the most memorable olympic games in the history of this country since pro's became eligible to participate in the hockey tournament starting at the Nagano games in 1998.
Everybody remembers where they were when Canada struck gold on the strength of two clutch Joe Sakic tallies against the Americans during the Salt Lake City games. And every Canadian likely still sport a scar on their knuckles after putting their fists through a wall watching helplessly as Canada was Shut-out initionally by Switzerland and later in the elimination round by the rival Russians. I remember saying to myself as I watched Ovechkin celebrate on the ice "you would think that with 25 millionaires on the team, somebody could buy a goal." But it wasn't meant to be. The reasons are far reaching and could lend themselves to years of debate(which they have) and mountains of scrutiny, but in the end, it was chemistry.
So how do we spell a repeat of the debacle at Torino? Get the right guys, the ones who won't treat it like a vacation at Gretzky's country club, and pull one off in front of the hometown crowd. Here's who I think SHOULD be included on the final roster for the Men's Hockey team at the 2010 games in Vancouver and why I think they would not only be competitive, but down right dominate from the first puck drop until the final buzzer of the gold medal game.
Sidney Crosby(Center): The reasons are pretty obvious. He's hands down the most talented pivot with Canadian blood in the NHL today. Coming off a Stanley Cup championship season where he led the NHL in playoff goals after out dueling Ovechkin in the conference semi finals, Crosby, known for his competitive nature, will do everything he possibly can to help bring Canada a gold medal at home in possibly his only oppurtunity to compete in the olympic games. With 427 pts in 317 career games in the NHL, any sniper would salivate at the oppurtinitya to play with Crosby and feed off his elite playmaking abilities.
Ryan Getzlaf(Center): Known for his combination of size and skill, Getzlaf is a bit of a throw back who brings his A-game when it matters the most. If you want a comparison, think Mark Messier. And all you have to do is watch his head to head battle with Joe Thornton in the first round of last years Stanley Cup playoffs to see the fire this guy plays with and his desire to cement himself as an elite talent, capable of taking over a game by himself in the hardest of hard fought games. His inclusion on Team Canada is a no-brainer, and at the age of 24, he already boasts a Stanley Cup Championship.
Joe Thornton(Center): Joe Thornton is possibly the biggest question mark heading towards the olympic games considering Canada's depth at the center position, especially in terms of playmaking centers. But to leave Joe at home would be a terrible mistake, his talents are too far reaching to ignore. Everybody points to Thornton's history of doing his best Jimmy Hoffa impersonation during the NHL playoffs, but the man who is esembling this team, also had a similar knock on him until he eventually led the Detroit Red Wings to three Stanley Cup championships, the first when he was 30 years old. This team will be about chemistry, and so far the Thornton/Heatley combo is lighting it up.
Mike Richards(Center): Is there a better two way player currently in the NHL not named Datsyuk then Mike Richards? Besides being the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, Richards has anwsered the call on many occasions and dawned the Maple Leaf for Team Canada. Known for his moxy and work ethic on the ice, and call and cool demenor off the ice, Richards is the ideal candidate to fill out the center position for team Canada. He led the NHL in short handed goals in the 2008/09 NHL season, and will be heavily relied apon to kill penalties for Canada against high caliber teams with elite firepower like the Russians.