One thing's for certain when it comes to assembling Team Canada for the upcoming Olympics. Steve Yzerman has his work cut out for him when it comes to making the cuts at the center position. Canada is so stacked at this position, that they could leave their top 8 centers at home and still have 4 of the best players remaining at that position. In fact, of the 25 forwards invited to this week's mini-camp, 16 of them are natural centers. The math just doesn't add up. No doubt, a few centers will be shifted to the wing for this Winter's tournament to avoid leaving half the roster at home. But, for argument sake, let's imagine what would happen if he were forced to carry only 4 centers into Vancouver. Here are the most noteworthy candidates for the 4 spots:
#1 - Sydney Crosby
Crosby may be the only one who merits no further discussion. It would be insane to consider leaving one the league's top 3 players off of Team Canada. A mistake that was made once before and won't be repeated. While he won't captain the team for at least another 4 years, he will certainly be counted on as the top line scoring center.
#2 - Ryan Getzlaf
Getzlaf is quickly becoming the best of the rest when it comes to forwards in this league. He's the complete package at center, combining scoring, passing, grit and size. Few can bring to the table what he has. And he even has a Cup on his resume at a young age. He's now officially the man in Anaheim, and carried his team deeper in last year's playoffs than anyone predicted.
#3 - Eric Staal
Staal is a tough name to leave off this list. He has just about all the same characteristics of Getzlaf, particularly size and strength. He has also demonstrated he's able to carry on a team on his back. That won't be needed on this team, however. Staal has never really had a superstar scorer on his wing to prove what he could do on a team like this. It'd be a shame to leave him at home.
#4 - Mike Richards
Richards brings the complete package. You're not going to win Gold with 4 lines of sniper who can't backcheck. Richards would fit the fourth line role to a T, and can bring the scoring if needed. Being new to the scene, he might also be more willing to accept limited ice time, over guys like Lecavalier and Thornton, who would expect to be on the ice 15 minutes a game.
(very) Close Runners-up:
It seems to some that it's a no brainer to include Lecavalier on this squad. No doubt, he could play a valuable role. The problem (if there is one) is that Vinny has been a little inconsistent over the past few years, and over his career. He may be the most offensively gifted player in the camp, but can he bring it every night for his country? Vinny just barely misses the cut.
What to do with big Joe? I say, wait til he wins a cup and invite him back then.
No doubt Carter will be getting his turn sooner or later. If he continues to improve the way he has over the last couple seasons, he will be a no-brainer in 2014. He's the easiest choice to slide to the wing. But if we're chopping C's at 4, Carter doesn't qualify yet.
There's bound to be a wide range of opinion on who the top 4 would/should be, but there's no arguing that Team Canada just can't go wrong no matter who they ultimate lineup for the faceoffs in Vancouver.
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