Crosby, Brodeur to lead Team Canada

Sidney Crosby wasn’t about to get snubbed again.

The youngest captain in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup was

chosen Wednesday for Canada’s Olympic hockey team, four years after

being left off the underachieving squad that finished a

disappointing seventh in Turin, Italy.

Crosby was among the easiest picks for executive director

Steve Yzerman, the longtime Red Wings captain whose choices have

been debated and evaluated for months in hockey-obsessed Canada,

which virtually shut down for the announcement.

“This is a special honor,” Crosby said. “I’m pretty proud of

it.”

Among the top selections were goaltender Martin Brodeur, who

recently set the NHL record with his 104th career shutout;

defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger; forward Jarome

Iginla, the star of Canada’s 2002 gold-medal winning team; Joe

Thornton, the NHL scoring leader; and Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf,

a pair of 24-year-old Anaheim Ducks teammates.

Niedermayer is the captain, with Pronger, Crosby and Iginla

as alternate captains. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Crosby, at age 22,

wasn’t the youngest chosen – Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew

Doughty just turned 20, and Chicago forward Jonathan Toews is 21.

Joining Brodeur in goal will be 2006 holdover Roberto Luongo

of Vancouver and Penguins Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury.

Also chosen at forward were Rick Nash, Columbus; Thornton’s

San Jose teammates Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley; Philadelphia’s

Mike Richards; Patrice Bergeron, Boston; Eric Staal, Carolina; and

Brenden Morrow, Dallas. Bergeron was the only player chosen to the

23-man team who wasn’t picked for the pre-Olympic camp in August.

The defensemen include Chicago teammates Brent Seabrook and

Duncan Keith; Dan Boyle, San Jose; and Shea Weber, Nashville.

There were surprises. Among those passed over were

Washington’s Mike Green, the NHL’s leading scorer among defensemen;

Calgary defensemen trio Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr and Dion

Phaneuf; Tampa Bay forwards Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and

Vincent Lecavalier; Ottawa forward Mike Fisher; Philadelphia

forward Jeff Carter; and Pittsburgh forward Jordan Staal, Eric’s

brother.

Bouwmeester signed a $33 million, five-year contract only

last summer and was seen as a lock for the team a few weeks ago.

Richards has been slumping lately for the Flyers, but was

chosen because he is an excellent penalty killer. He leads the NHL

in short-handed goals since 2005.

Green apparently was not among the final players being

weighed for the roster, possibly because he is considered to have

defensive liabilities. However, Canada’s power play converted only

13 percent of its chances in Turin, and Green’s scoring ability

might have proved to be an asset.

“He’s an outstanding offensive defenseman,” Yzerman said.

“But we felt Drew Doughty in this case is a more complete player

… a better fit for us.”

As the team was announced at a news conference during the

world junior championships in Saskatoon, large banners of each

player were unfurled on a podium behind Team Canada’s leaders. The

midday announcement was carried on 13 Canadian TV networks and

cable channels.

Canada will be the gold-medal favorite on home ice, but in a

single-elimination format once the medal round arrives, one bad day

can mean the difference between winning and leaving without a

medal. In 2002, Belarus, with only one NHL player, eliminated

Sweden in the quarterfinals on a fluke goal; Sweden came back in

2006 to win the gold.

“We fully understand the expectations,” Yzerman said.

Yzerman said he and other team executives didn’t make up

their minds about the final forward, which he wouldn’t disclose,

until the early morning hours Wednesday.

“We spent hours and hours debating,” Yzerman said. “There

were very good players left off. But we think this is a team that

will make Canadians proud. … We’re very confident in the team

we’ve put together.”

One trend was evident: There was no priority given to age or

experience by Yzerman and aides Ken Holland, Kevin Lowe and Doug

Armstrong. They spent months scouting and evaluating players trying

to determine the best mix for a team that will have only one day of

practice in Vancouver before playing Norway on Feb. 16.

Yzerman dropped hints along the way. He wants coach Mike

Babcock to be able to scan his bench at any time and find a player

who can fix a problem. He also sought players who perform their

best against elite talent. He didn’t want too many natural centers

playing on the wings.

There was no worry this time about which players can adjust

best to the larger international ice surface since the Olympics

will be played on the NHL-sized ice at GM Place, the Canucks’ home

arena that will be renamed for the games.

With 17 of the NHL’s top 30 scorers, Canada can field a

virtual all-star team – but, as Turin showed, that doesn’t always

translate into a gold medal.

Then, executive director Wayne Gretzky showed loyalty to the

players who won the country’s first gold medal in 50 years at the

2002 Salt Lake City Olympics by bringing back many, creating a

familiar but aging group that somehow lost its scoring touch.

Canada was shut out by Switzerland, Finland and Russia.

Crosby, then 18, was left off – a rejection that clearly hurt

and motivated him – and there were questions later whether his

young, fresh legs and competitiveness would have helped Canada

avoid such a lethargic performance. Crosby, a former NHL scoring

champion, led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup finals the last two

seasons, winning it at age 21 in June.

With the Olympics on home ice for probably the only time in

their careers, Canada’s NHL players knew they would never have this

chance again if left off. Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said not

making the team could be a distraction during the NHL season.

“You can’t let it sit in your head,” he said Wednesday.

“Yeah, it can be a distraction. I think you just deal with it.”