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
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
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
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.”