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Team Canada excludes NHL's top sniper


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Ryan Smyth puts on a Team Canada jersey during a press conference in Vancouver, Wednesday, after hearing he was one of the players picked to represent this country at the Turin Winter Olympics.

Team Canada has it all

Dec. 22, 2005. 05:35 AM

DAMIEN COX

It takes a very confident national team to look at the NHL's leading sniper, sixth leading points man and top blueline scorer and tell all three they don't rate among the country's top 23 players.

Team Canada, it's fair to say, is that confident.

That's the kind of understandable swagger winning Olympic gold in 2002 and finishing first in the 2004 World Cup has given Wayne Gretzky and his Canadian organization.

It's also the product of being able to exclude the likes of Eric Staal, Jason Spezza and Bryan McCabe from the main group and still unveil the powerhouse that was introduced yesterday in Vancouver.

Nobody's saying Team Canada is a lock to win gold in Turin. Pavel Bure's putting together an intriguing Russian team, the Czech Republic will be tough with either Dominik Hasek or Tomas Vokoun in net and the U.S. has cobbled together a very interesting roster.

But my goodness, this is one flashy Canadian team, with brilliant goal scorers in Jarome Iginla, Simon Gagne and Rick Nash, classy centres in captain Joe Sakic and Vincent Lecavalier, talented and experienced defencemen like Scott Niedermayer and a superb No. 1 goalie in Martin Brodeur who has already won everything there is to win, both individually and team-wise, in the sport.

Gretzky, his lieutenants Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini and the coaching staff led by Pat Quinn, made a strong statement with their much-anticipated selections, choosing continuity over change.

While Gretzky had mused two weeks ago, after the decision by Steve Yzerman to withdraw from Olympic consideration that perhaps a "changing of the guard" was at hand, no such comprehensive alteration occurred.

There were no bold gambles or calculated risks. It was clear this team was essentially picked in August, and there was little or nothing any player could have done in the opening three months of the season to change the minds of team organizers.

This is a team selected on talent, yes, but equally on the basis of r?sum?s and reputations.

Gretzky and his group was clearly not asking players, "What have you done lately?"

Staal's 24 goals, for example, weren't enough to nudge him on to the roster ahead of one-goal man Kris Draper, a long-time Team Canada stalwart. McCabe's dazzling offensive numbers couldn't get him a spot ahead of veteran Adam Foote, a consistent rock on Canadian teams over the past decade.

Instead, Staal and McCabe will have to settle, at least for now, for being one of three alternates along with Spezza.

Curtis Joseph couldn't break into the goaltending group despite his excellent season, and Sidney Crosby, the new fresh face of Canadian hockey, couldn't even crack the taxi squad despite his strong debut season in the NHL and despite the contention of his teammate and owner, Mario Lemieux, that he deserved selection.

By contrast, Draper was included despite his sub-par personal stats, as was right winger Shane Doan, Gretzky's captain in Phoenix, and his six goals.

With Gretzky still attending to his family in Brantford after the death of his mother on Monday, Lowe did much of the talking for Team Canada yesterday and made it clear the intent was to choose a strong team, not a collection of the hottest players.

Assistant coach Wayne Fleming made the strong point that the chosen players, for the most part, have been teammates and can quickly digest and put into play strategies and game plans.

Don't forget. This team has to be prepared to leave on Feb. 13 and open the Olympic tourney two days later against Italy.

Familiarity, it's fair to say, should reap some benefits.

In all, there are 10 members back from the 2002 gold medalists, and 18 players on the Turin roster that were part of the successful '04 World Cup.

The most notable outsider to this group, of course, would be Vancouver winger Todd Bertuzzi, who hadn't yet emerged prior to the '02 Olympics and would have been on the World Cup team except for his unfortunate decision to attack Steve Moore and, it appears, end Moore's playing career.

Bertuzzi's selection is wildly popular among some and a rejection by Hockey Canada of all standards of fair play by others.

Many will find it hard to cheer for this player, and his propensity to take bad penalties late in games could bring him unfavourable attention.

But Gretzky and Co. have enormous confidence that Bertuzzi will bring a unique dimension to this team and undoubtedly expect the presence of classy veterans like Sakic, Brodeur and Iginla will influence Bertuzzi to not always follow his first inclination on the ice.

The overall sense is of a team that has all the required elements to win, save perhaps an unquestioned leader. Sakic will wear the "C," but others have either an equal claim to leadership or a personality more bold than that of the soft-spoken Colorada pivot.

That said, Sakic was Canada's best player in the gold-medal game in Salt Lake City against the Americans, and thus has a strong claim to being the natural successor to Lemieux.

On that issue and others, there will be debate over the players named and those excluded.

But few would argue that this is not a formidable national team and a squad clearly capable of defending the title won four years ago in Utah.

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentSe...ol=970081593064

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C'mon, Brian Mccabe? Even with all those points he's still a -1 and in all honesty, he's no where near the D as the guys ahead of him on the team. I'd also take Spezza, Crosby or Stall over Doan any day. The team is packed with enough leaders, put some effective goal scorers too.

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C'mon, Brian Mccabe? Even with all those points he's still a -1 and in all honesty, he's no where near the D as the guys ahead of him on the team. I'd also take Spezza, Crosby or Stall over Doan any day. The team is packed with enough leaders, put some effective goal scorers too.

Brian McCabe has limited experience on the big international ice surface and it is expected to hamper his "in your face style". Although maybe the international refs would let him use the can-opener.

Ya, a lot of angry fans were expressing their anger last night

People seem to be angry that Bertuzzi was included on the team. He was said to not represent the olympic ideals.

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C'mon, Brian Mccabe? Even with all those points he's still a -1 and in all honesty, he's no where near the D as the guys ahead of him on the team. I'd also take Spezza, Crosby or Stall over Doan any day. The team is packed with enough leaders, put some effective goal scorers too.

Heh, you read my mind.

McCabe is good, but honestly... Canada national team material?

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I'm a little concerned about Bertuzzi and Draper. I have some confidence in Draper because of his experience, and he doesn't necessarily need to score if he stops the opponent from scoring, but he is no guarantee. He may fall a little flat. As for Bertuzzi, if we are looking at putting in a player without experience internationally (other than the World Juniors), why not Staal? I think he would do very well, better than Bertuzzi, and even though he may lag behind, he will gain the valuable experience to lead the 2010 team in Vancouver, which very well may lose many of this years team, including Sakic, Blake, Foote, and Smyth.

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Staal and Spezza should be on the team NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

Choosing Draper, St. Louis (who has had a horrible year), and Doan I think is a big mistake.

Draper has 1 goal for God's sake! Staal's 24 or Spezza's 47 points surely deserves to get them a permanent spot on the team. Also why don't they just put Spezza center for Heatley?!? It just doesn't make sense. Gretzky needs to get his head out of his ass.

I still think we have the best shot at winning, but some bad choices were made.

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Doan wants apology from MP Coderre

Dec. 23, 2005. 07:15 PM

FROM CANADIAN PRESS

Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan wants an apology from federal MP Denis Coderre.

Coderre drew Doan's ire via a letter Thursday to Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson asking him to reconsider Doan's selection to the Olympic team because of an alleged slur at francophone officials during a game in Montreal on Dec. 13.

Doan has denied making any such slur and fired his own legal salvo Friday, via a letter to Coderre.

"This allegation is completely false," Montreal lawyer Claude Laporte wrote. "As you are well aware, an investigation was held by the NHL and Mr. Doan was totally exonerated. Our client's behaviour has been that of a model Christian throughout Canada and the United States and he is an outstanding moral professional athlete.

"Profane language, racist comments or anything of that nature is completely contrary to his widely acknowledged beliefs. Our client considers your allegations to be defamatory.

"You are hereby called upon to retract your remarks within ten (10) days of your receipt of the present letter."

Doan was given a gross misconduct penalty for verbal abuse of the officials at the end of the Dec. 13 game and reports in Montreal newspapers later alleged that Doan used an ethnic slur against the officials. Both referees and both linesmen for the game were francophones from Quebec.

Doan has since been cleared by NHL executive vice-president Colin Campbell, the league's disciplinarian who investigated the allegation.

Attempts to reach Coderre were not immediately successful Friday.

The Liberal MP from Quebec, a former minister in charge of sports, said in his letter to Nicholson that Doan should be taken off the team unless he apologizes.

"If he doesn't make the appropriate apologies for his anti-francophone and intolerant statements, he should be expelled from the team," Coderre said in his letter. "Mr. Doan has not only insulted our country's francophones, but the vast majority of Canadians."

A copy of the letter was sent to Mike Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, which has final approval of all athletes named to Canada's Olympic team.

Chambers said there was no proof Doan made the comments.

The COC approved Team Canada's membership in a meeting Thursday.

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentSe...th=Sports/Index

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Staal and Spezza should be on the team NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

Choosing Draper, St. Louis (who has had a horrible year), and Doan I think is a big mistake.

Draper has 1 goal for God's sake! Staal's 24 or Spezza's 47 points surely deserves to get them a permanent spot on the team. Also why don't they just put Spezza center for Heatley?!? It just doesn't make sense. Gretzky needs to get his head out of his ass.

I still think we have the best shot at winning, but some bad choices were made.

Of course, we can't always look at stats and let that tell the story. Team Canada has examined the players for more than their goals, for their overall play that is not reflected by the stats, and their experience.

We don't need Kris Draper to score goals, but to stop the other team from scoring them. And he may pick up his play in Febuary. But, as I have said, a good performance is no guarantee from him. I do agree that he is a question mark.

Martin St. Louis, Shane Doan, Adam Foote, Rob Blake, Rick Nash, Martin Brodeur, and Roberto Luongo are not having great seasons either, but their experience may come through in the Olympics. We don't necessarily need a team of individuals who are excellent at scoring; we need a team that has worked together at winning and can win as a team. We don't need 10 goals a game but a victory, and I think that encouraging a team not entirely comprised of top scorers may work in our favour, especially when you consider the international rules, not the NHL rules.

However, you are right, that it is a risk in choosing those players, but let's see what happens before we judge whether Gretzky was right or not. I agree with you in that some changes should be made, perhaps Staal in exchange for Bertuzzi, or maybe John Madden in exchange for Kris Draper, or even Curtis Joseph instead of Marty Turco, but these boys have won before and can win again. The New York Rangers have a team of underacheivers, but are one of the most successful. Pure talent is not assured victory.

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Hmm.. Ahh well, gonna bring this thread back a few days to voice my displeasure at Eric Staal not being on the starting squad as well. How can the leagues leading scorer not be on the starting team? :rolleyes:

-Annoyed Hurricanes Fan

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