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Thursday, July 2, 2009
Our early (real early) Team Canada picks

Hockey Canada released its 46-player roster for its Olympic orientation camp in August. But we asked our experts who they'd take on the final 23-player lineup now. Here's what they came up with:

A lot may change between now and December, when Steve Yzerman and Team Canada's brain trust will sit down and formally submit their 23-man roster for the 2010 Olympic Games.

But for the fun of it, because that's what we're all about at, let's pretend you had to pick the team today based on the 46 names invited to the camp. My head hurts just looking at the talented players I'm about to cut, but let's give it a whirl:

IN: Martin Brodeur
IN: Roberto Luongo
IN: Marc-Andre Fleury
OUT: Cam Ward
OUT: Steve Mason

My take: There was much talk in the spring among Canadian fans and media about the way Brodeur and Luongo flamed out in the final games of their respective playoff games. They said that perhaps it was time to reconsider Brodeur and Luongo as "locks" for Team Canada. No, it isn't. Take a deep breath and shake your head. Brodeur and Luongo remain the 1A and 1B of Team Canada at this point, no matter what anybody says. It's the No. 3 job that gave me great difficulty. I passed on Mason because he's too young, and debated between Fleury and Ward. Total toss-up, but I went with the 2009 Stanley Cup champ. After all, Fleury shined in Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena right in front of Steve Yzerman.

IN: Jay Bouwmeester
IN: Mike Green
IN: Duncan Keith
IN: Scott Niedermayer
IN: Chris Pronger
IN: Robyn Regehr
IN: Shea Weber
OUT: Francois Beauchemin
OUT: Dan Boyle
OUT: Brent Burns
OUT: Drew Doughty
OUT: Dan Hamhuis
OUT: Dion Phaneuf
OUT: Stephane Robidas
OUT: Brent Seabrook
OUT: Marc Staal

My take: I had a really, really tough time leaving off Boyle and Seabrook, in particular. The latter impressed me tremendously when I covered the Hawks in the recent playoffs. He's a much better player than I thought, and his level of play improves the bigger the game is. Boyle is a magician, but he got hurt by San Jose's first-round flop. You might be surprised I left off Phaneuf, but his play disappointed me last season. He needs to pick it up in the fall to get back in. I labored with putting Green on because I thought he struggled in the playoffs, but it's hard to ignore a 30-goal defenseman, especially given Team Canada's offensive struggles in the 2006 Olympics. I thought Regehr deserved the nod. Canada needs some guys who can play shut-down defense, and he's among the NHL's best.

IN: Sidney Crosby
IN: Shane Doan
IN: Ryan Smyth
IN: Martin St. Louis
IN: Eric Staal
IN: Ryan Getzlaf
IN: Joe Thornton
IN: Rick Nash
IN: Jarome Iginla
IN: Mike Richards
IN: Vincent Lecavalier
IN: Milan Lucic
IN: Jonathan Toews
OUT: Jeff Carter
OUT: Daniel Cleary
OUT: Simon Gagne
OUT: Dany Heatley
OUT: Patrick Marleau
OUT: Andy McDonald
OUT: Brenden Morrow
OUT: Corey Perry
OUT: Derek Roy
OUT: Joe Sakic
OUT: Patrick Sharp
OUT: Jordan Staal

My take: I left off some huge names here, such as Heatley, Gagne and Carter, but regardless of who gets left off on my list, big names are going to be cut on the real roster. There is not enough room for all the stars, and Yzerman et al want to build a team with a few character guys, as well. That's why I bring back Smyth for his third Olympics. The man has played in seven world championships and two Olympics, and he's as gritty as can be. Fancy a line with Richards centering Lucic and Doan? Ouch. And the high-end offense is off the charts in my group led by Crosby, Getzlaf and Nash.

What do you think puckheads; what would you have done differently?

Here's my 23-man roster culled from the 46-man roster announced by Hockey Canada today. Ruthless? Maybe. But we're building for gold, not to make friends.

Roberto Luongo
Marc-Andre Fleury
Martin Brodeur

My take: In that order. Sorry, Mr. Brodeur, but it has been a long time since you have posted wins that matter. And if I'm Yzerman or coach Mike Babcock, I'd give Fleury and Luongo a couple of starts in the preliminary rounds and then make a final decision.

Scott Niedermayer
Chris Pronger
Shea Weber
Jay Bouwmeester
Dan Boyle
Duncan Keith
Brent Seabrook

My take: Sorry, Dion Phaneuf and Mike Green; a soft season by Phaneuf and conditioning issues for Green keep them off my July roster.

Sidney Crosby
Vincent Lecavalier
Jonathan Toews
Mike Richards
Jordan Staal
Eric Staal
Brenden Morrow
Jarome Iginla
Rick Nash
Martin St. Louis
Corey Perry
Ryan Getzlaf
Shane Doan

My take: Sorry, no free rides here because you've been a good Hockey Canada soldier, because you've put up lots of points or because you're a nice guy. There is a lot of heart, grit and more than enough skill to win gold on this list.