A look at today's Olympic roster announcements

December, 30, 2009

BOSTON -- So, you're Brenden Morrow, captain of the Dallas Stars, and you're absolutely pumped that you've made the 2010 Canadian Olympic team, a dream come true. But you also know how badly your teammates Brad Richards and Stephane Robidas wanted to make the squad.


"Actually, they were two of the first guys to congratulate me," Morrow told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "And yeah, you feel for them. You tell them you wish they were there because they also deserved it. They had great starts to the season and played well, but there's just so many spots. Stevie Y and his team picked what they thought was best team. I think they [Richards and Robidas] were understanding."

Morrow was no lock to make this team. He beat out guys like Ryan Smyth and Jordan Staal to be the checking left winger on the Olympic team. He knew he had heavy competition and could barely rest his eyes Tuesday night.

"Nerves, not knowing, the mice were running around in the head," said Morrow. "It was tough to get a good night's sleep last night. I'm sure other guys were doing that. I was thinking of what could be. It was a real relief to get that call."

Former Stars GM Doug Armstrong, now an assistant GM in St. Louis and part of Steve Yzerman's management team, phoned Morrow on Wednesday morning to give him the good news. Morrow will be one of the select few to skate in front of what will be a frenzied home rink in Vancouver urging their team to gold.

"I got to do it at the world juniors in Winnipeg with the white towels waiving around. It's exciting," said Morrow. "You get goose bumps just thinking about it. The electricity in that rink in Vancouver will be pretty amazing."

Feeling Ducky
The Ducks aren't having a great season, but they'll be well-represented in the Olympics with at least seven players making squads. That number could grow if either Bobby Ryan or Ryan Whitney make Team USA on Friday.

Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Getzlaf were locks to make Team Canada, but Corey Perry is the player that needed a real good opening three months to solidify his place. He did just that, and now gets to fly to Vancouver.

"It's exciting when you can go through it with guys you've played with all year," Perry told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "And Scotty being the captain for the team is pretty special, as well."

Perry's phone was blasted by text messages all day long, but it was one specific phone call he was waiting for in the morning.

"Ken Holland was the one who phoned me," said Perry. "All he said was that they were naming the team in an hour and informed me I was on the team. That was the end of the conversation."

Perry then turned off his phone and his jaw dropped.

"I was pretty speechless," said Perry. "We've all been working hard for this. It's the best feeling in the world when you get that call."

So Corey, ready to hit the ice at GM Place with the weight of an entire nation on you?

"It hasn't really hit me yet," he said. "It's just a day to sit back and realize you made it. As we move on, I think I'll start to have thoughts about what's going to be like. I think it's going to be amazing."

Team Canada lines
As one member of the Team Canada management team told us via e-mail today, the forward line combinations will change "100 times" between now and the start of the men's Olympic tournament Feb. 16, but here's how I think they stand right now:

Rick Nash-Sidney Crosby-Jarome Iginla/Patrice Bergeron
Eric Staal-Getzlaf-Perry
Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Dany Heatley
Brenden Morrow-Jonathan Toews-Iginla/Bergeron
Mike Richards (13th forward)

The skinny: I slashed Iginla/Bergeron because I think either one may end up on the top line with Crosby. Bergeron, a surprise pick for the team, had tremendous chemistry with Crosby on a line at the 2005 world juniors and that's been taken into account by the Canadian management team. But Iginla also skated at times with Crosby and Nash was a fixture with the Pens' captain at the August Olympic camp in Calgary.

I like Staal playing on the wing with the Ducks duo of Getzlaf and Perry; a scary unit with size and skill. Obviously, the Sharks line led by Thornton stays intact. I like Toews centering the fourth line between Morrow and either Iginla or Bergeron. Toews is a terrific defensive player and Morrow is the team's premier grinder.

On defense, my pairings are:
Chris Pronger-Dan Boyle
Niedermayer-Shea Weber
Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Drew Doughty (seventh D-man)

The skinny: Even though Pronger and Niedermayer played together in Anaheim, I split them up to better balance the left- and right-handed shots on the squad. I didn't want Boyle and Weber together, both right-handed. I also wanted to keep the Hawks duo of Keith and Seabrook together -- that's the instant chemistry Yzerman was looking for from the Chicago players.

Sharks bounce back
I can tell you many of my colleagues didn't have any of the Sharks forwards on their Olympic teams at the Canada camp in August. But that tells you just how great a season Thornton, Marleau and Heatley are having. To me, Thornton was always a slam dunk, but many of my colleagues that I respect questioned his place on the team. Even though he must have known he was on the team, I got an excited reply text from Thornton today after practice: "See ya in Van!," he wrote.

Yes you will, Joe.

Czech mystery
Can't figure out how Czech coach Vladimir "Rosie" Ruzicka left off veteran blueliners Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek his Olympic team Wednesday, but did put KHLer Miroslav Blatak on the squad. Miroslav who?

I understand the need to bring on younger players, but the goal is to win gold, and Hamrlik and Spacek are not only having solid seasons in Montreal this season, but are also playing together as a tandem, which would have given the Czechs some instant chemistry on that front.

Finn goalies
Nashville Predators star goalie Pekka Rinne was a surprise omission from the Finnish team, but let's be honest, no country is deeper in goal with Miikka Kiprusoff and Niklas Backstrom representing a mighty 1-2 punch. Antero Niittymaki was the upset pick over Rinne, and maybe even Tuukka Rask. But let's not forget what Niittymaki did in leading the Finns to a silver medal at the 2006 Olympic Games.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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