SUN Hockey Pool

Shark bait must tempt Yzerman

Steve Yzerman will unveil the Olympic men's hockey team on New Year's Eve. (Carmine Marinelli/QMI...

Steve Yzerman will unveil the Olympic men's hockey team on New Year's Eve. (Carmine Marinelli/QMI Agency)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:11 AM ET

The danger and temptation for Steve Yzerman is apparent: What exactly do you do with Joe Thornton's line on the Canadian Olympic hockey team?

Do you name all three players -- Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau-- to Team Canada and anoint them as one of your scoring lines for the Winter Olympics?

Or do you worry, because of the playoff history of all involved, because Team Canada couldn't score in Turin, because this messes up your original plans?

Sidney Crosby will certainly centre the first line for Team Canada. It was expected Ryan Getzlaf would centre the second line.

But Thornton, who leads the NHL in scoring, playing for the best team in the Western Conference, changes the dynamics now. He was a longshot in the summer, just not anymore. Same with Heatley, who along with Crosby and Marleau, are the leading Canadian goal scorers in hockey.

The mainstream thinking is that Thornton and Heatley are certain to be on the Canadian roster, but Marleau remains a reach. The difficulty for executive director Yzerman is in transposing NHL statistics to Olympic play, considering the historical playoff inefficiencies of the San Jose players.

Either way, it's a gamble that's worth following.

This and that

People who study basketball are calling the Raptors the worst defensive team in NBA history. Now that's horribly embarrassing for GM Bryan Colangelo. His team either can't or won't play defence, neither of which is acceptable. If they won't, he has to replace Jay Triano as coach. If they can't, he has to tear up this team again. Either way, it reflects horribly on his building skills ... For the record, the Maple Leafs aren't the worst penalty-killing team in NHL history, but they are darn close. The last time an NHL team was this bad one man short was the 1985 Canucks. The coaches of that team: Bill LaForge and Harry Neale ... So who is Canada's athlete of the decade? My ballot would have 1. Steve Nash; 2. Martin Brodeur; 3. Daniel Nestor ... Brodeur, by the way, has 65 shutouts this decade. Terry Sawchuk had 80 shutouts between 1950 and 1960.

Hear and there

Boy GM Alex Anthopoulos didn't make a deal at the baseball winter meetings, but he did make a strong impression on his colleagues around the game. The betting here remains that Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay will be dealt before spring training ... Simple: The Steelers win (4-1) when Troy Polamalu plays. They lose (2-6 record) when he's injured. It's all in the hair ... Rookie Matt Duchene is finding his scoring legs with the Avalanche. After scoring just three goals in his first 26 games, Duchene has six in his past eight.

Scene and heard

My Vancouver spies insist that Trevor Linden will play a significant role of some kind in the flame lead-up at the 2010 opening ceremony and I sure hope that's not true. Linden's presence does not resonate outside Vancouver and if he's significant in this, it will make the organizing committee look small and all too local. This is a world, international event, not a celebration of the rather inept history of the Canucks ... This is the deepest NHL rookie class in years, with Semyon Varlamov and Tuukka Rask in goal, Tyler Myers, Michael Del Zotto and Viktor Hedman on defence, and forwards John Tavares, Duchene, Niclas Bergfors, James van Riemsdyk and Ryan O'Reilly all impressing ... The goalie market is flooded while Montreal tries to move Jaroslav Halak. Between now and the trade deadline, Vesa Toskala, Tomas Vokoun, J.S. Giguere and Marty Biron are all expected to be available .. A sign it's time to say goodbye: Rod Brind'Amour, a healthy scratch, Hurricanes... Jack Nicklaus doesn't deserve this: He shows up at a charity event and gets barraged with Tiger Woods questions ... This affair is paying off for somebody: Aside from getting a healthy payout from Tiger, party girl Rachel Uchitel gets offered millions to take it off for Playboy ... And hey, whatever became of Travis Green?

STEVE.SIMMONS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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