J.R. shoots from the lip for Primeau

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:43 PM ET


 Keith Primeau was answering a question from the media, but Philadelphia Flyers teammate Jeremy Roenick was shaking his head.

 What's up J.R.?

 "I can't see how (Wayne) Gretzky kept him off the Canadian team," he said. "I am shocked. I am utterly shocked."

 That's good to know. But what about Roenick himself who had to leave Saturday's game with a suspected concussion?

 "I am really shocked that Gretzky kept Preems off the Canadian team," he said. "That's insanity in my opinion."

 And so it went. Whatever the question, Roenick returned to the subject of Primeau being left off the World Cup team.

 He even did what athletes rarely do. He named those who he felt Primeau should have superseded -- Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, Ryan Smyth and Brad Richards.

 "They can't hold a candle to what Preems has been showing," Roenick said. "I think he (Gretzky) is crazy."

 It must be pointed out, however, that when Team USA is named on Thursday, Roenick is almost certain to be on it. He may have a vested interest in stirring the pot here.

 After all, you can legitimately question many things about hockey, but Gretzky's insight into it isn't one of them.

 If Gretzky and his advisers chose the Flyers' Simon Gagne -- whom Roenick was careful not to include in his list of those who didn't deserve to be on the team -- there had to be a reason.

 There was.

 It has to do with the traditional approach to hockey. As much as possible, you don't alter a winning formula. That's why Pat Quinn is back as coach. It's certainly not because of his recent successes, or his behind-the-bench wizardry.

 Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock, one of the group that selected the team, remembers what happened in Salt Lake City.

 "Everybody here in Hockey Canada felt that the best line in the Olympics was Gagne with Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla," he said. "I think everybody really wants that line to go back together again.

 "That was a line that was magical right from the first shift, and I think everybody is thinking that it's going to be a line that's going to play together again."

 Naturally enough, Hitchcock fought for the inclusion of Primeau. But he had only one vote.

 "I think everybody in here knows how hard I fought for him," he said. "But this is also a group decision.

 "I think everybody knows how I feel about him and how our organization feels about him, but it's a decision that's made by a collection of people with a mind-set, and if you see the way the team is built, there's a certain mind-set to what has to take place here."

 The mind-set to which Hitchcock refers involves a number of principles. One is to go back to what worked. Another is to build a team that is a true team, not a collection of all-stars.

 That's why Maltby and Draper were included. In today's hockey, it's more important to shut down the opposition's big line than to score a goal yourself.

 Another part of the mind-set is to have an aggressive team. You want players committed to hunting down the opposition's defence. That's what people such as Brenden Morrow (who completed an effective line with Maltby and Draper at the world championship) do so successfully.

 Furthermore, although Mario Lemieux has been skating, he has a long way to go before he reaches the level that will be needed to play in the World Cup, Aug. 31-Sept. 14.

 And it's far from certain that Steve Yzerman's broken orbital bone will be sufficiently healed to allow him to play.

 If someone off Saturday's team has to be replaced for medical reasons, there's not much doubt Primeau will get the call.

 "I feel very confident that he's going to be on the team," Hitchcock said.


Videos

Photos