McCabe good, but bad fit for Team Canada

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Fortunately for Canada, the people who put together our national hockey teams have a better idea of how to do it than the average fan and most of the media.

That's why Bryan McCabe's chances of playing in the Olympics are close to non-existent.

Even though the Maple Leafs fans and media -- not that there is much of a distinction in many cases -- want to see McCabe playing in Turin next February, the selectors want a gold medal, not a PR coup. As a result, McCabe isn't likely to make it.

It's not that McCabe isn't having an excellent season. He is. The way he is playing, he should win the Norris Trophy.

But has everyone forgotten the troubles Canada used to get into when we tried to send all-star teams to major international events?

Has everyone forgotten the troubles the New York Rangers got into when they tried to win by buying all of the stars?

Hockey is a team game, and the people who are putting together Team Canada want to assemble a group of players who will work well as a unit and win the gold medal.

In Salt Lake City, for instance, Mike Peca was a key player. In the late stages of crucial games, he was double-shifted -- often at the expense of Eric Lindros -- in order to keep the opposition in check.

No one could argue that there weren't dozens of forwards who were in the midst of better offensive seasons than Peca. But they stayed home while Peca went and did his job.

Similarly, even though McCabe is having a spectacular offensive season, the organizers are not really looking for a defenceman who provides offence. They already have plenty of them. And plenty of forwards who can do it, as well.

McCabe's supporters will say that he should supplant one of the others who are likely to be named to the squad. But that's not the way the Team Canada thought process works.

With Bob Nicholson at its head, this group strives for continuity. The theory is that if the organizers start from scratch and throw together an all-star squad every time a Team Canada is required, the nation is not well-served.

Instead, they start with a core group --players who have been on Team Canada on previous occasions, have served the country well and, by definition, are familiar with both their teammates and the situation when playing at a high international level.

Given all the recent success Canada has enjoyed using this format, it's hard to disagree with it.

If one of those core players is to be supplanted, there has to be good reason to do so.

The core defence group going in is: Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Robyn Regehr, Ed Jovanovski, Adam Foote, Rob Blake and Wade Redden.

Which one of those would McCabe replace? Yes, he is an excellent offensive defenceman and these observations are not intended to denigrate his skills. But he is not a particularly great puck- carrier and his defensive skills aren't notable.

In the case of each of those core seven, there are excellent reasons why they should not lose their job to McCabe.

And even if one of those players were to be supplanted, why would McCabe automatically get the nod? Has anybody watched Dion Phaneuf play this season?

The organizers like to slide in an occasional youngster so that Team Canada doesn't fall off the cliff -- as has been the case with the United States -- when all the stars get old together.

If there is to be a new face on Canada's defence corps, the selectors are much more likely to go with a kid such as Phaneuf who has proved conclusively that he can excel at this level and will be around for years to come.

The Olympic selectors have done us proud so far, and McCabe just doesn't fit at the moment.


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