Changing of the guard

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:34 AM ET

Time flies when you're winning.

It has already been nearly four years since Canada broke a 50-year drought by striking Olympic hockey gold, uniting a nation in celebration.

Now, with only a few months to go before the Turin Olympic Winter Games, it's time to gear up the defence of that crown.

And all eyes will be on the charges gathering this week in Vancouver and Kelowna (Aug. 15-19) for a summer orientation camp -- the first step of building Team Canada. Some players off that 2002 Dream Team have retired or are on the verge, while some have been surpassed by younger talents, ready to make the biggest jump to their games yet.

Here's a preview of what position battles are expected to take place.

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GOALIES

IN 2002: Martin Brodeur, Curtis Joseph, Ed Belfour

THE SKINNY: With the way he's performed for the national team, Martin Brodeur has the starting netminder's job pretty much as long as he wants.

It's easy to see why. He helped Canada win the 2002 gold medal. He was the backbone of the 2004 World Cup of Hockey championship squad. He helped Canada win silver at this year's World Championships.

Bank on him to be back.

From there, the position is wide open.

Roberto Luongo is the likely backup based on his past performances for the nation at several tournaments over the years but it's hard to argue against Jose Theodore and his talent.

Marty Turco is likely the odd-man out and it's something of a shame if that's the case since he was more than willing to jump on board

DARKHORSES: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Patrick Lalime.

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DEFENCE

IN 2002: Rob Blake, Eric Brewer, Adam Foote, Ed Jovanovski, Al MacInnis, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger.

THE SKINNY: Going with the adage, 'Defence wins Championships,' Canada is in good stead. The only rearguard whose time has past is Al MacInnis and that's mainly due to a horrific eye injury.

As amazing as it sounds, the other six defencemen are all in their prime, with the oldest being Rob Blake, who'll turn 36 in December. By the time the Olympics roll around, Adam Foote will be 34, Scott Niedermayer will be 32, Chris Pronger will have reached 31, Ed Jovanovski 29 and Eric Brewer 26.

Likely first in line is Robyn Regehr, who was part of the World Cup of hockey squad but don't be shocked to see young Jay Bouwmeester given his shot. Wade Redden and Scott Hannan are also very capable of making the team, too.

DARKHORSES: Dan Boyle, Chris Phillips.

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CENTRE

IN 2002: Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Michael Peca

THE SKINNY: Of the 21 forwards invited to the camp, 10 of them are actually centres. Darn good ones, too.

Which means some of those will go from being man in the middle to the wings, which makes it difficult to actually say who will be the centres.

This we do know, however: Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic are still two of the best.

Should Steve Yzerman's body hold up, he is likely to receive a roster spot there, too, and you have to give Michael Peca an inside track, though he wasn't on the World Cup team, leaving really only one spot remaining. Patrick Marleau, Vincent Lecavlier, Brad Richards and Joe Thornton received nods a year ago, as did Kris Draper, thus the reason Peca was left behind. Then there's the question whether Sidney Crosby could be ready.

DARKHORSES: Keith Primeau, Brendan Morrison, Jason Spezza, Sidney Crosby.

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LEFT WING

IN 2002: Paul Kariya, Joe Nieuwendyk (centre), Eric Lindros (centre), Simon Gagne, Ryan Smyth

THE SKINNY: Only Simon Gagne and Ryan Smyth have been given invites but there are plenty of men to fill the void.

Rick Nash had his breakout during the World Championships and is one of the best upcoming talents, while Brendan Morrow didn't look out of place at the World Cup either. Also, Thornton, Richards or Lecavalier could be moved to the left side with ease.

DARKHORSE: Alex Tanguay

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RIGHT WING

IN 2002: Jarome Iginla, Owen Nolan, Theo Fleury, Brendan Shanahan.

THE SKINNY: Flames captain Jarome Iginla is the lone returnee at this point. Again, there are more than a few capable players to fill those positions.

Todd Bertuzzi's popularity among fans may be at an all-time low but you can't argue how much of a force he can be when the time calls for it. Besides, look how Fleury played among all the question marks four years ago.

Meanwhile, Shane Doan is on the verge of receiving his due, Dany Heatley has shone on the world stage and Kirk Maltby is a true heart-and-soul player. Amazingly, keeping all those players could mean Martin St. Louis, the reigning Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy holder, is left out.

As tough as the decisions will be for the centre positions, the meetings will be just as intense over the right wing crew.

DARKHORSE: Glen Murray.

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CAMP ROSTER

GOAL

                   

AGE TEAM

Martin Brodeur 33 New Jersey Devils

Roberto Luongo 26 Florida Panthers

Jose Theodore 28 Montreal Canadiens

Marty Turco 30 Dallas Stars

FORWARDS

Todd Bertuzzi 30 Vancouver Canucks

Shane Doan 28 Phoenix Coyotes

Kris Draper 34 Detroit Red Wings

Simon Gagne 25 Philadelphia Flyers

Dany Heatley 24 Atlanta Thrashers

Jarome Iginla 28 Calgary Flames

Vincent Lecavalier 25 Tampa Bay Lightning

Mario Lemieux 40 Pittsburgh Penguins

Kirk Maltby 32 Detroit Red Wings

Patrick Marleau 25 San Jose Sharks

Brenden Morrow 26 Dallas Stars

Rick Nash 21 Columbus

Michael Peca 31 New York Islanders

Keith Primeau 33 Philadelphia Flyers

Brad Richards 25 Tampa Bay Lightning

Joe Sakic 36 Colorado Avalanche

Ryan Smyth 29 Edmonton Oilers

Martin St. Louis 30 Tampa Bay Lightning

Alex Tanguay 25 Colorado Avalanche

Joe Thornton 26 Boston Bruins

Steve Yzerman 40 Detroit Red Wings

DEFENCE

Rob Blake 35 Colorado Avalanche

Jay Bouwmeester 21 Florida Panthers

Dan Boyle 29 Tampa Bay Lighting

Eric Brewer 26 Edmonton Oilers

Adam Foote 34 Columbus

Scott Hannan 26 San Jose Sharks

Ed Jovanovski 29 Vancouver Canucks

Scott Niedermayer 31 Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Chris Phillips 27 Ottawa Senators

Chris Pronger 30 Edmonton Oilers

Wade Redden 28 Ottawa Senators

Robyn Regehr 25 Calgary Flames


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