'No-brainer for Canada'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:43 PM ET

Jason Spezza's bid to land a spot on Canada's Olympic hockey team has received a hearty two thumbs up from Grapes.

Don Cherry, the star of Coach's Corner on Hockey Night in Canada, told the Sun yesterday he can't see why Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky wouldn't name the Senators star centre to the 23-man roster for the Turin Games.

The team announcement will be made Wednesday in Vancouver.

"This should be a no-brainer for Team Canada. If it isn't, then there's something wrong," said Cherry, who will be at the Corel Centre for tonight's Senators-Leafs game. "I get a little carried away on Coach's Corner, but it is absolutely insane not to have the highest scoring Canadian.

"I think Spezza and Joe Thornton are neck and neck. How many guys are in the league now? About 704 players. So there are about 680 guys below him in scoring. He's having a terrific year ... It doesn't make sense to me that he wouldn't be on it. He's been overseas to international tournaments, so it's not ... new to him."

Spezza, 22, who has 43 points, including 11 goals, in 27 games, has developed a real chemistry with winger Dany Heatley, who is considered a lock for Turin.

"(Spezza) and Heatley are two peas in a pod," said Cherry. "When I was picking for Team Canada, I would even like two defence pairs. (Spezza) and Heatley have got something going this year and it doesn't make sense to give Heatley another centre. I cannot believe there's any controversy.

"I just wish (Gretzky) would have come out and said, 'Yeah, he's on.' There's some talk that Sidney Crosby is going to be a lock for this team. If you can say Crosby is on this team, how could you say Spezza is not on this team?"

It should be noted Cherry drafted Spezza No. 1 overall into the OHL with the Mississauga IceDogs in 1999, when Spezza was a 16-year-old. Cherry has always loved and respected him as a player and person.

"He's plus-20. Check out how many guys on that team are plus-20 and you won't see many," said Cherry. "He's the highest scoring Canadian at plus-20, good on the draws, magic with the puck. I mean, it doesn't make sense not to have him.

"He's had the heat since we drafted him. He had heat on him at 15 years old playing in the OHL. If that's not heat on any kid, I don't know what is. He's used to that."

Cherry even saw an Art Ross Trophy in Spezza's future.

"I picked him for the scoring title before the season. Now remember that and make sure you put that in the story," said Cherry. "All you had to do was see what he did in the American Hockey League last season. I'm not a genius. Look at (Eric) Staal. I'm not bringing Staal into your campaign, but here's Staal with 21 goals in 29 games. It's going to be tough to keep both of those guys out of the Olympics."

So would Cherry like Daniel Alfredsson to change his citizenship, so the whole top line can go Turin? Believe it or not, he's a big fan of the Senators captain.

"I'll tell you one thing: I wish Alfredsson had been born (in Canada)," said Cherry. "He's a hell of a hockey player. He has won me over."


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