March 6, 2012
Bolts GM in charge of The List
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - It’s been more than two years since Canada’s national pastime was jotting down The List.
Long before the Vancouver Olympic hockey tourney began, millions of Canadians weighed in with their proposed Canadian team rosters.
Well … on Monday, Hockey Canada announced that for the second Olympic tourney in a row, the only man whose list really matters is Steve Yzerman’s.
And while on his way to Calgary for the announcement, Team Canada’s executive director admitted he officially got the ball rolling on two more years of 23-man debates.
“I flew in this morning with (Detroit Red Wings GM) Kenny (Holland) and quickly looked at the NHL rosters and wondered where the older guys would be in two years and the younger guys, too,” said Yzerman, who called Canada’s gold in Vancouver one of the greatest moments in his illustrious career.
“We kind of put together that initial long list, but it’s really early for that.”
So somewhere, there’s an Air Canada cocktail napkin with his early version of Canada’s next dream team on it?
“I don’t put anythig down on paper anymore — you never know whose hands it could get into,” said the Tampa Bay Lightning GM, with a smile
“It’s all in our minds.”
Indeed, the whole notion of an Olympic tourney with NHLers may, in fact, play out only in our minds as the the upcoming CBA negotiations will determine whether the 2014 Games in Sochi will include the likes of Sidney Crosby and his NHL brethren.
Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson acknowledged that very fact at Monday’s star-studded news conference at COP, which was preceded by calls to NHL boss Gary Bettman and NHLPA head Donald Fehr to let them know he was simply being proactive with hopes the very best will be available for the five-ring circus two years from now in Russia.
If not, Nicholson said he has a Plan B.
“Punt!” said Nicholson with a laugh, when asked what would become of Yzerman’s management group which includes Holland, St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong, Edmonton Oilers executive Kevin Lowe and Hockey Canada’s Brad Pascall.
“I hope we don’t have to get to that plan. But if so, they’ll help us build a plan. We’ll want to hear their opinions.”
With the help of Pascall, Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis, Lowe will be GM of Canada’s world championship team in Sweden/Finland, which will essentially be one of four tryouts for prospective Olympians.
“The two Stanley Cup playoffs between now and (the Olympics), as well as the two world championships, give players four chances to prove they can play when it matters most,” Nonis said.
Such a reality should help on the recruiting side of things, as players know a world championship rejection could affect their Olympic chances. What’s more, Canada is currently ranked fourth in the world, which puts increased pressure on Lowe’s world championship squad to improve that standing heading into the Olympics.
Yzerman said he won’t necessarily do things exactly the same way he did in 2010, acknowledging plenty of factors have changed, including the fact it’s a younger man’s game and concussions are a much bigger factor.
Yzerman said a healthy Sidney Crosby is guaranteed to be on his list but wouldn’t offer up any other peeks at his list.
“Me? I’ve always got a list,” said Nicholson with a laugh of an initial group of players he suggested might be 70 names long.
“I think the list may be as big as we’ve ever had because of all the great young players and all the veterans who have won before. That’s why these world championships are so important. I look at the young kids up in Edmonton and on the (New York) Islanders, for example. I know one thing — that list is going to change a lot.”
First things first, let’s hope such a list is needed at all.
ERIC FRANCIS'S LIST
RANDY SPORTAK'S LIST
WES GILBERTSON'S LIST