Waddell: Time for our kids to play

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

Geritol would have been a suitable sponsor for Team USA at the 2004 World Cup, given the advanced ages of those red, white and blue beards.

While Canada won the tournament thanks to an impressive group of young guns such as Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, the U.S. relied heavily on fossils such as Chris Chelios in attempting to retain the title it had won eight years previous.

The result? A stunning semi-final loss to the upstart Finns, a game in which the Americans looked old and slow.

That defeat highlighted the Americans' need for an infusion of young blood. It's a lesson Don Waddell learned well.

Hours after being named general manager of the U.S. entry for the world championship in Austria, Waddell said yesterday that the time had come for the new breed of U.S.-born players to strut their stuff on the international stage.

"The World Cup likely was the end for some of our guys," Waddell said during a phone interview. "This is an opportunity to bring in some younger players.

"We understand we don't have the calibre of the Lecavaliers, Heatleys and Richards coming up. Nothing against our guys, but the fact is that Canada does have a more expansive talent pool from which to select players.

"Having said that, we do have a number of promising kids, especially in goal and on defence. What we don't have is depth up front. There are no Heatleys hiding in the wings."

Goaltender Robert Esche and defencemen Paul Martin, John-Michael Lyles and Jordan Leopold are seen as the future of the U.S. national team.

Waddell, the GM of the Atlanta Thrashers, said a coach likely will be named within two weeks.

"The big question will be, how many guys do you select who haven't played all year?"

The world championship runs from April 30 to May 15. Canada is the defending champion.


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